The Pembrokeshire coast in South Wales is one of Britain's best coastal experiences, a lush and craggy length of unspoilt Blue Flag beaches wrapped in rocky promontories, protected by castles (no, not sand castles) and buzzing with activity options - including kayaking, sailing, surfing and cliff jumping/coasteering as well as cycling and superb walks. Pembrokeshire was winner of more British Seaside Awards in 2008 than any other county in the UK.
Some of the best of the 50 or so beaches along here, all award winners, are:
Barafundle Bay, south Pembrokeshire, Wales.
- Barafundle Bay, an isolated, exquisite - and some say magical - swath of sand backed by dunes and pine trees but with no facilities at all and a half mile walk from the Stackpole Quay car park, off the B4319, 5 miles south of Pembroke.
- medieval Tenby town's three beaches: Tenby North beach, a sheltered, sunny, sandy beach (picture at top of page) with charm, boat hire, deck chairs and lifeguard from the end of June to the end of September. No dogs in summertime. On the shore is everything a visitor might needs, from toilets to pubs, cafés and all kinds of accommodation. Tenby South is 1.5 miles long (2.5 kms) and also family-friendly with gently shelving sand and lots of kid's entertainment at one end. No dogs in summertime. On shore facilities as with North beach. Freshwater East is the last option, a wide bay backed by dunes and offering a wide range of watersports activities including surfing and kayaking; there's parking, toilets, activity centre, café and restaurant but few other facilities.
Whitesands beach and bay, Pembrokeshire, Wales.
- Whitesands Bay is another delightful stretch of fine sand in Pembrokeshire, tho' in a different area from Tenby and hardly white, as you can see. Whitesands is embraced by spectacular scenery and washed by Gulf Stream waters that work well for both surfers and families; it's not far from the smallest city in the UK, St Davids, which is actually a village but with the status of a city due to its 12thC cathedral. Lots of activities are available including coasteering, sea kayaking, surfing and climbing.
Rhossili Bay, Gower, Wales.
- Rhossili Beach on the Gower Peninsula - Britain's first 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty' - is a dramatic three mile strip of uncrowded, super-soft sand that provides enough Atlantic surf to keep the lycra lads happy at the north end but is also OK for normal mortals at the south end when the waves are modest, tho watch out for any undertow.
The beach is frequently windy so sunbathers should bring a windbreaker. As for activities apart from surfing, the walking is glorious - whether on the beach or more easily on the trails above, horsey people are hot to trot here, winged folk love the stiff updrafts over the hills and drinkers love the views from the Worm's Head Hotel while they down draughts.
Get there from Swansea by bus on the Gower Explorer 118 or by car on the A4118 to the Gower Peninsula, then signs towards Port Eynon, finally the B4247 to Rhossili; you can park at either end of the beach, Llangennith for surfers or Rhossili for the rest.
Llanddwyn Island beach, Anglesey, Wales.
© Gail Johnson, dreamstime.com.
Anglesey Island, unspoilt and isolated is packed with massive stretches of sand such as the Blue Flag, National Nature Reserve of Llanddwyn Island, but no facilities.
Cable Bay is small, very picturesque and conveniently close to a car park - which is perfect for the many surfers and canoeists.
Rhosneigr beach, is Anglesey's main watersports beach, particularly favoured by kite and wind-surfers and providing all the facilities - such as rental kit - that the others don't.
Mellon Udrigle beach, Scotland, UK
Mellon Udrigle beach, in the
Gairloch and Poolewe area of western Scotland, is a clean and spacious white strand with mountain views that works well for sailing, windsurfing or canoeing, with holiday accommodation nearby. Pets are welcome, although tourists should be aware that they share the countryside - and perhaps the beach - with highland cattle and sheep.
Gairloch beach, just north of Shieldaig, west Highlands
Luskentyre beach, Isle of Harris, the Outer Hebrides, west Scotland.
Luskentyre on Harris Island, is hell to get to but paradise on arrival, especially if the sun cares to show its face. You'll be one of the chosen few on this massive white beach with its crystal waters, odd scattered rocks and looming mountains, stunned by the monstrous, fantasy panorama.
With summer water temperatures of 12C this is not an ideal swimming beach but walkers, sailors, kayakers and fishermen love the place; bring your own gear or hire in Leverburgh in the south of Harris. Camping is permitted.
Get there via Skye island to Uig, then the car ferry to Tarbert on Harris.
The Isle of Iona, Scotland
The lovely little Isle of Iona off Scotland's west coast (Inner Hebrides) has many dazzling white sand beaches with lots of character but few visitors - well, it is a long way to come for a swim and the water, though remarkably clear, is freezing much of the year and the winds and rain come and go with astonishing rapidity. Visiting cars are not allowed on the 1 mile long island. Reach Iona by a 10-minute ferry ride across the Sound of Iona from Fionnphort on Mull island, where you can rent a bicycle.
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White Park Bay, Antrim, Northern Ireland, UK.
The Giant's Causeway is the big attraction around here but four miles away White Park Bay in County Antrim is a fine, long beach with squeaky sand and vast views across to Isla and Jura, but no facilities. Swimmers may find dolphins accompanying them.
Also in Antrim is Whiterocks, a large, lush and lively surf beach with rental kit available from Portrush town. The white and green-topped cliffs offer sights for those less focused on surf, while quiet coves along the beach present quieter space for beach-bum isolation. Whiterocks is east of Portrush.
Nudist beaches: It is not illegal to strip off and do the beach thing in the nude anywhere in Britain. The problem is if someone complains. British Naturism lists both official and unofficially acceptable naturist beaches.
UK Water Quality: 421 of Britain's 769 bathing beaches have excellent water quality. As usual those not recommended are due to pollution as a result of heavy rains washing sewage, petrochemicals and agricultural products into the sea.
MCS suggests that you choose to bathe on beaches with a good water quality record but also avoid ALL beaches within 24 hours of heavy storms.
Generally the UK's south west coast (followed by the south east coast) hosts the highest percentage of top grade beaches at 59%, with Wales at 46%, Scotland 38%, Northern Ireland 30%, The lowest grade is usually achieved by northwest England.
England's beaches, UK
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