Summer is in the air and the kids are getting restless. This can only mean one thing. Pack the swimming costumes, rustle up some sandwiches, grab the windbreak and set the sat nav for the perfect beach.
With more than 11,000 miles of mainland coastline, Brits are spoilt for choice when it comes to enjoying all the fun of the seaside. But choosing the best beaches calls for careful consideration.
For families, it’s hard to beat a Blue Flag beach. These are the internationally-recognised sites that meet high standards for cleanliness, accessibility and lifeguard safety, in addition to good facilities – essential when you need a hot cup of tea or cooling cone of ice cream.
We’ve picked five that are well worth a drive…
1. Bridlington North, Bridlington, Yorkshire
Generations of beachgoers have travelled to Bridlington – Brid to the locals – armed with buckets and spades. Its mix of sand and shingle is said to be ideal for building sand castles, while rock pools and outstanding promenades means there’s plenty to do to fill a day.
Bridlington Bay also offers glorious views of the high chalk cliffs of Flamborough Headland, and bird spotters will want to pack their binoculars. Young kids and big kids alike will enjoy Bridlington’s land train, and with Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay a short drive north, this is a destination worthy of more than a day trip.
2. Gyllyngvase, near Falmouth, Cornwall
Being just a 15-minute stroll from Falmouth, St Mawes in Gyllyngvase is ideally situated for families looking for plenty to do. Its sea is allegedly warmed by the Gulf Stream, and the beach is a long arc of sand that folds round with the curve of the bay and is topped off by a promenade.
The whole lot is overlooked by the popular Gylly Beach Café, which features a popular gig night with local bands on Sunday evenings. During the day, there’s deckchair hire, volleyball and tennis, ideal if swimming in the sea or flying a kite doesn’t tire out the little ones.
3. Southwold, near Lowestoft, Suffolk
If a bag of chips at the end of a pier is your ideal setting for a British beach break, then make a beeline for Southwold. Originally built in 1900 to moor steamships that would bring tourists from London, the pier was wrecked by storms and blown up by mines. But following restoration, it reopened in 1988 and now stretches more than 190 metres out to sea.
Southwold’s beach is equally spellbinding, boasting an excellent promenade and sweet, multi-coloured beach huts that could almost pass for a line of ice-lollies in the haze of the sunshine. With areas dedicated to watersports, it’s also sensibly segregated. To the south lie Walberswick and Aldeburgh, both also worth a visit if time permits.
4. West Wittering, near Chichester, West Sussex
Slap bang in the middle of Britain’s southern coastline is this gem of a beach, which speaks volumes of an Englishman’s attachment to the great outdoors. In 1952, 126 local residents bought a large car park to prevent the site being sold for development.
To this day, it remains intact and unspoiled, and is rightly one of the most popular beaches on the south coast. It affords views of Chichester Harbour and the South Downs, but equally feels remote enough to provide solitude, especially when you find a quiet spot in among the sand dunes that separate the beach from the extensive grass parking areas. Clean beaches and water, a café and a windsurfing and kite surfing club mean you can arrive as the sun rises and won’t want to leave until it’s set.
5. Westward Ho!, near Barnstaple, North Devon
The name may sound made-up but Westward Ho! is well worth venturing out for, especially if you’ve got the urge to surf. It boasts more than two miles of golden sandy beach, and behind sits a pebble ridge that borders with the Northam Burrows Country Park, a UN biosphere reserve.
But it’s the surfing that pulls in visitors like a tide bringing in pebbles. There are two surf schools that can provide everything a budding boarder needs to ride the crest of a wave… or wobble around on in true beginner fashion. So don’t forget to pack your sense of adventure.