The Seaside Towns of Britain

With Brexit, the hammering of the British pound, and just the U.K. economy going somewhat down the crapper, it has become a whole lot cheaper to travel in the U.K. through the past days. And this is why we have been doing so, including our recent road trip through the Scottish Highlands, and just various stints and travels in Northern Ireland. And again we have plans to explore further to some of the lesser-known seaside towns in Britain, only failing to find a comprehensive list I have recruited the help of fellow travel bloggers to compile a list ourselves. Anyway, when it comes to seaside towns and holiday destinations, I do avoid the smaller pokey villages, as I would likely find myself bored within a day. At the same time, I prefer to avoid large and touristy destinations, where the serene seaside charm is often spoiled by mass tourism and crowds. Instead I prefer destinations with empty beaches, and walking promenades, fish and chips from local chippies, and just the quaint clichés that come with traditional British seaside living. I also like island destinations, because they often bring a type of rustic local life and cultural charm. So I will be starting with Britain’s lesser-known island destinations, before moving through Scotland, Wales, and England. Anyway, here are some of the best tourist seaside towns in Britain.


Northern Ireland


Bangor Northern Ireland, Best Tourist Seaside Towns in Britain UKBangor

There was a time (in the 1950’s) when Bangor Northern Ireland was one of the biggest tourist destinations in all of Ireland. And it was a bit like Ireland’s equivalent to Blackpool at its time, when ferries full of tourists would arrive from Scotland and northern England to holiday during the summer months. Until affordable international travel arrived, and then there was the whole “troubles” thing in Northern Ireland which kind of scuppered any local tourism here. So it did since fade into the background. However Bangor undoubtedly maintains the same qualities of a scenic seaside town which had once attracted the tourist crowds during its heyday. And while the town is also famous for its Historical and Christian Heritage, the highlights will be found around the town’s seafront, including Northern Ireland’s largest marina, Pickie Fun Park, and the renowned coastal path following a rather magnificent coastline past forest parks, beaches, and all sorts of fascinating seascapes.


black arch larne, Best Seaside Towns in Britain UKLarne

By Erin and Ryan of Downbubble: Larne is situated on Northern Ireland’s east coast facing across the water to Cairnryan in Scotland. In fact for many, this is the main point Larne is known for, as a popular ferry route, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find many more little charms. To take in our favourite spots in Larne follow this route walking or driving: Start at Chaine Park and walk down this knee-shakingly steep slope to then turn left along the Larne Promenade coastal walk along the Antrim Coast Road through the Black Arch. Continue past Drain’s Bay and up to Carnfunnock Country Park for homemade sweets and savouries from the little cafe there at lunchtime and afterwards a walk around the very picturesque but also seemingly haunted Cairndhu House!  Game of Thrones fans will also want to leave Larne in the opposite direction along Larne Road to see the Wall, actually the Magheramorne Quarry.


Island Getaways


Douglas-isle of man, Best Seaside Towns in Britain UKDouglas, Isle of Man

By Priyanko of the Constant Traveller: Very little is known about the Isle of Man in general and its capital city Douglas in particular. Sure, you can say it’s a tax haven. Sports fans can tell you about the Isle of Man TT that starts and ends in Douglas every year. But beyond that? Well, Douglas is the newer capital city of the Isle of Man, a title earlier held by Castletown. Today, Douglas is the power centre of the island for almost everything under the sun. Tourism is still not a big business here so your only options are guidebooks, locals and serendipity to discover the many wonders of this place. The Douglas Promenade runs across most of the city and is a great way to get your bearing at any point. Thankfully, the main bus services run to almost every part of the island from Douglas so planning a trip to the corners of the island shouldn’t be an issue. I arrived by boat from Liverpool and was happy to base myself in Douglas from where getting to almost anywhere is possible. Apart from its prominent beachfront location in the Irish Sea, there are plenty of things to do here. My main suggestions would be to visit the Manx Museum to understand the local population and the island itself. Douglas Head has a Camera Obscura that’s worth checking out and if horse-drawn ‘trams’ are your thing, feel free to hop on to one along the promenade. The best tip? Take the steam train from Douglas to Port Erin. You’ll go back in time while admiring the natural beauty of the Isle of Man.


Osborne-House-Cowes, Best Tourist Seaside Towns in Britain UKCowes, Isle of Wight

By Laurence Norah of Finding the Universe: Cowes is one of the main towns on the Isle of Wight, which is situated just off the south coast of the UK near Southampton. It’s about a half hour ferry ride, with multiple ferries a day. Whilst it’s not a big town, it is relatively well-known as it is home to the world’s largest and longest running annual sailing regatta, which draws a huge number of visitors every year. There’s more to do here than sail though! There’s a lovely beach, a nice esplanade to walk along, and the nearby Osborne House, home of Queen Victoria for many years, is a must visit. Beyond Cowes, there are many things to do on the Isle of Wight, which make a visit worthwhile, and we’d suggest you visit for at least a couple of day to experience everything that both Cowes and the island have to offer.


Bryher Isles of Scilly, Best Seaside Towns in Britain UKBryher, Scilly Isles

By Michelle Minnaar of the Greedy Gourmet: You don’t have to travel far to get stunning seaside views. In fact, you don’t even have to leave the UK. Ever heard of the Isles of Scilly in Cornwall, located in the South Western part of the UK? Bryher (or Breyer in Cornish) is one such isle that faces the never-ending blue Atlantic Ocean. Noted for its historical association of being home to shipwrecks from the 18th and 19th century, Hell Bay Bryher offers views to remember. You can easily enjoy these five-star views during your stay at the Hell Bay HotelDepending on which direction you’re coming from, this is the first and last hotel you’ll come across in England! It is the perfect place for a city break where you can truly relax and enjoy a tranquil setting. While you visit Bryher, you can also enjoy the freshest produce from the sea. I highly recommend you check out the Crab Shack while you are there.


Scotland


St Andrews Scotland, Best Tourist Seaside Towns in Britain UKSt Andrews

By Gillian Denovan of Scotland Bucket List: St Andrews is an attractive seaside town on the Fife coast in Scotland, just over 1hr north east of Edinburgh. This charming little town is home to both the iconic Old Course golf course as well as the oldest university in Scotland – and it’s of course the place where Prince William met Kate! Rumour has it that one in ten students meet their future spouse there (I’m one of them!) The town, with its cobbled streets, back alleys, secret passageways, is steeped in history and tradition. A visit to the ruined Castle is a must along with the Cathedral and St Rule’s Tower where you’ll get an amazing panoramic view of the town. And of course, you can’t visit St Andrews without taking a bracing walk along one of its beaches. Choose from the large expansive sands at West Sands or the smaller, bay beach at East Sands. It’ll be sure to blow away the cobwebs!

Mallaig Port and Harbour. Best Tourist Seaside Towns in Britain UK

Mallaig

By Sanne of Veni Vidi: Mallaig is a charming town in the Highlands of Scotland. In this small town with several colourful houses, many travellers in Scotland will find themselves at one point. From the harbour, ferries depart to the Isle of Skye, one of the most beautiful islands of Scotland. Moreover, Mallaig is the end destination of the Jacobite Steam Train featured in the Harry Potter movies. This train departs from Fort William, 43 miles away. Mallaig is the perfect place to buy some soft ice cream and watch the busy life in the harbour. However, watch out for the seagulls. You can also take a stroll around the village. A nice walk in Mallaig is the Mallaig circuit, which has good views over Mallaig harbour and across Loch Nevis. Behind the rail station, you can find the Mallaig Heritage Centre, a museum about the history of this fishing village.

Fortwilliam Scotland, Best Seaside Towns in Britain UKFort William

By Elisa from World in Paris: Fort William is a town located in Western Scotland, on the shore of Loch Linnhe. Known as the outdoor capital of the UK, Fort William is always high on the wish list of those who want to enjoy the Great Outdoors. Fort William marks the end of the West Highland Way, Scotland’s most popular long distance walk, and the start of the Great Glen Way from Fort William to Inverness. Also, Fort William is a good starting point to climb Ben Nevis, UK’s highest mountain. When the weather is not nice, Fort William also has some cool indoor proposals. We had the opportunity to learn more about the history of Scotland, and in particular of the Jacobite era, at the West Highland Museum. Also, we visited Ben Nevis distillery, operating since 1825, and tasted its whiskey at the end of the tour. If you are spending a couple of days in Fort William, take the car to visit its surroundings, with sights like the Jacobite steam train or the eight gates on the Caledonian Canal.


Ullapool

Ullapool North Coast, Best Seaside Towns in Britain UKBy Gemma of Two Scots Abroad: All Scottish Highland roads lead to Ullapool, especially those on the West Coast. Sometimes those roads aren’t made of cement because Ullapool boasts of a ferry route to Stornoway! However, before you leave the big village on the NC500, Scotland’s most popular road trip, be sure to experience the live music at the likes of The Ceilidh Place, The Arch Inn and the Argyll Hotel.  Ullapool is home to 1500 residents but this number explodes come Summer with tourists visiting the arty town. Close to Ullapool is the mountain, Stac Pollaidh, which takes approximately two hours to climb. The views from on top are worth the walk.


Wales


aberystwyth_wales, Best Tourist Seaside Towns in Britain UKAberystwyth

By Cynthia Graham of Blue Bag Nomads: When we started looking at places to see in Wales, Aberystwyth became a clear choice right away. The bay is beautiful and very popular. After visiting several British coastal towns it has become one of our favourites. It is known for its graceful sweeping seafront and promenade. You can stroll for over a mile passing many points of interest. The first picture we saw of Aberystwyth made us think of Monte Carlo. The castle there is an Edwardian fortress built in the late 1300s. When you are done wandering around town, head over to the electric railway. The Aberystwyth Electric Cliff Railway will take you to the top of the cliff with the best views and a café too. Another option is to drive to a hill called Pen Dinas where there is an extensive Iron Age, Celtic hill fort. By train from London it is about 5 ½ hours and well worth the trip!

Barmouth Wales, Best Seaside Towns in Britain UKBarmouth

By David Angel of Delve into Europe: Barmouth has one of the most dramatic settings of any coastal towns in the UK. It’s on the Mawddach estuary on the Mid Wales coast, in the southern part of the Snowdonia National Park. It gets many visitors because of its great beach, and there’s an element of the traditional British seaside, with the chippies, amusement arcades and ‘kiss me quick’ hats. There’s also the Cafe Carousel, whose owners have long since given up replacing the second ‘C’ after it kept being removed overnight. However it’s a very different place a couple of streets inland. Steep narrow lanes wind their way up the hill behind, passing some beautiful 19th century stone houses and cottages. Eventually you reach some open ground – this is Dinas Oleu, the Fortress of Light, the first piece of land devoted to the National Trust in 1895. Then there’s the Mawddach estuary. It’s crossed by a lovely characterful wooden railway bridge, and the backdrop is a ridge of mountains culminating in Cadair Idris, one of the great mountains of Wales. In summer you can cross the river in a tiny ferry called Emily, and catch the onward narrow gauge railway to the village of Fairbourne.


Tenby Pembrokshire, Best Tourist Seaside Towns in Britain UKTenby

By Cath of Passports and AdventuresTenby in Pembrokeshire is one of the prettiest British coastal towns I’ve ever visited. It is a walled town dating back to medieval times, and with its sandy beach, it is a popular holiday destination for many. Its winding streets have everything from high-street shops to small souvenir shops filled with crafted and homemade gifts, it’s a great seaside town to wander through. The smaller shops are best for gifts and souvenirs. Tenby also has lots of things to do and see, such as Tenby Castle which sits on a headland overlooking the harbour. St Catherine’s Island is the small island across the harbour upon which sits St Catherine’s Fort, built in 1867 on the site of a church. It is only accessible at low tide. There are also numerous museums, a Tudor Merchant House and the RNLI Lifeboat station. And of course, you must have fish and chips by the sea if visiting Tenby.


England


Brighton Palace Pier, Best Tourist Seaside Towns in Britain UKBrighton, East Sussex

By Leanne of The Globetrotter GP: Brighton is the epitome of English seaside culture. There are few places which allow your inner child to play so freely as Brighton. With the jazzy penny arcades, the head-spinning theme park rides on the pier, the infamous chocolate shop ‘choccywoccydoodah’ and even a zip line on the beach. Enjoy scouring the laneways for some antique bargains, eat at the many brilliant restaurants or just pull up a stripey deck chair on the beach and enjoy some good old-fashioned English Fish and Chips. There are plenty of things to do in Brighton that are as quirky as the city itself. From ghost tours and scavenger hunts to glow in the dark crazy golf! Brighton should, without a doubt, be on your British bucket list!


Eastbourne Beach, Best Seaside Towns in Britain UKEastbourne, East Sussex

By Eric and Lisa from Penguin and PiaLocated in East Sussex in Britain’s southeast, Eastbourne is a seaside town nestled between Brighton and Bexhill. Featuring its Victorian-style hotels lining the ocean’s edge, the town is consistently ranked among the sunniest spots (measured by hours of annual sunshine) in all of Britain. Eastbourne is known as a holiday destination – and it’s easy to understand why!  Most notably, Eastbourne is known for its historic pier. Built before 1900, the pier features souvenir and candy shops, restaurants, and even a nightclub. The pier even survived a tragic fire that destroyed the classic arcade back in 2014. Luckily, the pier has since been restored and is once again full of life. The beach itself is made up of small pebbles that are perfect for sitting with a blanket or towel and enjoying a picnic. Small pop-up shops and stalls sell antiques, artisan goods, jewellery, and sweets on weekends. In the heart of the town, the pedestrian mall is filled with a mix of popular shops and local specialities, as well. Nearby, the famous white chalk “Seven Sister” cliffs at Beachy Head take you along walking paths with epic views of the Channel. Be sure to snap a photo of the striped lighthouse when you see it!


Aldeburgh, Best Tourist Seaside Towns in Britain UKAldeburgh, Suffolk

By Anisa of Two Traveling Texans: Aldeburgh is a pretty little seaside town located along the Suffolk Coast about 20 miles south of Southwold.  It’s a popular destination because of its famous fish & chips shop, boutique shops, beach, and historic pubs. You may have also heard of the Aldeburgh Carnival which has been held each August going back 170 years.  Golfers will enjoy the challenge of the Aldeburgh Golf Club, which has one of the highest rated courses in England. Don’t be surprised if there is a line at either Aldeburgh Fish & Chips or the Golden Galleon. You must try it though! Next, check out some of the boutique shops along the High Street. Then take a walk along the pebble beach where you will find the Scallop sculpture.  Don’t be surprised to find kids on it, climbing is actually encouraged. If you are still hungry, you can have afternoon tea at the Brudenell Hotel later. There are also several traditional English pubs to choose from including the Mill Inn and Ye Olde Cross Keys.


Low Tide Brightlingsea, Best Seaside Towns in Britain UKBrightlingsea, North Essex

By Sarah of A Social Nomad: Brightlingsea is a very family friendly coastal town on the coast of North Essex. It’s easily reached by bus from Colchester within 40 minutes. You’ll find the recently reopened Lido, rows of gloriously painted beach huts and an active sailing club. There are ice cream vans, fish and chips shops and good pubs. You’ll find country, estuary and seaside walks and an active community spirit. There are no seaside amusement arcades here and this isn’t a late night spot. There’s a fabulous harbour ferry service that will take you over the estuary to Mersea Island, or to various spots around and up the river. The weather here is often better than it’s surrounding, as it benefits from a microclimate that sees the weather generally milder and less rainy that just 20 miles away. You’ll find food and drink festivals here throughout the year, a circus that travels annually, and Winterfest to bring in the darker nights. The emphasis here is on an old-fashioned British seaside resort. There’s a good friendly vibe here, with a focus on family and there’s nothing better than sitting outside the beach hut with a bag of chips on a warm, but blustery afternoon!


Lyme Regis, Dorset, Best Tourist Seaside Towns in Britain UKLyme Regis, Devon

By Demi of Around the World with Her: Right in the middle of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, on the southern coast of Devon, lies the quaint and relaxing coastal town of Lyme Regis. The town is well-known for fossils, the beach, and the “Cobb” – a huge stone arm into the sea that protects the harbour. During summer, the man-made sandy beach is the perfect place to relax, and I recommend sampling some of the locally caught fish and chips which can be found on the promenade. Sunset down at the harbour is a lovely sight, with local fisherman lining the shores and the colourful boats bobbing in the harbour. In Winter, when winds pick up, the waves crashing over the Cobb make for an impressive sight. Year round, fossil hunting is a popular activity. Ever since the towns famous resident Mary Anning discovered the first Ichthyosaur here in Lyme Regis, tourists and locals wander the stony beaches looking for fossils. It is surprisingly easy to find small rocks containing fossils if you have a keen eye. You can also visit the local museum for more information on the fossils in the area.


Lynton and Lynmouth, Best Seaside Towns in Britain UKLynton & Lynmouth, Devon

By Emily Cole of Kids and Compass: Lynton and Lynmouth are twin towns set on the steep, rugged cliffs of North Devon’s coastline.  Lynton is the larger town and is found on the clifftops, while smaller Lynmouth is just below, at the base of the cliffs where it has a harbour.  Both towns are picturesque, with the white thatched cottages in Lynmouth being particularly pretty, and you can while away several hours wandering through the streets and looking in the many shops. Opened in 1890, the historic cliff railway which links the towns is probably the most unique thing about Lynton and Lynmouth.  You can walk down the steep hillside to Lynmouth fairly easily, but to get back up I’d recommend taking this water-powered funicular to save your legs. A good way to see both towns is to start in Lynton and head out-of-town towards the eerie formations of the Valley of the Rocks.  From here you can take the coastal path down into Lynmouth, where you can get fantastic views out over the Bristol Channel. The path crosses the railway several times in a zig-zag so you can see the funicular working close up.  You can then spend a few hours in Lynmouth before catching the cliff railway back up to Lynton.


Northam Burrows Devon, Best Seaside Towns in Britain UKNortham, Devon

By Bernadette Jackson of A Packed Life: Northam, the hidden gem of North Devon. Northam flies low on the coastal radar, making its charms sweeter. Nestled into the North Devon coast not far from Barnstaple, Northam’s in prime surfing and sailing country and is an area of outstanding natural beauty.  There’s nothing quite like the catch in your breath as you turn the corner from the town studded with pastel cottages to see the first panorama of the spectacular coast before you. Head onwards to Northam Burrows, featuring a toll road where job envy for the toll collector, his view and his infrequent traffic will be profound.  Here you’ll find a golf course where players and sheep co-exist in brilliant harmony on the salt marshes.  The Burrows beyond are wild coast at its best.  Visit when the tide’s on the turn and you’ll be in the company of purposeful swimmers, surfers and bodyboarders all obeying the call of that running tide.


Ilfracombe Devon, Best Tourist Seaside Towns in Britain UKIlfracombe, Devon

By Kylie from Between England and Iowa: Ilfracombe is a cute little harbour town located in North Devon, England.  The town has an impressive coastline with several clifftop walks and is home to one of the ferries ports for boats to Lundy Island.  There’s a small parking area in the town and more alongside the harbour.  Visitors can choose from a variety of pubs, restaurants and fish and chip shops, one of the ice cream parlours even served up a 7 whippy ice cream cone! Some of Ilfracombe’s attractions include the Tunnels Beaches which has hidden tidal bathing pools accessed by tunnels through the cliff face, dating back to the 1800’s.  You can take tours of the 11th century Chambercombe Manor (the tearoom serves up lovely Devonshire cream teas!).  For family fun, Watermouth Castle is just down the road with a water show, a collection of old arcade slot machines, mini golf, a toboggan run and Gnome Land, just to name a few of their theme park amusements!

Swanage Town, Best Tourist Seaside Towns in Britain UKSwanage, Dorset

By Breanne of My Healthy Curves: Swanage is a small beachfront town on the South Coast of England. It lies on the Jurassic coast, a world heritage site stretching for 96 miles, which is known for its rich archaeological history and beautiful scenery. Originally a fishing village, the charming town of Swanage is now known for many reasons. One reason is thanks to the traditionally restored steam railway running from Swanage to nearby Corfe Castle, so beautiful, it was actually used as a filming location for the recent Christopher Nolan hit, Dunkirk. Another reason that Swanage is so well-known is thanks to its annual town carnival and sailing regatta which attracts tourists from throughout the country. The yearly event runs for a week at the beginning of August and is filled with entertainment for the whole family. It includes activities like fancy dress wheelbarrow racing, live music, the yard of ale contests, masquerades parties and so much more. It’s really one of the most vibrant places to be on the South Coast of England


Weymouth Town, Best Tourist Seaside Towns in Britain UKWeymouth, Dorset

By Becky Angell of Becky the Traveller: Weymouth is a lovely seaside town on the south coast in Dorset. It’s situated on the Jurassic Coast, which is a 95-mile World Heritage Site from Exmouth to Studland, From the town to your east, you have stunning coastal walks along cliffs with panoramic views and to the west there’s a lovely nature reserve and famous Chesil Beach. Weymouth has a lovely sandy beach, unlike nearby Chesil Beach which is made up of tiny pebbles, so is great for building sandcastles, relaxing on the beach or enjoying various water activities from Stand-up Paddleboarding to Pedalo boats. I hiked along the coastline and through Weymouth whilst completing my walk of the Jurassic Coast. Arriving late at night in Weymouth, tired from a long day’s hike, my spirits were lifted when I arrived in Weymouth. A wonderful vibrant atmosphere but the delicious smells of fish and chips restaurants was a real sensory memory!  For me, the highlight in Weymouth was the small but busy harbour area, complete with bright orange rescue lifeboat. The whole harbour area was filled with cute bars, restaurants and of course, the all important and iconic fish and chips shops! where you could buy a takeaway meal and sit in the harbour admiring all the different boats.


Whitstable Beach, Best Tourist Seaside Towns in Britain UKWhitstable, Kent

By Teresa of Brogan AbroadWhitstable in Kent is the perfect example of a British seaside town. Just over an hour by train from London, it is famous for its seafood, particularly oysters. In fact, oysters have been harvested here since Roman times, so it’s an old age tradition. There are plenty of things to do in Whitstable, particularly around the beach. Swimming is pretty safe and the water and relatively warm, and you can also go kayaking, paddle boarding and sailing. One really cool thing to do is to take a boat trip to go and see the Maunsell Army Towers, sea forts that were designed to combat Nazi aircraft during World War II. Have a stroll along the beach and you will see the clusters of beach huts that Whitstable is also famous for. It will give you a true feeling of travelling back in time. Whitstable also has a small castle that is now a community centre, but you can visit the lovely grounds and the tea shop.


Broadstairs Kent, Best Tourist Seaside Towns in Britain UKBroadstairs, Kent

By Jonathon of Journey Maxx: The jewel of Thanet, one of the best seaside towns in the UK is located right here in Broadstairs. An hour and a half away from London by train, this makes all the more convenient a day trip option for those looking to escape the noise of the big city. And if it seems that Brighton is getting too saturated with its “London-by-the-sea” epithet and you’re looking for a less crowded alternative, then this is the best option. One great historical figure who had a very special connection to this town was Charles Dickens. The great Victorian author spent many a summer here in Forth House gloriously overlooking Viking Bay, and it was here that some of his most famous novels were written, most notably ‘David Copperfield’. Although never officially confirmed, it is widely believed that house was the setting of the ‘Bleak House’ in the novel of the same name. Down by the bay, there is a converted house that now serves as a museum celebrating his connection to the town. With mini golf aplenty and all the charm of the classic British seaside, I would also be inclined to make a regular summer visit to Broadstairs.

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