Best of British Beaches – England

English beaches

Holkham Beach, By Rod Edwards for the British Tourist Authority.

With more than seven thousand miles of coastline around Britain, there are beaches to suit every taste, from popular bucket-and-space resorts to isolated stretches that hardly anyone knows about. After looking at some beautiful beaches in Northern Ireland and Wales, it is time to turn our attention to England. As with the earlier articles, choosing just a few is difficult. Cornwall alone has dozens of magnificent beaches. Instead, this article tries to give some geographic diversity, since there are English beaches in every region deserving of note.

English beaches

The castle provides a dramatic backdrop to Bamburgh Beach.

Bamburgh, Northumberland

The wild and woolly coast of Northumberland might not be the first that springs to mind when planning a day to the beach but this beautiful area is well worth a look. You might be sunbathing or swimming, but this is a great spot for a brisk walk and the waters are popular with surfers. The views are magnificent. On the cliffs behind you stands Bamburgh Castle, an imposing Norman structure. And on clear days you can see out to the Farne Islands, including the holy island of Lindisfarne. So gorgeous is this part of England that Countryfile magazine named it their 2017 Holiday Destination of the Year.

Dogs are allowed on the beach. Disabled facilities and public restrooms are available. Do be aware, however, that there is no lifeguard on duty.

English beaches

Sand dunes at Holkham Bay on the North Norfolk Coast. Courtesy of Chris Herring and VisitBritain.

Holkham, Norfolk

You can see for miles across the flat landscapes of East Anglia, but the beach at Holkham still seems even bigger, even flatter, even more spectacular. The sands are part of the Holkham Nature Reserve, one of the largest in the country. Kept in pristine condition it is frequently named one of the very best English beaches. Gentle sand dunes lay as far as the eye can see. When the tide is low, it can be a walk of more than half a mile to the water, but with surroundings this wonderful, you won’t mind the stroll. And as if you needed any further reason to visit, Queen Elizabeth used to visit this beach with her young children. If it’s good enough for royalty….

This is a dog-friendly beach but please remember to be a responsible pet owner. Visitors to the beach may not have barbecues or fires. The nearest facilities are at the car-park which is some distance away, so be prepared and bring everything you need.

English beaches

Viking Bay, Broadstairs. By Josh Tilley via Wikimedia Commons

Viking Bay, Kent

For those seeking an old-fashioned family beach, with plenty of sand to play on and facilities within easy walking distance, Viking Bay at Broadstairs is a summer favourite. The horseshoe-shaped beach has rides, clean sand, and excellent waters for swimming in. Beloved author Charles Dickens regularly took walks along the clifftops here. Bleak House overlooks the beach from a nearby hill. Pleasant walks lead around the coastline, down through the East Cliffs to Ramsgate, or up to Joss Bay and Botany Bay.

Dogs may not go on the beach from May to September. There is a lift to the beach and wheelchairs are available. Parking, restaurants, hotels, shops, and toilets are all on site.

English beaches

Studland Beach. Courtesy of VisitBritain.

Studland Bay, Dorset

Four miles of white sand, backed by dunes and heathland, Studland Bay is one of those English beaches that has a little of something for everyone. It is the ideal spot for families with children, and in fact the area inspired Enid Blyton when she wrote her Noddy stories. Yet as kids build their sandcastles on some stretches, other parts of the beach feel perfectly isolated. One part of the beach is Britain’s top naturist beach, but don’t let that put you off visiting. That spot is private and there is little to no chance of accidentally wandering in. Elsewhere along the dunes, walking trails give opportunities for wildlife- and flower spotting. This is also a very popular area for those who enjoy surfing or sailing.

Studland Bay is overseen by the National Trust. The beach is open from dawn till dusk, with  a cafe on site. Car-parks are located at several of the individual bays along the beach, and there is a visitors centre at Knoll Bay. Check for seasonal restrictions about dogs.

English beaches

Formby Beach

Formby, Lancashire

Merseyside and Lancashire both want to lay claim to this stunning English beach, which often reveals traces of its prehistoric past. The sand dunes are a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and the beach leads inland to pinewoods and one of the few red squirrel reserves in the UK. On a clear day, visitors can enjoy views to Blackpool, the mountains of Cumbria, and even the coast of Northern Ireland! The beach is ideal for families and gets very busy on holidays and weekends.

Formby is cared for by the National Trust and the beach is open to the public from dawn till dusk. Parking, refreshments, and toilets are all available. Dogs are welcome on a leash. Be aware that there is no lifeguard on duty.

There are dozens more English beaches that are worth a visit. Take some time to explore some of the lesser known ones near you.

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