Wave hello to some post-lockdown vacation inspiration.
Britain’s coastal towns are currently closed for business but one day in the near future we’ll be able to enjoy sunny days by the seaside again. Here’s our pick of some of the best beach towns, from bohemian Brighton to marvellous Margate.
Margate: Modern art – and old-fashioned amusements
Sun-drenched: Enjoy views over the beach from the open-terrace roof bar of the light-filled boutique Sands Hotel in Margate
What’s to love: Get a slice of both traditional and modern seaside life in this corner of Kent, home to both the UK’s oldest rollercoaster at the revamped Dreamland amusement park and to the stark white cubes that make up Turner Contemporary. This art gallery was built on the site of a guesthouse that J. M. W. Turner frequented, and exhibits have included My Bed by Tracey Emin, who recently opened a Margate studio. There’s quirkiness, too, in the underground shell-lined passageways of the Shell Grotto, discovered in 1835.
Where to stay: Catch one of those fiery Turner sunsets from the open-terrace roof bar of the light-filled boutique Sands Hotel, overlooking the beach. B&B doubles cost from £130 a night (sandshotelmargate.co.uk).
Ventnor: Deckchairs amid a Mediterranean landscape
Ventnor is a seaside resort on the cliff-protected south coast of the Isle of Wight where beach huts have been fashioned from Victorian bathing machines
Hillside Hotel clings to a steep slope below St Boniface Down and has a Scandi-chic vibe with modern artwork
What’s to love: The unique micro-climate that exists on the cliff-protected south coast of the Isle of Wight benefits both the beach, where huts have been fashioned from Victorian bathing machines, and the Botanic Garden, where Mediterranean plants flourish. It’s just a short walk along the coastal path from one to the other. Head downhill from the gardens to the quieter Steephill Cove, where there are deckchairs to rent, rock pools to explore and amazing seafood to be found at The Boathouse restaurant and the Crab Shed.
Where to stay: Enjoy the sea views and a Scandi-chic vibe with modern artwork at the thatched Hillside, which clings to a steep slope below St Boniface Down. B&B doubles cost from £153 a night, but children under 12 aren’t allowed to stay (hillsideventnor.co.uk).
Largs: Viking battles – and a castle with a Brazilian twist
Victoriana comes with a side serving of Vikings in this north Ayrshire resort. Pictured is the pebble beach
Cape Cod-inspired Waterside Hotel is situated on the water’s edge, with 23 modern rooms and views to Arran
What’s to love: Victoriana comes with a side serving of Vikings in this north Ayrshire resort – on the promenade stands the Pencil monument commemorating the Scottish victory against the Norwegians in 1263. You can find out more at the multi-media attraction Vikingar! Then take the ferry to the nearby isle of Cumbrae and admire the views of Bute and Arran as you cycle its perimeter. Refuel on your return with an ice cream at Art Deco Nardini’s before heading to medieval Kelburn Castle, which has been given a modern makeover by Brazilian artists.
Where to stay: It may be eight miles south of Largs, but at the Cape Cod-inspired Waterside Hotel you’re still situated on the water’s edge, with 23 modern rooms and views to Arran. B&B doubles cost from £152 a night (watersideayrshire.com).
Brighton: This place rocks for foodies
Bohemian: Enjoy fish and chips on Brighton’s pebble beach and take a stroll down its famous pier
There’s a buzzy atmosphere at the Artist Residence, with its cocktail bar, ping-pong and rooms featuring exposed brickwork, reclaimed furniture and plenty of contemporary artwork
What’s to love: In bohemian Brighton, everything rocks, from the Royal Pavilion with its dragon-festooned scarlet and gold music room and the cobbled alleyways of The Lanes to the British Airways i360 tower for views of the downs and cliffs. Swap your fish and chips by the pebbly beach for something fancier: try lobster croquettes at Murmur in the city centre or the five-course set menu at the Little Fish Market in Hove.
Where to stay: There’s a buzzy atmosphere at the Artist Residence, with its cocktail bar, ping-pong and rooms featuring exposed brickwork, reclaimed furniture and plenty of contemporary artwork. B&B doubles cost from £131 a night (artistresidence.co.uk).
Tenby: See the ruins of a medieval marvel
Local colour: Fishing boats on the beach in the historic Pembrokeshire town of Tenby
The Broadmead Boutique B&B – historic home on the outside, but all stripped-back floors and bold wallpapers on the inside
What’s to love: On a promontory with sandy beaches on either side and a rainbow of Georgian houses running down to the harbour, Tenby is home to both the ruins of a medieval castle and the 19th Century St Catherine’s Fort. Explore the atmospheric alleys in this historic Pembrokeshire town, then take a trip across the water to Caldey Island where Cistercian monks make delicious chocolate and perfume.
Where to stay: Historic home on the outside, but all stripped-back floors and bold wallpapers on the inside, The Broadmead Boutique B&B is 20 minutes from the harbour. B&B doubles cost from £115 a night (broadmeadtenby.wales).
Whitby: Get a taste of the drama of Dracula
Whitby’s steps from the alleyways by the harbour to St Mary’s Church are featured in the Gothic horror novel, Dracula
What’s to love: Fancy a bit of drama with your sandcastles? It was in the unlikely setting of this Yorkshire town that Bram Stoker dreamed up some of his Gothic horror novel, Dracula. The 199 steps from the alleyways by the harbour to St Mary’s Church featured in the book, and you can check out a signed copy in the new museum in the abbey ruins. It was in Whitby, too, that the explorer Captain James Cook got his sea legs, and you can take a trip on a replica of his famous ship Endeavour to see Whitby’s beach and piers.
Where to stay: Estbek House is a stylish seafood restaurant with five rooms by the beach at Sandsend. Some rooms have sea views. Half-board for two costs from £240 a night (estbekhouse.co.uk).
Newquay: Surf mecca’s on a crest of a wave
It’s now all about surfing rather than stag parties in Newquay, a resort on Cornwall’s wild and windswept north coast
On a promontory overlooking Fistral Beach, The Headland has a spa, 95 traditional and contemporary rooms, and some lovely pared-back cottages on the clifftop
What’s to love: It’s now all about surfing rather than stag parties at this resort on Cornwall’s wild and windswept north coast. Nightclubs and trashy pubs have been replaced by bistros, bakers and an upmarket cocktail bar called Tom Thumb. Even celebrity chef Rick Stein has moved in, with a restaurant at Fistral Beach.
Where to stay: On a promontory overlooking Fistral Beach, The Headland has a spa, 95 traditional and contemporary rooms, and some lovely pared-back cottages on the clifftop. B&B doubles cost from £170 a night (headlandhotel.co.uk).
Bournemouth: Seven miles of sand
Bournemouth’s seven sweeping miles of sand – with a handful of Blue Flag beaches – are hard to beat
Stay mere steps from the sand in one of the 24 stylish self-catering Bournemouth Beach Lodges, which sleep up to four adults and two children, with views across Poole Bay
What’s to love: There’s a reason why Dorset’s tourist mecca was voted the best seaside town at the 2019 British Travel Awards: its seven sweeping miles of sand – with a handful of Blue Flag beaches – are hard to beat. And the pier is not just home to the usual amusement arcades: there is even a pier-to-shore zipwire. For culture, go to the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, the home of two Victorian collectors, and visit St Peter’s Church, where novelist Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein in 1818, is buried.
Where to stay: Stay mere steps from the sand in one of the 24 stylish self-catering Bournemouth Beach Lodges, which sleep up to four adults and two children, with views across Poole Bay. Four nights cost from £450 (bournemouthbeachlodges.co.uk).
Torquay: The queen of crime’s hideaway
Agatha Christie was born in Torquay and live there. Take a trip by steam train and riverboat to her holiday house of Greenway
What’s to love: Devon’s self-styled English Riviera is the perfect setting for fans of Agatha Christie, who was born and lived here. Sites on the Christie trail include prehistoric caves Kents Cavern, inspiration for The Man In The Brown Suit, and Torre Abbey, which hosts a photographic exhibition on the author until November. Take a trip by steam train and riverboat to her holiday house of Greenway, with its stunning garden, then hit the beach at Oddicombe using the Babbacombe Cliff Railway.
Where to stay: Just a few minutes from the beach, Meadfoot Bay is a Victorian villa with 15 contemporary rooms named after local coves. The grown-up feel is reflected in the clientele – children must be over 14. B&B doubles cost from £126 a night (meadfoot.com).
St Ives: Get your fill of Poldark… and pasties
Cornish charm: Pictured is Porthminster Beach in the pretty town of St Ives
The Harbour Hotel has 52 modern rooms, many with sea views, plus a spa. It can arrange picnics for the beach and guided art visits
What’s to love: Cornwall’s coastal landscape and beautiful beaches form the perfect backdrop to world-class art in Tate St Ives and the Barbara Hepworth museum. There’s hiking along the South West Coast Path, plus cycling inland to the old tin mines made famous by the BBC drama Poldark. For a traditional pasty, pop to S. H. Ferrell & Son.
Where to stay: Close to Porthminster beach, the Harbour Hotel has 52 modern rooms, many with sea views, plus a spa. It can arrange picnics for the beach and guided art visits. B&B doubles cost from £180 a night (harbourhotels.co.uk).
Cromer: Anyone for popcorn cockles?
Foodies flock to Cromer in Norfolk for the crabs. Tuck into a crab burger at restaurant Upstairs At No1
What’s to love: Foodies flock to this pretty Norfolk town, with its brightly painted fishermen’s houses, for the crabs. Try your hand at catching one before tucking into a crab burger Upstairs At No 1 (the popcorn cockles are also pretty good). There are short strolls down the pier to the RNLI museum, longer cliff walks to Cromer Lighthouse, or inland trails past Cromer Hall, inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound Of The Baskervilles.
Where to stay: A private path leads to the beach from the creeper-clad The Grove, which has an indoor pool, self-catering cottages and yurts. B&B doubles cost from £115 a night (thegrovecromer.co.uk).
Llandudno: Celeb fans and a hikers’ heaven
Llandudno’s trump card is a cable-operated street tramway leading up to Great Orme, a 650ft limestone headland that rises straight out of the sea
Escape B&B is pleasingly modern, with nine rooms featuring bold wallpaper and fabric headboards
What’s to love: Renowned travel writer Bill Bryson’s favourite seaside resort comes with the usual promenade, pier and long sandy beaches. Its trump card, though, is a cable-operated street tramway leading up to Great Orme, a 650ft limestone headland that rises straight out of the sea. On the hiking trails, you’ll find views of the Snowdonia mountain range and sometimes to the Isle of Man. Not far away lies the medieval Conwy Castle, built by King Edward I.
Where to stay: It may be in a Victorian villa, but boutique Escape B&B is pleasingly modern, with nine rooms featuring bold wallpaper and fabric headboards. B&B doubles cost from £120 a night (escapebandb.co.uk).
North Berwick: Home to treasure island
North Berwick boasts two sandy beaches and is home to one of the world’s largest gannet colonies
With 11 chic rooms and a modern bistro serving local food, No 12 Hotel & Bistro has B&B doubles from £180 a night
What’s to love: Great for golfers, North Berwick near Edinburgh is also a delight for bird-watchers. Among the volcanic islands in the Firth of Forth, the impressive Bass Rock is home to one of the world’s largest gannet colonies, while the Isle of May is puffin central. You can take trips to both with guides from the Scottish Seabird Centre. A third island, Fidra, is visible from one of the two sandy beaches – it is claimed it was the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Be sure to take in the clifftop Tantallon Castle, too.
Where to stay: With 11 chic rooms and a modern bistro serving local food, No 12 Hotel & Bistro has B&B doubles from £180 a night (no12hotelandbistro.co.uk).
Newcastle: The sleepy gateway to Narnia
Newcastle is a sleepy seaside town in County Down in Northern Ireland. Pictured – the Mourne Mountains
An impressive Victorian hotel, Slieve Donard may have a slight corporate feel to its 120 rooms these days, but it also has a lovely spa overlooking the beach
What’s to love: This sleepy seaside town in County Down in Northern Ireland is the gateway to some amazing hiking trails, plus other activities from biking to bouldering. Tollymore Forest Park is overshadowed by the mysterious Mourne Mountains, which gave C . S. Lewis inspiration for Narnia, and which meet the sea in a series of tumbling sand dunes at Murlough National Nature Reserve.
Where to stay: An impressive Victorian hotel, Slieve Donard may have a slight corporate feel to its 120 rooms these days, but it also has a lovely spa overlooking the beach. B&B doubles cost from £163 a night (hastingshotels.com).
Blackpool: The leading light of holiday towns
Traditional fun: Young children can take donkey rides along Blackpool’s sandy beach
The new Boulevard Hotel has 120 contemporary rooms, including well-designed family rooms with bunk beds
What’s to love: Check out why 18 million visitors a year make a trip to the original kiss-me-quick resort in Lancashire. As well as Blackpool Tower, thrills and spills at Pleasure Beach, the UK’s largest indoor waterpark and even a Madame Tussauds, there are more shows than you can list on an I Love Blackpool postcard. Buy a stick of rock and embrace it all. If you visit from September until early November, you can also catch the world-famous Illuminations.
Where to stay: The new Boulevard Hotel has 120 contemporary rooms, including well-designed family rooms with bunk beds. Room-only doubles cost from £89 a night (boulevardhotel.co.uk).
- Prices are for both August and September.