Everyone loves a day at the beach, but that’s exactly the problem: everyone loves a day at the beach, and there’s nothing like being jammed in to a heaving crowd of sun-worshippers to ruin a perfectly good day-trip out of London. So if you fancy a day by the sea without the crowds and the tackiness, take your pick from our list of gorgeous, hidden-away beaches all around the UK.
You won’t find donkey rides or grotty stalls selling rip-off ice creams at these beaches, but you will find beautiful scenery, plenty of space to breathe and even a bit of peace and tranquility. It’s the perfect antidote to hectic city life – just don’t tell the rest of the city, okay?
Kynance Cove, Cornwall
Where is it? On the south coast of Cornwall, two miles north-west of Lizard Point
Why go? In the rush down the A3083 to Lizard Point, many people miss the discreet sign on the right pointing them to Kynance Cove. It’s a shame, because this dramatic spot is heavenly. The spectacular contrast between the white sand beach studded with outcrops, arches and caves and the colourful 200ft cliffs behind them are reason enough to visit; add in the brilliant turquoise tones of the sea on a sunny day and you have, to many minds, the best beach in Cornwall. If you’re on the north coast, Bedruthan Steps’ crags and peaks are equally dramatic.
Nice neighbours: Poldhu Cove, Kennack Sands
Getting there: 300 miles/six hours from central London
Where is it? On the Gower Peninsula
Why go? The Gower coast is filled with gorgeous beaches, but we love Oxwich for the alluring mix of sand dunes, salt marshes and woodland that back its two-mile sandy stretch, and for the pretty village of Oxwich. Around the headland, Rhossili is staggering and dramatic, but Oxwich is gentler, with rolling hills behind it and safe shallow waters. These do make it a popular spot during the summer, but walk east, towards Tor Bay and Three Cliffs, and the crowds give way to walkers, twichers and cyclists making the most of the glorious expanse of hard-packed sand.
Nice neighbours: Rhossili, Broughton Bay, Cefn Sidan Sands
Getting there: 200 miles/four-five hours from central London
Man O’War Beach, Dorset
Where is it? On the Jurassic Coast
Why go? Thanks in no small part to its arresting array of limestone-carved arches and amazing views of them from the South West Coast Path, Dorset is a deserved chart-topper when it comes to outstanding beaches. For our money, Man O’War beach tops that list for being a respite from the crowds of more famous and more accessible spots (it’s a steep 800-metre long footpath from the clifftop car park, with 150 steps), for being a great (and safe) swimming spot, for its appealing mix of sand and fine pebbles, and for its clean, shallow waters.
Nice neighbours: Lulworth Cove, Studland Bay, Chesil Beach
Getting there: 130 miles/three+ hours from central London