22 of the best beaches in Britain to visit this summer

22 of the best beaches in Britain to visit this summer

Not many things beat a day at the seaside, so grab your beach towel, picnic and sun cream and check out these gorgeous National Trust beaches to head to this summer!

South West


1. Soar Mill Cove, Devon

Soar Mill is a small sandy cove that can only be reached on foot or by boat. The effort to get there is worth it, with an abundance of wildlife and a quiet spot to relax or explore.

2. Aymer Cove, Devon

Explore the beauty and remoteness of the Ringmore Valley on a journey through old smugglers' lanes down to a secluded cove. Aymer Cove boasts magnificent coastal views and colourful rock formations. Walking around here is great for anyone interested in geology. At low tide the vast rock pools are teeming with marine life such as blennies, anenomes and starfish. The sand dunes are also constantly shifting and developing.


3. Woody Bay, North Devon

Woody Bay, so named because of the ash, larch and birch trees that line the rolling cliff edge, it is a good place for bird watching. A wide variety of sea birds nest and breed on the cliffs between Woody Bay and Heddon's Mouth Lantic Bay, and is also an excellent place to look out for the peregrines and buzzards that breed here.


4. Strangles near Crackington Haven, Cornwall

The route to Strangles can be steep in places, with steps and a rocky descent. Taking this alternative route you will be rewarded with golden sands, rock formations, smooth striped pebbles and interesting flotsam and jetsam.


5. Holywell, Cornwall

Holywell is the largest bay on this stretch of Cornish coast. Sandy dunes and unspoilt coves make Holywell a perfect escape from the crowds at Newquay. It’s a great spot for rock-pooling and swimming. With Trust car parks, refreshments, toilets and seasonal lifeguards - what more could you want? You’re welcome to bring your dog all year round.


6. Sandymouth, Cornwall

Sweep of unspoilt surf beaches with miles of sand, rock pools and twisted cliffs. Sandymouth is a perfect picnic spot, or head to the café which is open during the summer months. With great surf but also a convenient National Trust car park, toilets and seasonal lifeguard you will be well catered for at Sandymouth. It’s a good idea to plan ahead and check tide times before your visit.


7. Godrevy, Cornwall

An awe-inspiring expanse of sandy beaches around St Ives Bay, this is one of the most popular surfing beaches in Cornwall with an equally popular beach café. There is added comfortable amenities with a seasonal lifeguard, toilets and a National Trust car park close by.


8. Burton Bradstock, Dorset

Burton Bradstock is part of the Jurassic Coast, Britain's only natural World Heritage Site. The Jurassic Coast covers 95 glorious miles that record 185 million years of the earth's history. An idyllic mixture of coast and countryside, you may recognise it as the cover star of this year’s National Trust handbook. Head to Hive Beach where the café there will be serving tasty, local and seasonal refreshments.

London and South East

St Helens

9. St Helen's Duver, Isle of Wight

St Helen's Duver is a wonderful open space to wander, fly a kite, walk the dog, watch the birds, or just sit and enjoy the tranquillity. So why not pack a picnic, the children and the dog then set off for the day? There's something to keep everyone busy from rock pooling on the beach to wildflower and bird spotting, plus plenty of grassy open land for running amok.


10. Compton Bay, Isle of Wight

This huge expanse of sandy beach is protected by multi-coloured cliffs. It’s great for fossil hunting (dinosaur footprints) and the shallow waters are good for swimming with little ones. The waves are little here too, so they’re perfect for 50 things wave jumping. Compton’s self-guided trail on the chalk ridge above the beach is rich in wildflowers and butterflies in summer.


11. Newtown National Nature Reserve, Isle of Wight

Whilst not strictly a beach, this nature reserve is still perfect for family fun by the water. Last year the reserve launched an adventurous canoe trail.  Open to anyone who’s got a canoe or kayak; it takes you along a picturesque route – through the creek, and past flower-rich hay meadows, ancient woodlands and salt marshes alive with rare birds and butterflies.  Mid-summer is the best time to visit Newtown Nature Reserve.

East of England


12. Brancaster, Norfolk

At low tide Brancaster Beach offers a huge expanse of sand and seemingly endless views out to sea. During the summer months the beach is an ideal spot for a barefoot walk or building sandcastles. With guided ‘50 things to do before you’re 11 & ¾’ activities, dog-friendly areas and a special zone for kite sports, the whole family can enjoy a scenic picnic by the sea. 

13. Dunwich Heath & Beach

The peaceful, colourful heathland of the Dunwich Heath Nature Reserve, with its shingle and sand beach, is rich with wildlife and ideal for family walks. The beach and heath provide the perfect habitat for species such as Dartford warblers, nightjars and woodlark, and if you pause for a while in the Sea Watch Hut you might be able to spot porpoises and seals. There are also plenty of activities to keep the kids entertained, from geocache trails and scavenger hunts to flying kites in the summer sunshine. After all that activity you can head to the tea room at Coastguard Cottages for a rest and a cool drink. Dogs are welcome throughout, although they need to be kept on leads at certain times of the year to protect nesting birds. They can enjoy playing off-lead on the beach all year round.



14. Embleton Bay, Northumberland

Embleton Bay has just been voted the Best Beach in BBC Countryfile Magazine’s Awards, and it’s easy to see why. This fine sandy beach is one of the most spectacular in England, with the imposing ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle looming large on the horizon at one end. It's a great spot for paddling, and also gives some good surf conditions. The Northumberland Coast also provides a stunning outdoor gym for running, walking and cycling with lots of fresh sea air.


15. Formby, Liverpool

Formby is the perfect place for coastal walks, dog walking, horse riding, wave jumping, kite flying or just lazy days at the beach. Backed by dramatic sand dunes and pine woodlands, the beach is a great picnic spot for those who like to explore. Hunt along the nearby mudflats for prehistoric human footprints, or head into the woods to see if you can spot some of the red squirrels that live there. When you need a rest you can laze about on the dunes enjoying the contents of your picnic hamper, or treat yourself to something from the coffee cart and ice cream van that are onsite most days.


16. Sandscale Haws, Cumbria

Sandscale Haws is a beautiful sandy beach and National Nature Reserve, with far-reaching views across the Duddon Estuary. There are plenty of opportunities for seaside play, from building sandcastles to shell collecting as well as some old favourites like flying a kite and skimming a stone. Kids and adults can also have fun running up and down the dunes or a family game of cricket on the beach. The vast and beautiful dune habitat supports a high diversity of plants and animals, from coralroot orchids to curlews and great crested newts. Take a walk into the back of the dunes and look for butterflies amongst the marram grass and dragonflies around the sheltered slacks. 


17. Llanbedrog, Llyn Peninsula

Tourists have been visiting Llanbedrog on the Llŷn Peninsula since Solomon Andrews built a tramway to connect it to Pwllheli in the 1890s. The mile-long beach at Llanbedrog still a popular destination today, perfect for a family trip to the coast.  The sandy beach and shallow water make it a great spot for paddling, and intrepid little ones can try one of the family activity packs available at the car park - bug hunting, games, leaf trails and more.  Whilst you’re here, why not add an extra dimension to your break by renting one of the colourful beach huts?

18. Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire

This wild and unspoilt south-Pembrokeshire beach is not only a beautiful location for a walk – it’s also one of Wales’ foremost surfing destinations, with consistent swell and waves ideal for the experienced watersports enthusiast. There’s also plenty on offer for non-surfers, with buckets of sand for sandcastle building, and plenty of space to fly a kite. The beach also has a wealth of rockpools, which little ones will love exploring. The National Trust also often host beach cleans here, where you can grab a litter picker and join in to help keep this special place clean and tidy.

19. Rhossili, Gower

Rhossili’s three mile long beach has some of the most magnificent views on the Welsh coast. If you stand at Rhossili Down, you can see not only the peninsula, but the coasts of west Wales and north Devon just on the horizon. With its scenic clifftops and sprawling beach, it’s a perfect place to spend summer days walking, swimming, surfing and kite-flying. To stretch your legs, take the level walk along the cliff top to the Old Coastguard Lookout, where they would have kept watch for ships in trouble on the high seas. On the way back you can pick up a souvenir from the National Trust shop, and help contribute to the conservation of this beautiful landscape.

Northern Ireland

20. Murlough National Nature Reserve

The view from Murlough Beach is one of an impressive shingle beach and four miles of magnificent strand set against the backdrop of the Mourne Mountains. For families with young children looking for a great place to explore, Murlough is a must. There’s a network of paths and boardwalks through the dunes, woodland and heath from where you will see lots of butterflies and wild flowers. You may even be lucky enough to spot seals bobbing among the waves. Murlough is celebrating 50 years in the Trust’s care this year and there are lots of activities planned – keep an eye on the website for details.


21. Portstewart Strand

Sweeping along the edge of the North Coast, this two-mile stretch of golden sand is one of Northern Ireland's finest beaches. It’s an ideal place for sandcastles, lazy picnics and long walks into the sand dunes, and also provides the gentlest waves in Norther Ireland which makes it perfect for water sports. There's something to see whatever the season, including whales, dolphins and seals. In summer the dunes are filled with butterflies, moths and vibrant wild flowers.


22. White Park Bay

This spectacular sandy beach forms a white arc between two headlands on the North Antrim Coast. Its secluded location means that even on a busy day there is plenty of room for quiet relaxation and a picnic. The beach is backed by ancient dunes that provide important habitats for birds, butterflies and bright wildflowers that attract bees. Out to sea you might be able to spot dolphins or porpoises and watch the seabirds diving into the sea to catch fish.