Since the late 18th century, the English have been taking to the sea for health and recreation. After all, no point on the island is more than a two-hour drive to the coast. Here are BHT's top ten favourite seaside spots.
King George III started it by taking his family for seaside holidays in Dorset. The water may be bone-chillingly cold, but that’s not the point. There is salt air and marine life—and amusement arcades, fish & chips and sometimes even sun. Here are our favorite places to enjoy the traditional seaside.
BRIGHTON, WEST SUSSEX
Yes, Brighton is still the granddaddy of all the visits to the seaside—especially as a day trip from London (via Victoria Station). You might not spend much time lying on the pebbles of Brighton’s shingle beach, but the Pier and the Royal Pavilion are unforgettable.
It’s hard to figure out whether Blackpool is more enjoyable as a seaside playground or as a vignette of social history. It’s dramatically both, along six miles of beach. The original working class holiday spa may be shopworn, but it’s lost none of its zest.
The weather is fine on the crescent of beaches from Torquay to Paignton and Brixton. It’s not called “the English Riviera” for nothing. The pier is in Paignton, but don’t neglect Brixton’s wonderful harbor (and its seafood) or the Agatha Christie trail in Torquay.
SHANKLIN, ISLE OF WIGHT
The sun shines a good deal on the Isle of Wight. Forget the glitzy, crowded waterfront at Ryde and Sandown, and head south to Shanklin. It has a lovely beach and all the amenities without so much noise. Shanklin Chine is not to be missed, or the old village.
North Wales’ most attractive and popular seaside town has it all: pier, lovely beaches, fun history and a plethora of character hostelries and eating places. It’s also got Great Orme’s attractions and magnificent views to hand, and walled Conwy just down the road.
EASTBOURNE, EAST SUSSEX
Gorgeous bedding flowers line Eastbourne’s beachfront promenade; amusements and the like are confined to the lively pier. This is a more genteel seaside, with an older crowd, hotels of character and tea dances every afternoon at the Winter Garden. Nearby, visit Alfriston and the Cuckmere Valley.
This deservedly popular South Wales seaside town has an almost Mediterranean flavor, with its lovely harbor and pastel palette. Lie in the sun; enjoy the local seafood. Take the boat to Caldey Island, or explore the coast to St. David’s, nearby Sandersfoot or the harbor villages of Pembrokeshire.
There’s a certain panache about Weymouth. After all, this is where King George III began the tradition of seaside holidays with the family. The beachfront is a classic, so is the pretty harbor and dockside. Portland Bay is dressed out for the coming sailing and yachting events of the 2012 Olympics. Fun for all.
ST. IVES, CORNWALL
St. Ives is more an arts colony than a sunbathing destination, though the harbor beach is ideal for catching sun and staying out of the wind. Check out the Tate Gallery and artist’s studios, enjoy Cornish seafood and trundle across the peninsula to Penzance, or down the coast a few miles to Land’s End.
GREAT YARMOUTH, NORFOLK
Seaside fun meets working port at Great Yarmouth. The beachfront itself has the usual faded Victorian charms (and Dickensian associations), but there’s so much to see, including a working waterfront and the confluence of the Broads river network.