Best Beaches Wales, Scotland, North Ireland

South Beach, Tenby, Wales. Photo Nilfanion

South Beach, Tenby, Wales. Photo by Nilfanion

Wales Beaches

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 listed below.

Tenby, Pembrokeshire

Tenby in Wales not only hosts 2.5 miles (4 kms) of sandy beaches, mainly North Beach and South Beach but it’s also an interesting city too, with medieval town walls, a 15th century church (St Mary’s), a Tudor era Merchant’s House, and a small museum/art gallery.
Tenby is on the Pembrokeshire Coast path so you could walk or cycle there. If that’s too much like hard work the town  is also served by a railway station.

Tenby’s three beaches:

Tenby North beach, a sheltered, sunny, sandy beach 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.

Barafundle Bay, Pembrokeshire

Barafundle Bay beach, Pembrokeshire, Wales. Photo Sarah/Iain

Barafundle Bay beach, south Pembrokeshire, Wales. Photo Sarah/Iain

Barafundle Bay is an isolated, exquisite – and some say magical – swath of sand ringed by sandstone and trees but with no road access directly to the beach and no facilities at all. It’s a half mile walk from the Stackpole Quay car park which charges £5 per day between March and October and is free any day after 17:30. Barafundle is off the B4319, 5 miles south of Pembroke. Access from  Broad Haven South is also possible and 1.3 miles away. Both approaches are unsuitable for pushchairs or wheelchairs due to uneven terrain and sand.

Whitesands Bay, Pembrokeshire

Whitesands Bay beach, Pembrokeshire, Wales. Photo Nilfanion

Whitesands Bay beach, Pembrokeshire, Wales. Photo Nilfanion

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 warm-ish 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 and unlike Barfundle Whitesands provides many beach facilities including an asphalt car park and overflow field parking;  wheelchair access to beach; beach shop and café; lifeguards in the summer; toilets; surfboard rental; camping site next to the beach; youth hostel; and even a 9 hole golf course!

Rhossili Bay, Swansea

Rhossili Bay, Swansea, Wales. Photo Nilfanion

Rhossili Bay. Photo Nilfanion

– 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, Anglesey

Llanddwyn Island beach, Anglesey, Wales. Photo Nabokov

Llanddwyn Island (Ynys Llanddwyn) beach, Anglesey, Wales. Photo Nabokov

Anglesey Island, unspoilt and isolated is packed with massive stretches of sand such as the Blue Flag, National Nature Reserve of Llanddwyn Island (Ynys Llanddwyn), but offering no beach facilities at all.
There are more than 10 miles of footpaths crossing Ynys Llanddwyn  including the Anglesey Coastal path, which is very popular.

Cable Bay beach is small, 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.

Scotland Beaches

Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides

Isle of Harris beach, Scotland. Photo Steve Carter

Isle of Harris, the Outer Hebrides, west Scotland.  Photo Steve Carter

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.

Gairloch beach, Highlands

Gairloch beach, Scotland. Photo Steve Carter

Gairloch beach, just north of Shieldaig, west Highlands. Photo Steve Carter

Isle of Iona, Inner Hebrides

Sea kayaking near Plockton, Scotland.

Sea kayaking off the west coast of  Scotland. Photo by seakayakingplocktoncouk.

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. Or rent a kayak!

Mellon Udrigle, Gairloch and Poolewe region

Sea kayaking near Plockton, Scotland.

Mellon Udrigle beach. Photo courtesy of

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.

Northern Ireland Beach

White Park Bay, Antrim

White Park Bay beach, Ballintoy,Antrim, Northern Ireland. Photo code poet

White Park Bay, Northern Ireland.

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.