As more and more holidaymakers are finding, the UK has a wealth of natural attractions to delight those either plumping for a ‘satiation’ or visiting from abroad. Despite lacking the sun of the Mediterranean, the UK can boast some of the most varied and picturesque coastlines in the world and in the first part of this series of articles picking out a few particular gems, the focus is on the South West of England – a traditional holiday territory for so many of us.
Cornwall – Porthmeor Beach, St Ives
Cornwall is the most south-westerly county in the UK and as such has a coastline which faces both souths onto the English Channel as well as west out into the Atlantic. Famous for its rugged charm, plentiful sandy beaches and world famous surf it is perhaps more synonymous with the title of holiday county than any other in the country. To pick a single beach to spotlight therefore is slightly unjust perhaps, but one that incorporates all of the county’s offerings is Porthmeor Beach in St Ives. Porthmeor is a sweeping sandy beach on the opposite side of the town centre from the harbour, facing out to the Atlantic and framed at its northern edge by a promontory called the Island. It covers all bases being great for surf as well as swimming or simply a spot of sun bathing after a day touring the towns many art galleries, cafés and shops, particularly the Tate St Ives which looks out onto the beach.
Devon – Woolacombe Beach
As one of the largest counties in England and the only one to claim two separate coastlines in the UK, Devon gets two entries on the list. The first, from its north coast, renowned for its high sea cliffs and sweeping sandy beaches, is Woolacombe with its expanses of sand and views out towards Lundy island in the Bristol Channel, and the Irish and Atlantic seas beyond. Although popular with tourists it is large enough for you to find your own quiet patch and is great for both surfing and swimming.
Devon – Blackpool Sands
Nestled in the mouth of the valley and surrounded by the rolling hills of the South Hams area of South Devon, Blackpool Sands can be found just up the coast from its more famous neighbour Slaton Sands (a shingle barrier holding back a large lagoon) and faces out onto the English Channel. The beach itself is a small crescent of fine shingle with pristine waters and is perfect for a relaxing family swim before a bite to eat at the beach’s eco friendly café. From a practical aspect the beach is perfect for families with full shower and toilet facilities, a shop as well as top awards for cleanliness but it is the unique setting amongst pines and evergreens that makes you feel like you in another country.
Somerset – Barrow Beach & Burnham-on-Sea
The Bristol Channel has one of the world’s largest tidal ranges at the mouth of the river Severn and many of the beaches on its Somerset shoreline are vast expanses of sand and mud flats with fast moving tides that can catch the unwary out. For a beautiful scenic setting, Barrow Beach is ideal however with miles of sand backed by dunes and a stunning view out to islands of Flat and Steep Holm in the channel. Situated down the coast from its more famous neighbor Weston Super Mare (with its pier and traditional English seaside attractions), Barrow Beach is great to explore on horseback or under kite power. Although it is not safe for swimming due to dangerous mud flats further out, swimmers can follow the sands south a little to Burnham-on-Sea, past an unusual wooden lighthouse on stilts. Although busier Burnham-on-Sea has all the amenities you need from a resort and is ideal for bathers.
Dorset – Curdle Door & Allworth Cove
Despite recently being ranked as the fourth best beach in Europe, Bournemouth beach with it miles of sand doesn’t make this list, neither the millionaires stretch at Sandbanks. Instead, the more visually spectacular stretch of coastline including Curdle Door and Allworth Cove take their place’.
The Dorset coast is not only famous for sandy beaches but also as home to the largest stretch of the World Heritage site, the Jurassic coast with its dramatic scenery, geology, and fossils. The beaches at Curdle Door and Allworth Cove offer the visitor a chance to explore the best of this landscape and its unique rock formations before catching a few of the sun’s rays or taking a dip in its clear waters. The cove at Allworth is a wide, almost circular, basin carved out of the coastline with a small beach which is sheltered from the sea, whilst the rocks at Curdle Door have been carved into a stunning arch at one end of an attractive beach (Man Onward Cove). A bracing walk along the cliffs is the best way to admire both spectacles.
The South West of England on its own has a rich variety of coastal landscapes and attractions to suit any taste but the rest of the UK can offer even greater delights and will be explored if subsequent parts of this series of articles.