UK beaches offer fantastic vacation options for every traveler from families to honeymooners. Situated on thousands of miles of breathtaking coastline, you’ll find quaint getaways, lively nightspots and everything in between. Accommodations range from luxe to cozy, but they all live up to the charm and utter British-ness of the rest of Great Britain.
Indulge your active side with an outdoor adventure on a Scottish beach or take in the spectacular views from the rugged coasts of Wales. Whatever your UK beaches vibe might be, you’ll find it on one of many sandy stretches that make up thousands of miles of British seacoast.
Here are 14 best beaches in UK, grouped and ranked, for the ultimate British beach vacation.
Beaches Near London
14. Ruislip Lido, West London
London beaches are perhaps the best way to maximize your time in the sand and sun if the city is your vacation base. Ruislip Lido is a beach that’s only a tube ride away from the city center.
The 60-acre lake is on the edge of the bucolic Ruislip Woods National Nature Reserve–726 acres of ancient forest. The lake and golden sandy beach is at the end of a short, beautiful hike through the woodlands.
It’s a hugely popular spot with local families because there are also playgrounds, an ice-cream shop and a miniature train for trips around the lake. The journey to Ruislip takes only an hour from the center of London, including the tube ride to Ruislip Station and a bus ride to this London paradise.
Be aware though, while the lake is scenic and the sands are warm, swimming is not permitted. But entry is free for a lovely beach day while in London.
13. Camber Sands, Sussex
For more beaches near London, check out the Sussex coast. Camber Sands in East Sussex and features the area’s only dunes. For only a two hour drive from London, enjoy pristine sands, kitesurfing and windsurfing.
Kitesurfing for all abilities, kite buggying and landboarding lessons can be taken here daily between March and November.
The flat, sandy terrain is perfect for beginners to learn and the water is only about waist-high up to 300-meters out.
12. Priory Bay, Seaview, Isle of Wight
Last of our London beaches is a Priory Bay beach. Located on the Isle of Wight, this beach is a well-kept secret. You’ll always find a quiet corner even in the middle of summer. It’s gently sloping, sandy, tree-lined beach makes it perfect for sunbathing. Swimmers love the calm waters too.
The sun is brightest in the morning as the beach faces the east, so plan accordingly. You’ll also need to pack in your provisions, including drinking water.
The Isle of Wight is just off the southern coast of England and is an approximately two-hour journey by train and high-speed ferry from London.
The entire island is known for its sandy beaches and chalk cliffs so it’s worth exploring. Go for the day or overnight.
Beaches in the South West
11. Nanjizal, Land’s End, West Cornwall
Of all the UK beaches, this one in Land’s End does feel like the edge of the world, even if it’s only a cliffside away from civilization. Lined with sandstone caves, the dramatic shoreline changes with the storms of winter. But at low tide, a white sandy beach is magically revealed.
Swim in the turquoise waters at the Song of the Sea rock arch and contemplate the mysteries of the waters of the ocean beyond. There are several coves south that are also worth exploring.
10. Speke’s Mill Mouth, Hartland, North Devon
On our list of UK beaches, Speke’s Mill Mouth will thrill historians as well as naturists. Close to where a 50-meter waterfall ends its cascade, you can collect pieces of driftwood, from long ago shipwrecks, pitched onto the shore by crashing Atlantic waves.
Between slabs of rocks, soft sand form pools where you’ll find unusual shells and other ocean treasures. Sort through your spoils and hear stories of the doomed vessels at one of the nearby pubs or tea gardens.
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9. Worbarrow Bay, Tyneham, Dorset
For more UK beaches history, visit Worbarrow Bay which was used for army training during World War II. In 1943, the residents of Tyneham Village were made to leave to make room for the English army.
The beach is about a mile’s walk from the town. The bay is part of the area’s Jurassic Coast and is designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
It’s not accessible for those with limited mobility, but for those who can make the hike, the beach is usually quiet with few others around–a nice spot for those looking for contemplative peace.
There are woods where wildlife abounds, as well as ruins and caves to explore. Parking and toilets are only available in town.
Beaches in Scotland
8. St. Ninians Isle, Shetland
One of the most unusual beaches in UK is the natural sand causeway, or tombolo, of St. Ninians Isle. As you walk along the sand, you’ll have the sea on either side.
The causeway connects the island to the South Mainland of Shetland’s western coast, with the nearest township being Bigton. If you’ve ever seen promotional photographs of Shetland, you’ve likely seen this gorgeous beach.
Although the beach’s namesake was the first missionary in Scotland, circa 8th century, Neolithic graves were found within the ruins of the chapel dedicated to the saint in the 12th century, making the island an archaeological site. The chapel ruins can be seen at the end of the tombolo.
This, and other fascinating archaeological finds pointing to the presence of Vikings, pre-Norse culture and the Culdees, draws ancient history buffs.
Swimming is not officially permitted.
7. Tolsta Beach, Isle of Lewis
On our list of the best beaches in the U.K., Tolsta Beach on the Isle of Lewis is a particular favorite of surfers and hikers. You will find it at the north end of the B895. The golden sandy beach is long at around two miles.
Walkers can reach the end and come back again either along the water or on top of the dunes that line it. At the end of the beach, a series of five caves called the “Caves of Life” can be seen at low tide.
Known as the loveliest of the Hebridean beaches, its history is fascinating as well. A crofting village, Tolsta is a Norse name first appearing in records in 1590.
Norse raiders invaded the early Christians that lived there in the early 9th century. The colors, views and wildlife of Tolsta all add up to make it one of the most charming beaches on the island.
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6. East Beach and West Beach at Lossiemouth, Moray
Two of the best beaches in UK can be found in Lossiemouth, Moray. This delightful town is a golfer’s paradise located in northeast Scotland. East Beach and West Beach are golden with sands and dunes.
Visitors can take in the beautiful views as they walk along the shore.
The West Beach has the landmark Covesea Lighthouse, open for touring. The East Beach is popular with surfers and dolphin, seal and bird watchers. Lossiemouth itself is a quaint seaside town with a championship golf course, Fisheries Museum and many cafes.
Beaches in Wales
5. LLanbedrog Beach, Gwynedd
A list of the best beaches in the UK wouldn’t be complete without a look at the dramatic coastline of Wales and, particularly, Llanbedrog Beach in Gwynedd. The sheltered, sandy beach overlooking Cardigan is owned and managed by the National Trust and is a favorite of townspeople and visitors.
It’s probably best known for its row of 70 colorful beach huts and incredible views. Golden sand and shallow water make this spot family-friendly.
Because water temperatures are slightly warmer here, seals and dolphins are easy to spot playing in the sea. The adjacent wild landscape is wonderfully dotted with visible glacier tips and centuries-old fields.
On both land and sea, habitats not found anywhere else in the world means plenty of options for watching marine creatures and birds, or simply marveling at the extraordinary environment shaped by volcanic activity and thousands of years of cultivation.
4. Rhosneigr Beach, Anglesey
Another one of the can’t miss beaches in UK is Rhosneigr Beach in Anglesey. The seaside village of Rhosneigr is famous for windsurfing, kite-surfing and sailing. It also offers 4-miles of warm, sandy beaches lined with shops, ice-cream parlors and cafes. There’s plenty of access to refreshments and toilets here.
Rhosneigr Beach is a classic family beach on the town’s west side. But you can take a walk from tiny Cable Bay to remote and peaceful Cymyran Beach enjoying lovely views and breezes along the way.
Water sports are enjoyed year-round because of constant westerly wind. Rentals are also available throughout the summers and winters.
3. Barafundle Bay, Pembrokeshire
Wondering where to find a beach in the United Kingdom that has crystal blue water? You’ll find tropical-looking seas and golden sands on the remote Barafundle Bay in Pembrokeshire. Lined with dunes and pine trees, this small bay is breathtaking.
It’s only accessible by a half-mile trek from the parking lot and no facilities means you have to pack in all your essentials. But this swath of shore with Carribbean-turquoise water is worth the effort.
Managed by the National Trust, this beach, surrounded by cliffs, has a secret vibe to it. Yet, it’s award-winning and a favorite of adventure travelers the world over. Its wind-swept beauty is unmatched anywhere else in the U.K. and beyond. Nearby, charming Stackpole Quay has pub service after a day spent running wild like the winds of Barafundle Bay.
Beaches in Northern Ireland
2. Benone Beach
Some of the best beaches in UK are found in nearby Northern Ireland. Find seven miles of unspoiled sandy beach at Benone Beach, one of the longest beaches in Ireland. Families and adventure travelers call this beach a favorite.
The Binevinaugh Mountains create a majestic backdrop as you picnic, swim, walk or bike-ride along the waterline. There are also amazing views of Donegal and even Scotland. For closeups of the dunes, take a walk on the boardwalk.
Ride horses, fly kites, fish from the shore, paddleboard or participate in any number of fun activities available year-round. This picturesque beach is also a nature preserve, great for watching birds, porpoises and seals.
There’s no end to the fun to be had on Benone Beach. Facilities, such as toilets and a cafe are available.
1. Giant’s Causeway
Number one in our list of the best beaches in the UK is Giant’s Causeway located on the ancient island of Northern Ireland. By sheer beauty alone, the beach of Giant’s Causeway is world-class. It’s remote and rugged and utterly breathtaking to see.
It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site formed in the volcanic age, nearly 60 million years ago, of more than 40,000 hexagon-shaped tubes. Get there and you could easily lose yourself in happy exploration. Or simply find a spot to sit and marvel in its raw allure.
Land in Belfast and rent a car to start your journey along the stunning Irish Sea’s North Channel coastline. Many important scenes in HBO’s Game of Thrones have been filmed in this area. One of Northern Ireland’s most popular landmarks, the causeway is free to see although there’s a visitors’ center if you’d like to pay for a guided tour or audio guide. You can also learn more about how and when the columns were formed.
There’s about a mile between the visitors’ center and the columns but it’s all downhill and you’ll get the thrill of seeing them as they slowly come into view. For the uphill return, you can take a bus for a pound.
Irish folklore says the formations were built by a giant named Finn MacCool who wanted stepping stones to get to Scotland and battle another giant named Benandonner. The fight didn’t go as planned, but the stones are still there waiting for the inevitable grudge match.
After getting all your photos, you can explore beyond the beach via walking trails that can accommodate almost all levels of ability. Wear sturdy shoes because the rocks can get slippery. There’s a moderately challenging climb up 162 Shepard’s Steps to the cliff-top.
These UK beaches show you don’t have to choose tropical vacations to spend time by the sea. Charm, history, fantastic scenery and quaint villages make these British shores unforgettable.
The next time you go to the UK, make some room in your itinerary for a little beach time.
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