Littlehampton, West Sussex
This quiet shingle beach is an island of tranquillity. There’s a sea swimming club, a great little café and a dune walk due east. The best way to arrive is by train to Littlehampton, then walk across the dunes to the shore.
- Signed Climping Beach, from between Bognor and Littlehampton (A259). Continue past the Black Horse Inn (01903 715175) to the beach car park. BN17 5RL
North Berwick, Scotland
This beach sits beneath the clifftop ruins of Tantallon castle. It also overlooks the island of Bass Rock. Left of the beach is a tiny harbour with gentle swimming. There’s a short set of steps from the car park
in the woods above.
- Off the A198. EH39 5PP
Vast sands stretch out beneath the dramatic ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle. Continue a mile south across rolling grassland to the village of Craster, for Robson’s famous smoked fish (01665 576223) and the Jolly Fisherman’s superb crab sandwiches (01665 576461)!
- In Embleton take B1399 south and turn left on the last road opposite the church. NE66 3DT
Woolacombe, North Devon
This perfect little sandy cove has a small island lookout and a beach hut serving Sri Lankan curry (bring your own drinks). The sand of crushed shells seems as though it’s been washed in from the Caribbean.
- From Woolacombe beach, head north along the Esplanade 300m. The cove is opposite Devon Beach Court. Shack open May-Sept, except if raining (07969 189304). EX34 7DJ
A wonderful beach beneath ancient woods, with sea caves and a grassy hill fort. Follow the sea footpath from the car park for about 20 minutes. The nearby ruined village of Tyneham is a fascinating diversion. Part of the army training ranges, it’s closed on firing days.
- Between East Lulworth and Corfe Castle. BH20 5NY
Lleyn Peninsula, North Wales
Pure, white, west-facing sand occupies a deep cleft in the cliffs. There are flower-filled dunes and a hill fort, perfect for spotting pods of dolphins jumping through waves at sunset. It’s a bumpy drive down the old farm track but the farmer will let you park on the rough field adjacent.
- Signed 1½ miles before Rhoshirwaun, on the Aberdaron road (B4413). LL53 8LP
Isle of Mull, West Scotland
Grassy meadows lead down to a white beach and sunset views over the isles of Iona. These are some of the purest sands in Britain, and the water shines turquoise. At low tide you can walk across to ‘Treasure Island’ where Robert Louis Stevenson spent some years, while his father built Scotland’s largest lighthouse.
- Two miles from Fionnphort. PA66 6BN
A great sweep of empty sand on the wild National Park coastline, just 15 minutes from the Blue Lagoon, a turquoise flooded quarry with great swimming. Continue up the coast, past several more secret coves, to reach the old ruins above Porthgain.
- Signed Abereiddy, 9 miles from Fishguard or 6 miles from St Davids. Parking at beach. SA62 5BN
St Just, Cornwall
A superb locals’ beach with stream, waterfall and shade under tall cliffs. It’s a beautiful flower-filled walk down the old farm track below Lower Chypraze Farm (pay to park in the meadow) or walk 15 minutes east from Pendeen lighthouse.
- There’s a seasonal tearoom at Morvah Gallery (01736 787808). TR19 7TU
Gun Hill Dunes
The beaches of Holkham extend for miles, merging into forest. At Gun Hill there are sand hills, marram grass, views across to Scolt Head Island, and a fabulous nature reserve which is also a tidal island.
- About a 30-minute walk from Burnham Overy Staithe. PE31 8JE
Hidden Beaches: Explore the secret coast of Britain, by Daniel Start, charts over 400 secret beaches and is available now. www.wildthingspublishing.com/hiddenbeaches