Secret beaches in Britain
Britain’s coastline is packed with delights, from old smuggler’s coves to sweeping sandy bays. Often found off-the-beaten-track, these epic beaches are the nation’s best kept secret, offering striking scenic views and fun for all the family.
England’s coastline features a wealth of golden sands and stretches of shingle, all linked by miles of coastal paths. Here are some of the finest secret beaches to explore.
Runswick Bay, Yorkshire
Situated between Whitby and Staithes, the beauty of Runswick Bay is hidden behind the crest of a hill. The picturesque village features honey-coloured cottages with red-tiled roofs, sheltered under the crag of Lingrow Knowle. At the beach are rock pools and wooden huts, as well as plenty of golden sand. Kettleness, just along the coast, is renowned for fossil hunting, while the beach is a short distance from the Cleveland Way, a 109-mile walking route that meanders its way through the region’s spectacular scenery.
Facilities: Parking, public toilets and a café are available.
Is it dog friendly? Four-legged friends are welcome throughout the year.
Stretching for miles along the Norfolk Coast, Brancaster Beach is a vast expanse of golden sands accompanied by dunes. The Titchwell Marsh Nature Reserve can be found along the coast, as can the Scolt Head Island National Nature Reserve, which is home to a range of seals, birds and other wildlife. Visitors should look out for the shipwreck of SS Vina too, a vessel sunk on the sand flats by the army during the Second World War for use as target practice!
Facilities: Car parking and toilet facilities, as well as a refreshment kiosk packed with seaside essentials.
Is it dog friendly? Dogs are welcome at Brancaster, although from May to September visitors can also access a dog-free area on the left of the entrance.
Drigg, Lake District
With more than 1,000 acres of sand dunes and a nature reserve backing on to miles of Irish sea coastline, Drigg is a hidden gem of the Lake District. The region is also home to Ravenglass, which can trace its roots back to Roman times, and the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, a seven-mile heritage line. The historic Muncaster Castle and its grounds are also just a short distance inland.
Facilities: Car parking, public toilets and a coffee shop can be found in the village, a short walk from the beach.
Is it dog friendly? Dogs can run free along this stretch of sand.
Wales has miles of rugged coastline which is dotted with small coves, vast expanses of sand and numerous hidden gems. Our friends at Visit Wales have picked out some of the brilliant beaches there are to discover.
Port Padrig, Anglesey
Near the village of Llanbadrig on Anglesey's north coast, this secluded pebbled cove echoes with tales of Celtic legends. The crescent-shaped bay is framed by dramatic cliffs, but it’s the inlet’s white quartzite sea stack that most easily identifies Porth Padrig. This 'White Lady' is named after Ladi Wen, a ghost known in Welsh folk legend, evoked to warn children against bad behaviour.
The beach itself is named after St Patrick. At the rear of the nearby churchyard, a stone stile leads to St Patrick's cave, where the saint allegedly sheltered after being shipwrecked on Middle Mouse Island.
Facilities: There’s a nearby car park but not many other facilities around this remote beach, which is blissfully secluded.
Is it dog friendly? Yes, dogs are welcome here.
Petite and perfectly preserved, the Llŷn Peninsula’s Porthdinllaen is an idyllic coastal village. An outstanding wildlife haven that offers stunning views in every direction, its natural beauty has been in the care of the National Trust since 1994. Historically a traditional fishing village, its cluster of quaint cottages, a waterside pub and lifeboat station make for a postcard-worthy view. Quite literally off-the-beaten-track, vehicle access is restricted to residents only. After a busy day crabbing, paddling or exploring the coast, visitors can enjoy a drink on the terraces of the waterfront Tŷ Coch Inn.
Facilities: National Trust parking and public toilets are one mile from the beach.
Is it dog-friendly? There are restrictions to the right of the beach entrance (towards Nefyn) from 1 April - 30 September.
This sheltered sandy bay on the Llŷn Peninsula’s northern coast enjoys calm, crystal-clear blue waters that make it ideal for safe swimming and kayaking. For the more intrepid adventurer, there is a nearby campsite. Visitors can sleep under the stars and catch their supper, as the rocks provide a perfect base for fishing, with bass, pollock, plaice and gurnard on the menu. Access down onto the beach from the Wales Coast Path is possible via steep dunes so visitors should mind their step.
Facilities: There’s a car park just above the beach.
Is it dog-friendly? Four-legged friends are very welcome, although they should be kept in the car while passing through the nearby farm.
Located just six miles from Tenby, Manorbier is a vast sand and pebble beach with rock pools at each end that are brimming with wildlife. Its waters are great for surfing, kayaking and canoeing, while a medieval castle towers over the shoreline. The Pembrokeshire Coast Path is accessible from each of the beach too, providing exceptional views of this striking stretch of coastline.
Facilities: The village of Manorbier is a short walk with several cafes and a pub, while car parking and public toilets are available.
Is it dog friendly? Absolutely.
From spying marine life to wandering clifftop paths, Scotland’s eclectic coast has many secret beaches waiting to be explored. Our friends at VisitScotland have picked out a few to share:
St Ninian’s Tombolo, Shetland
With pristine sands and blue waters just as vivid as those found in Barbados, Shetland’s very own St Ninian’s Isle never fails to capture the heart of beach-goers. It’s regularly compared to the tropical beaches of the Caribbean, and deservedly so! St. Ninian’s Isle beach is a large tombolo (a natural sand causeway with sea on either side) on the west coast of Shetland, linking the South Mainland with the Isle. The beach itself is picturesque and found in the heart of a rural farming region, with an archaeological chapel site located on St. Ninian’s Isle.
Facilities: Car parking and public toilets are available.
Is it dog-friendly? Dogs are welcome to explore this scenic landscape with visitors.
Sandwood Bay, Northern Highlands
The hidden Sandwood Bay may seem a little tricky to get to, but the effort of hiking there is well worth it when a long stretch of golden sand unfurls in front of visitors. The wild and spectacular bay in Kinlochbervie is backed by huge sand dunes and a loch. Facing straight into the teeth of the North Atlantic, the beach has nearly 1.5 miles of wide pink sand which is flanked by cliffs. To the south stands the impressive sea stack of Am Buachaille, while behind the bay’s large dunes stretches Sandwood Loch - a freshwater loch full of brown trout.
Facilities: A 4-mile flat path provides access to the beach from a car park in the hamlet of Blairmore.
It is dog friendly? Dogs are allowed on the beach, but should be kept under close control in case there are sheep nearby.
Tolsta Beach, Isle of Lewis
Tolsta, a crofting village, is not far from Lewis' main town of Stornoway and this peaceful cove is hidden away from the road, making it ideal for a picnic stop. The white sandy beach is popular with surfers, with big swells forming in this exposed stretch of coastline.
Facilities: Tolsta Beach has parking and public toilets for visitors to use at the top end of the beach.
Is it dog friendly? Dogs are allowed on this golden stretch of sand.
Rockcliffe Beach, near Dalbeattie, Dumfries and Galloway
Visitors can go for a morning or afternoon saunter along the wooded coastal walkway for about 5 km between the villages of Kippford and Rockcliffe, with cute houses, colourful plants and scampering squirrels to spot along the way. At Rockcliffe, a bird sanctuary called Rough Island can be reached on foot at low tide all year round, except for May and June when the birds take charge of the isle! There is a lost, ancient citadel at the hilltop, Mote of Mark, which is believed to date back to the 5th or 6th century.
Facilities: As well as parking with direct access to the beach, toilet facilities and a café can be found in the town.
Is it dog friendly? Dogs are welcome all-year-round with no restrictions.
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