Best Beaches in the UK

Fish and chips – Yes. Afternoon Tea – Yes. Entertainment on the pier – Yes. Beautiful clear sand and sea and plenty of sun – Not really... Britain's beaches may not be quite up to the standards of the tropics or even the south of France, but if you don't fancy cooking beside expensive bikinis covering expensive bodies and prefer a more windswept and remote outlook, or you're just looking for a bit of sand to call your own - larger than the area directly beneath your towel - then this collection of beautiful Best British Beaches may hold the key to your dream beach vacation.

If windswept and interesting is to your tastes Rhossili Bay on the Gower Peninsular is backed by high cliffs, and just off shore are the basking sharks and seals walkers love to spot from the tops of the cliffs; the white sands and turquoise waters of Calgary Bay can only be reached by ferry six times a day - during peak season when you may have to share this childfriendly spot with one other family; and Sinclair's Bay has the white sand of the Caribbean with a Scottish twist – ruined 16th Century castles at either end of the four mile stretch of sand. You may have to share it with one other person, riding past on horseback, and with the porpoises and orcas off shore, but apart from that it's all yours. And if it was a historical element that was missing from your trip to the sands of Ibiza last year, Lindisfarne, the holy island has the ruined abbey with a lovely, quiet beach behind it - fit for a monk or a nun.

Child friendly peace and quiet can be discovered over the sand-castle-ready dunes of Aberdovey, on Porthcurno Beach, a scoop of sunny sand between granite cliffs down by Land's End, on Par Beach on the Isles of Scilly, which has miles of sand sloping gently into a shallow sea, or round Rhosneigr Bay in Wales – once a famous Edwardian holiday retreat this wide sand beach inter dispersed with rock pools is a family favourite.

For more Famous Five adventure than donkey rides and Punch and Judy shows, the Jurassic Coast's Ringstead Beach, has white cliffs and rock pools riddled with fossils, as does West Bay.

Surfers tend to keep some of their favourite spots under their hats? to avoid having to compete for waves, but some of their favourites are just as likely spots for people wanting to enjoy a swim, a wander and some sandy relaxation – Porthmeor, is one of Cornwall's best surfing beaches, but also sandy and rugged with a nice view – albeit littered with surfers – and Hell's Bay in Wales was waves and wind that thrash the surf, but are clam by the time they reach the clean gold sand – yes, real sand. For people wanting to learn to surf, Cromer Beach is worth checking out, though the pier and Victorian beach huts mean you will be observed during your lessons.

For the kind of emptiness even Branson couldn't afford to buy in the south of France, try Lamorna Cove, remote and sandless but with a beautiful view and loved by people more famous than Branson, or Scotland's Sandwood Bay, whose pink sands flanked by high cliffs require a four mile hike over the moors to reach, or Westdale Bay in Wales, which is supposed to be one of the most picture perfect beaches in the UK – but its cliffs hide it from the road and it's only ever the lost who find it.

There's more to British beaches than sunbathing – some of the best birdwatching spots on in the UK are on the coast – try Shakespeare Beach, near Dover, for kittiwakes and peregrine falcons, Scotland's Silver Sands or Magilligan Strand Beach in Northern Ireland for the varied birds the dunes, sand and mudflats attract.

If only the best will do the Queen is supposed to recommend Holkham Beach, apparently the corgis love the smooth rounded dunes and pancake batter colouring.

World's Best Beaches

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