Beaches you wouldn't believe are in the UK

Places to Go

Beaches you wouldn't believe are in the UK

Frequently appearing in guides to the best beaches in the world, the UK’s sand, pebble, and cliff coastline has a plethora of beautiful beaches to choose from (around 1,500 to be exact) – some even rival their overseas counterparts!

Oh yes, with an enviable array of sandy stretches and tranquil coves, some of the UK’s beautiful beaches could easily be mistaken for the Med and other tropical holiday hotspots, giving you access to a balmy beach day that feels like it’s a world away.

From Cornwall’s cliff-lined beaches to untouched bays in the Scottish Highlands, you won’t believe these postcard-ready beaches are found in the UK


Pentle Bay, Tresco Island, Isles of Scilly

Looking out over turquoise waters at the white sands of Pentle Bay on the Isles of Scilly

• Lifeguard cover: No

• Parking: Tresco is car-free and so is best explored on foot or two wheels, and there is no public transport on the island

• Accessibility: You can access the beach via a series of uneven coastal paths. There are a small number of mobility scooters, wheelchairs, and golf buggies available to hire on the island, but these need to be reserved in advance

• Facilities: No

Bone-white sands, azure waters, and a good chance you’ll have the beach all to yourself? There’s a reason why Tresco’s Pentle Bay is often listed amongst the best beaches in the world. The powder-soft sand makes for a dreamy sunbathing companion, while the crystal-clear waters beckon you in for a refreshing dip. Seriously, once you’ve visited this pristine oasis, you’ll never choose the Maldives over the Scillies again.

Whether you’re visiting Tresco for a day or longer, it’s well worth touring the pretty island as there are many other exotic beaches to discover – Appletree Bay is another Scillonian beach that could easily have been plucked straight out of the Med.


Porthcurno beach, Cornwall

Golden sands, rugged cliffs, and clear waters at Porthcurno beach in Cornwall

• Lifeguard cover: Seasonal cover throughout the summer

• Parking: There is a large car park above the beach

• Accessibility: A sandy path with a set of steep steps at the end

• Facilities: Toilets in the car park and a café nearby

From the poetic delights of Lamorna Cove all the way along to the rugged charms of Porthcurno, this entire stretch of Cornwall’s stunning west coast can whisk you away to anywhere in the world. The golden, seashell sands of the beach remind us of the honey-hues of Portugal, the bright blue waters could easily have rolled in straight from Thailand, and even the famous Minack Theatre reminds us of Ancient Greek amphitheatres!

The beach itself enjoys sun-warmed sands and rough-hewn cliffs, creating a spectacular spot to laze by the sea. You can explore the nearby coves to the left at low tide (always keep an eye on the tide if you do), or simply soak up some vitamin sea in the turquoise waters.


Beer beach, Devon

A boat moored on the beach at Beer, with white cliffs in the distance

• Lifeguard cover: No

• Parking: There is a small car park by the beach, or a larger one in the village

• Accessibility: A sloping road and steps on the eastern end of the beach

• Facilities: Toilets and eateries in the village

With a giddy mix of dramatic cliffs, emerald waters, and lush green foliage clinging to the stone, Beer’s beautiful beach wouldn’t look out of place on the Amalfi Coast – and we get it all to ourselves right here in Devon! The coastal paradise used to be frequented by smugglers (who could easily have chosen this spot for its beauty as well as its seclusion), while now you can expect to see happy beachgoers soaking up the picturesque wiles.

Relax on the beach with an ice cream in-hand, or head out in one of the village’s self-drive motorboats – the ultimate way to see this arresting stretch of coast and complete your Amalfi-meets-Devon holiday!


Durdle Door, Dorset

Someone walking down to the golden beach at Durdle Door, with a stone arch in the background

Lifeguard cover: No

Parking: Large car park at the holiday park

Accessibility: A short but steep walk with steps

Facilities: There are toilets at the holiday park

With one of the most iconic arches in the UK as its backdrop, Durdle Door is the perfect place to enjoy the azure charms of Portugal, only closer to home. The beach itself is stunning at any time of the year, and makes for a fabulous waymarker for a walk along Dorset’s incredible coast.

In fact, if you fancy a coastal walk with a choice of wow-worthy beaches, head east along the Jurassic Coast to discover the equally jaw-dropping Man O’ War beach and Lulworth Cove. Dorset really does pack a visual punch when it comes to dramatic cliffs and gorgeous, dog-friendly beaches.


St Audries Bay, Somerset

A waterfall cascading down the cliff at St Audries Bay in Somerset

• Lifeguard cover: No

• Parking: Parking is available at the nearby holiday park

• Accessibility: There are steep steps to the beach

• Facilities: Toilets and a shop

When it comes to beaches with unique features, you can’t get much more standout than the enchanting St Audries Bay in Somerset, which boasts not one, but two waterfalls. Cascading down the cliffs at the back of the beach, these waterfalls turn this pretty West Country beach into something you would expect to find in a fantasy film.

The fascinating geology of the cliffs adds further wonder to the area, while a collection of rockpools provides endless entertainment for the little ones. The beach is also dog-friendly all year round so you can enjoy this oasis of magic at any time.


Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight

The shingle beach, white cliffs, and stone stacks at Freshwater Bay on the Isle of Wight

• Lifeguard cover: No

• Parking: There is a pay and display car park across the road

• Accessibility: It’s a stony beach with steps down from the esplanade

• Facilities: Toilets, ice creams, and a beachside bar

Showing off chalk-white cliffs and startlingly blue waters, Freshwater Bay is a jewel in the Isle of Wight’s coastal crown. What’s more, there’s a beachside bar where you can really ease into those summer vibes – we’ll drink to that!

Marvel at the near-Grecian stacks that rise out of the azure waters or explore the rocky ledge that’s revealed at low tide – it’s great for a spot of rockpooling with the kids. Freshwater Bay is also great for watersports, with some equally pretty coves nearby that are best accessed by kayak. You can also walk from here to The Needles, one of the Isle of Wight’s most iconic landmarks that rivals anything you might see in a National Geographic magazine.


Botany Bay, Kent

The famous white cliffs and stone stacks at Botany Bay in Kent

• Lifeguard cover: During peak season

• Parking: There are two car parks around Palm Bay

• Accessibility: Shallow steps lead down to the beach

• Facilities: Toilets and café

Another of the UK’s beautiful beaches to be carved from chalk cliffs, Botany Bay in Kent is a masterclass in awe-inspiring scenes – and it’s only an hour and a half from London! This beautiful bay is amongst the most photographed beaches in the UK, and it’s easy to see why. Towering stacks spring from the Blue Flag beach – you can walk between them at low tide – and the remnants of cliff strewn across the sand are known to hide fossils. The cliffs along this stretch are a marvellous white, a stunning nod to the equally spectacular cliffs surrounding Étretat in France.

Rockpools litter the beach too, making this a great one for families with budding ecologists. Pack a feast-worthy picnic and spend the day enjoying exotic vibes or make the most of this stunning stretch of UK coast and visit nearby Joss Bay and Vikings Bay too – the ultimate beachy hattrick!


Barafundle Bay, Pembrokeshire

Looking out over the sandy stretch at Barafundle Bay

• Lifeguard cover: No

• Parking: Stackpole Quay car park, a half-mile walk away

• Accessibility: Steep steps lead to the beach

• Facilities: Toilets, café, and a pub at Stackpole Quay

One of the top beaches in Pembrokeshire, Barafundle Bay has become synonymous with beautiful views and epic scenes. A goldmine for golden sands and clear blue waters, this Welsh beach could go toe-to-sandy-toe with any beach from the Caribbean. Shouldered by rolling sand dunes and dark green pine trees, the contrast in colours is sublime.

The half-mile trundle to the beach and absence of facilities means this beach rarely becomes crowded – paradise is definitely the right word for this untouched haven! Pack a picnic full of goodies (Welsh cakes are a regional must) and spend your near-tropical beach day soaking up the paradisiacal charms of Barafundle Bay.


Kynance Cove, Cornwall

The famous white sands and rock formations at Kynance Cove in Cornwall

• Lifeguard cover: No

• Parking: National Trust car park

• Accessibility: A steep path and steps to the beach

• Facilities: Toilets and café

Kynance Cove boasts such a dramatic setting it was actually chosen as a filming location for fantasy epic House of the Dragon (not to mention making many appearances in TV’s Poldark). As soon as you lay eyes on this coastal treasure on the Lizard Peninsula, you’ll see why it’s stolen the hearts and souls of so many.

The iconic rock formations arch above white sands and bright turquoise waters, creating a picture that’s been replicated countless times through art and photography - although you would be entirely forgiven to see the images and think of the jaw-dropping Phi Phi Islands in Thailand!. When you get up close, you’ll find the famously beautiful red and green serpentine rocks and pebbles adding their standout hues to the scene. A friendly beach café looks over this sub-tropical utopia, and offers wow-worthy cream teas, crab sandwiches, and ice creams, which pair perfectly with the views.


Rhossili Bay, Glamorgan

The golden sands and green cliffs at Rhossili Bay in Glamorgan

• Lifeguard cover: No

• Parking: National Trust car park

• Accessibility: Steep walk to the beach

• Facilities: Toilets and a café in the village

Wales or New Zealand? This is a question we ask ourselves every time we set foot on this incredible beach in Wales. Towering, green-topped cliffs surround the award-winning beach, which boasts 3 miles of golden sand and unbeatable views. Dubbed the ‘supermodel of beaches’ by The Independent, this jaw-dropping beach actually sits in Britain’s first ever Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – it’s very easy to see why this stunning spot sparked the concept!

Surf the Atlantic swell, bring the dog for a dramatic beachy zoom, or simply sit in awe at this stunning UK beach – it’s pretty special to think we have beaches such as this at our fingertips. If you want to really fill your film up with other-worldly beaches, head onto the coast path for a side stomp to Three Cliffs Bay. Promising dramatic cliffs and snaking rivers, this bay could fit happily under any number of countries’ top beaches – and we get it all to ourselves!


Achmelvich beach, Scottish Highlands

Looking out at the turquoise sea over white sands at Achmelvich beach in the Scottish Highlands

• Lifeguard cover: No

• Parking: There is a car park near the beach

• Accessibility: There is a boardwalk to the beach

• Facilities: Toilets by the car park

With bright white sand and the clearest waters going, Achmelvich beach holds a Blue Flag for a very good reason. It’s consistently named as the best beach along the North Coast 500 (NC500), making it a wonderfully refreshing stop-off during your tour of the Scottish Highlands, and is often frequented by the area’s marine wildlife.

The near-tropical beach can fill up in the summer months, but there are some equally arresting coves along the coast, providing endless opportunities to find your own patch of paradise – and a wonderful excuse to tour this stunning stretch by foot! The Scottish Highlands is home to a myriad of magical beaches that could easily belong to mountainous Norway, so why not create your own wanderlist and visit them all while touring the famously versatile NC500.


Excited to tour the world without leaving the UK? Pick your waterside favourites from this list and find a dreamy cottage nearby - why not opt for spectacular sea views for a super special stay!

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