The best UK beach holidays

Whether you're looking for fun fairs or deckchairs, The Mix picks you the best coastal locations to be found a little closer to home.

deckchairs on beach

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside...

Brighton, Sussex

Ah, Camden-on-Sea. It may not have white sands and guaranteed sunshine, but it does have the promenade, deckchairs and winning chip shops to provide British summer postcard moments. Shop for new kooky outfits in The Lanes. Stare out at the pebbly shores and remember the mod-rocker riots – oooh, a bit of history. Feel sorry for the dilapidated piers. Then get back into happy summer mode and party on down along the seafront in the clubs and bars.

Bournemouth, Dorset

Bournemouth has, in recent years, become the blue rinse destination of choice, (aka BORE-mouth) but no longer. While your granny may still be there with her SAGA crowd, a renaissance has been underway to transform Bournemouth back into Surf Central, complete with four Blue Flags for its beaches and stylish Surf Pods designed by Wayne Hemingway. There’s an 11km stretch of sand, and sea, and a family-friendly Kidzone Scheme complete with coloured wristbands to keep your little ones, should you have any, safer.

New Quay, Wales

Newquay, Cornwall may be Party Central, but New Quay, near Cardigan in Wales is a whole different matter. Many believe that the picturesque streets of New Quay are the ‘cliff-perched town at the far end of Wales’ immortalised by Dylan Thomas. Want to see dolphins in the wild? Then head on over – you’re more likely to see them here than anywhere else within the UK. The Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre is based in New Quay and runs boat trips throughout the summer to spot seals, dolphins and old boots.

Tresco, Scilly Isles

You don’t need to head to the Caribbean for more tropical climes. Instead set your sights on the Isles of Scilly. You can travel over on the Scillonian III ferry service from Penzance to St Mary’s. Once there, catch a boat on to Tresco, the second largest island. With its warm climate, dinky beaches and cosy pubs it can’t be beaten.

Porthcurno, Cornwall

Porthcurno Beach is a stunning picture-postcard destination of clear blue waters and white sands. It’s breathtakingly beautiful, sheltered by towering granite cliffs, and perfect for picnics and sunbathing. It has a dangerous undercurrent though, so not great for swimming. Instead, enjoy your picnic before catching a performance at the Minack open-air theatre cut into the cliffside above.

Blackpool, Lancashire

Attempting to be a kind of Las Vegas by the sea, with casinos and cabaret shows, Blackpool is trying to shed its donkey ride image. It hasn’t worked yet, but Blackpool is still one of the top UK destinations for groups of young people on short weekend breaks, hen nights and stag weekends. With the rollercoasters of the Pleasure Beach, the bright lights of the Blackpool Illuminations and plenty of clubs and bars it’s still the seaside party capital of the North.

Luskentyre, Isle of Harris, Western Isles

I can hear you saying: “You do realise this is in Scotland?” Yes I do, doubters, for there are plenty of lovely coastal destinations to be found in the land of Haggis and Loch Ness Monsters (especially around Fife). Luskentyre is a gorgeous stretch of soft, golden sand and turquoise water on the wild north-west coast of the Isle of Harris offering views of a choppier sea farther out; speckled with smaller, windswept islands.

West Wittering, Chichester

Managed by a conservation company West Wittering has been voted the best managed beach (joint winner with Bournemouth), according to the Blue Flag Awards. HM Coastguard Sea Smart identity bands for children are handed out free at the car parks. With natural lagoons acting as paddling pools at low tide, surf classes and perfect conditions for wind and kite surfing it is a top location for families and watersports enthusiasts alike (although some time restrictions apply). The coast is sheltered by the Isle of Wight, and also boasts sand dunes and beach huts.

Littlehampton, West Sussex

Sheltered by the South Downs and nestled at the mouth of the River Arun, Littlehampton is making something of a comeback. A Blue Flag destination with harbour, riverside development and two beaches it now also boasts the crazy Flintstone architecture of the new East Beach Cafe – a super tasty, super popular seafood cave of a destination.

Whitby, North Yorkshire

The gateway to the North Yorkshire Moors, Whitby is also an “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”. The town is divided by the River Esk, and boasts a harbour area and sandy beaches. Beyond the coast there’s gothic architecture of the parish church of St Mary – the inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s Dracula – and the ruins of St Hilda’s Abbey on the East Cliff. Goths, not known for their love of sun and sand, still flock to Whitby twice a year for the Whitby Gothic Weekend, one of the most popular gothic events in the world.

Three Cliffs Bay, Wales

Named after the trio of rocky peaks rising from the shoreline, Three Cliffs Bay offers a stunning curved ribbon of pale sand, caves, dunes, shells, wild horses, and surf. Part of the Gower Peninsula, many other wonderful beaches are but short car, bus or bike rides away including Oxwich, Rhossili, and the quieter hide away of Tor Bay. Three Cliffs has a holiday park, windsurfing, waterskiing, a golf course, a 540-acre nature reserve, pony trekking and medieval castles all in its pretty vicinity. I loves it, I do. I’ll also admit that I live near there so I’m a tad biased, like.

Whitepark Bay, Ballintoy, Northern Ireland

The National Trust’s scenic Whitepark Bay in Northern Ireland offers a relatively secluded white arc of sand between the two headlands with distant views of Scotland. It’s banked by sand dunes and only a couple of miles from the tourist attraction of Giant’s Causeway.

Photo of Southend by Charlotte Weddell

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By Susie Wild

Updated on 29-Sep-2015