Britain’s traditional seaside escapes
Britain’s seaside resorts have drawn crowds for centuries, lured in by the country’s golden sandy beaches, quiet coves and glistening piers. From sampling the catch of the day to enjoying thrilling fairground rides and bustling arcades, a trip to the coast has something for all the family. Visitors dreaming of a seaside escape can get inspired by heritage-filled resorts and quaint harbour villages, enjoy a taste of coastal cuisine and discover how the seaside has helped to shape British culture at these bucket-list locations…
With its bright lights, majestic piers and vintage wooden roller coasters, Blackpool is arguably Britain’s most iconic seaside resort. Having grown steadily throughout the Victorian period, the opening of rail and trams services helped to create a bustling seaside escape, much of which remains today. From scaling the heights of Blackpool Tower, built in 1894 and home to the renowned Tower Ballroom and the Tower Circus, to riding the UK’s tallest roller coaster, aptly named The Big One, the heritage seafront offers something for people of all ages. Blackpool Illuminations is also set to light up the seafront later in 2021, with the incredible free lightshow extravaganza scheduled to run from early September until just past the New Year. The town’s three piers were developed between the 1860s and 1890s, with the Grade II-listed North Pier being both the oldest and the longest of the three. Packed with fairground rides and other amusements, the piers jut out into the Irish sea, breaking up the town’s long stretch of seafront. Those looking for thrills can explore Blackpool Pleasure Beach, an amusement park that can trace its origins back to 1896. As well as four traditional wooden roller coasters dating from the 1930s, the park includes themed rides inspired by The Red Arrows flying team and Aardman Animations’ loveable duo, Wallace and Gromit.
Visitors looking to experience Blackpool's traditions for themselves can book and enjoy a range of tours and activities:
- Blackpool Tower must be pre-booked online and costs from £15 per adult, although multi-ticket discounts are available if purchasing tickets for other Blackpool attractions.
- Blackpool Illuminations is free to attend.
- Blackpool Heritage Tram Tours operate a range of tours, costing from £4 for adults and £2 for children. A special Illuminations Tour costs from £8 for adults and £4 for children, and runs throughout the Illuminations.
- Blackpool Pleasure Beach requires eTickets which can be purchased in advance online. Prices vary by day, costing from £33 for those aged 12 or over, and from £28 for those aged 11 or under. Visitors can avoid the queues for rides with a Speedy Pass, which costs £25 per person.
Llandudno, North Wales
Nestled between two headlands on the North Wales coast, Llandudno is the country’s largest seaside resort. Having originated as a mining settlement with its roots dating back to the Bronze Age, it flourished in the 19th century and now offers a coastal retreat suitable for all the family, with its wide Victorian promenade and period architecture. A Grade II-listed pier, built in 1878, protrudes blissfully out into the sea, while a ride on the historic Great Orme Tramway takes visitors to the top of a striking headland, providing spectacular views of the town and the glorious surrounding countryside. From relaxing on the sands of the curved two-mile bay, to exploring the Alice in Wonderland Trail, featuring character sculptures from Lewis Carroll’s renowned novel, Llandudno offers a true taste of the traditional British seaside.
To make the most of their time, visitors can book a range of tours and activities in Llandudno:
- Tickets for the Great Orme Tramway cost from £8.50 for adults and £6 for children.
- Great Orme Bronze Age Copper Mines cost £9 for adults and £6 for children.
- Admission to MOSTYN art gallery is free.
- City Sightseeing operate a series of Hop-On Hop Off tours around Llandudno and Conwy, costing from £7.50.
Today, Margate mixes contemporary art and vintage stores with sandy beaches, fairground rides and a traditional seafront, showcasing the region’s rich seaside heritage. From imagining the vintage roller coasters and shows at Dreamland when the amusement park can fully reopen its doors to browsing internationally-acclaimed art at the Turner Contemporary – named after JMW Turner – visitors can discover a part of Britain that has inspired artists and writers alike. It’s not just art on show in Margate though, as its Old Town is packed with stylish eateries and cultural gems – from the Margate Museum which explores the region’s heritage to the underground Shell Grotto and the Georgian-period Theatre Royal, one of the country’s oldest performance spaces.
Visitors keen to experience the best of what Margate has to offer can book a range of experiences:
- The Shell Grotto costs £4.50 for adults, £4 for concessions and £2 for children, with a family ticket costing £10.
- Margate Museum costs £2 for adults, £1.50 for concessions and is free for under 16s.
- Access to the Turner Contemporary gallery is free but visitors must book a slot in advance.
- Dreamland has reopened for 2021 with a six-month ticketed events programme. A selection of rides are open, costing from £2.
- TheBikeShedKent offers cycle hire next to Margate Station and is priced from £5 per hour. A fully-refundable £100 deposit is required.
The small sea port of Whitby, on the North Yorkshire and Cleveland Heritage Coast, has captured the imaginations of visitors for centuries. From inspiring Bram Stoker’s renowned novel Dracula to its exceptional seafood offering, colourful beach huts and imposing cliffs, this captivating environment is well worth a visit and has a rich history to boot. Surrounded by the picturesque North York Moors National Park, the entire stretch of coastline is chock-full of quaint fishing villages, including Staithes and Robin Hood’s Bay to the north and south, as well as numerous Blue Flag beaches and the 13th-century ruins of Whitby Abbey. Visitors can look forward to tucking into award-winning fish and chips, and of relaxing aboard the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, a heritage line criss-crossing the moorland. Alternatively, they can plan to explore the vast outdoor landscape via the Cleveland Way National Trail, a 109-mile hiking route through some of the region’s most spectacular scenery. Those keen to be closer to nature can also venture out to sea for a chance of spotting dolphins and other marine life.
A range of tours and experiences are available for visitors to book in and around Whitby:
- Freedom Tickets for the North York Moors Railway allow visitors to hop on and off the entire length of the line over one day and cost from £33 for adults and £16.50 for children aged 3-15. Under 3s travel free. Costs for single and return tickets for sections of the line vary.
- Whitby Coastal Cruises operate several different boat trips from Whitby Harbour, costing from £4.
- Whitby Abbey costs from £10 for adults, £9 for concessions and £6 for children. Discounted prices are available when booking online.
- Whitby Museum costs £6 for adults, £4 for students and is free for children under 18.
Once a fishing village with strong Viking roots, Sheringham on the north Norfolk coast in the heart of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is home to a vast expanse of award-winning beach and a plethora of walking routes. Those keen to explore the countryside can do so via the Deep History Coast discovery trail, which meanders its way along the cliff tops for more than 22 miles, or from the comfort of the North Norfolk railway, a heritage line running from Sheringham to Holt. The family-friendly Blue Flag beach offers scenic views at every turn, while the town commemorates its Viking heritage with a festival every winter.
Visitors can book an array of experiences and tours around Sheringham:
- The North Norfolk Railway runs from Sheringham to Holt between April and October. Peak season (26 July – 2 September) Rover tickets cost £15 for adults, £14 for seniors and £11 for children. Costs for single and return tickets for sections of the line vary.
- Sheringham Museum at the Mo costs £4.50 for adults, £4 for concessions and £2.50 for children aged 5-15.
- Sheringham Park is looked after by the National Trust and is open to visitors. Parking costs £6.50.
- The Muckleburgh Military Collection at Weybourne costs £12 for adults and £8 for children. Those under 4 go free.
Surrounded by the South Downs National Park, Eastbourne on the south coast of England is a charming seaside resort with something for travellers of all ages and interests. Visitors can try wine tasting at one of the region’s vineyards, enjoy the arcades at the 18th-century pleasure pier or gaze out over the sea from atop the cliffs at Beachy Head. Follow the South Downs Way National Trail to see the splendour of this stretch of coastline and look out for the picturesque red and white lighthouse from the cliff tops. History buffs can spy the 200-year-old Napoleonic era Redoubt Fortress, while culture vultures can browse works at the ultra-modern Towner Eastbourne gallery, which stands in stark contrast to Eastbourne’s Victorian seafront.
Visitors looking to explore Eastbourne can pick from a number of different experiences:
- A variety of exhibitions at the Towner Eastbourne - some are ticketed and prices vary.
- Guided summer tours of the Rathfinny Estate vineyard cost from £25 per person.
- Tickets for the gardens and grounds of Herstmonceux Castle cost £8 for adults, £7 for concessions and £3.50 for children.
- Drusillas Park costs from £26 for adults and children (aged 2 or over), and from £24 for seniors when booked in advance online. Numerous animal encounter experiences are also available and prices vary.
The historic town of Tenby in the heart of Pembrokeshire, with its 13th-century medieval town walls, pastel colour scheme and bustling harbour, offers a picturesque seaside experience. Having been a leading health resort in the Victorian era, its miles of sandy beaches and revival architecture provide a relaxing environment for families. Alternatively, visitors can venture along this stretch of the Pembrokeshire Coast path for wildlife watching or take a boat trip to Caldey Island, a beautiful Holy site that offers a haven of peace and tranquillity. Away from the golden sands, Tenby Museum and Art Gallery dives into the region’s natural and maritime history, while providing striking views of the many colourful fishing boats as they bob up and down in the harbour.
In addition to its family-friendly beaches, Tenby also has a host of tours and experiences to book:
- The Tenby Museum and Art Gallery is due to reopen on 9 September and will cost £4.95.
- Tickets for Caldey Island boat trips are available from the Caldey Island Kiosk in Tenby Harbour and cost £14 for adults, £12 for senior citizens and £8 for children.
- Manor Wildlife Park costs £17.95 for adults and £15.95 for children and concessions. Tickets must be pre-booked online.
Portree, Isle of Skye, Scotland
With its brightly coloured houses and lively harbour, Portree acts as a central point for exploring all that the Isle of Skye has to offer. Having started life as a fishing village on the eastern coast, it acts as the capital of the island and overlooks a sheltered bay offering breath-taking views in every direction. Visitors can bask in the dramatic nature of Scotland’s coasts and waters, or venture northwards to discover the spectacular rock formations of the Trotternish Ridge, including the Old Man of Storr and the Quiraing.
Visitors wanting to explore the Isle of Skye can book a range of tours and experiences in Portree:
- Skye Seafari Experience offers a range of boat tours from Portree Pier, costing from £29 for adults and £20 for children.
- Isle of Skye Distillers offers a three-hour Gin School experience for £85, which also gives visitors a 10% discount in the shop.
- Isle of Skye Wildlife Tours cost £54 per person and £25 for children up to the age of 12. Under 5s go free.
Elie and Earlsferry, Scotland
Popular with windsurfers, golfers and bathers, the characterful seaside resort of Elie and Earlsferry in the East Neuk of Fife is one of many harbour villages in the region. With reliable surf along the coast and five golden sandy beaches to pick from, it provides a taste of the traditional British seaside. The village is home to numerous historic buildings, several dating back to the 17th century, while golf fans can test their skills on two courses, or venture to the renowned St Andrews Links course just 30 minutes to the North. Outdoor adventurers can explore this vast stretch of coast via the Fife Coastal Path or take to the seas as the region is known for its wildlife, including the chance to spot bottle-nose dolphins.
Those visiting Elie and Earlsferry can supplement the striking views by booking a number of different experiences:
- Elie Sea Safari costs £30 for adults and £20 for children under 16.
- The Golf House Club, Elie, offers visitor rates, with a weekday round costing from £90 for adults and £45 for juniors. These fees are higher during peak season in July and August, and are reduced in low season from late October until mid-March.
- Elie Watersports offers a mix of different activities, with windsurfing, sailing, stand-up paddleboarding and kayak hire available, costing from £20. Mountain bike hire is also available from £15.
Restrictions on travel to and around Britain are in place due to Covid-19. Visitors are encouraged to always check individual websites for the latest information, as details are subject to change.
For more information contact:
VisitBritain Media Teampressandpr@visitbritain.org