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. 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 wish-list worthy 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 2020, 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. Looking for thrills? 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.
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 you 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.
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 reopen its doors to browsing internationally-acclaimed art at the Turner Contemporary – reopening on 22 July and named after JMW Turner – 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.
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. If you’re keen to explore the countryside, you could 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 it’s Viking heritage with a festival every winter.
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 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. Dream of tucking into award-wining fish and chips, and of relaxing aboard the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, a heritage line criss-crossing the moorland. Alternatively, you could 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 from September, when dedicated whale and dolphin watching trips return.
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, 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.
Surrounded by the South Downs National Park, Eastbourne on the south coast of England is a charming seaside resort with something for all ages. 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. If you’re a history buff, you can explore the Napoleonic era at the 200-year-old Redoubt Fortress, while culture vultures can browse works at the ultra-modern Towner Gallery, which stands in stark contrast to Eastbourne’s Victorian seafront.
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. 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.
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 the golf fans amongst you can test your skills on two courses, or venture to the renowned St Andrews Links course just 30 minutes to the North. 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.