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The best sandy beaches in the UK
Destinations & Inspiration

The best sandy beaches in the UK

Suzie Dalton
By Suzie Dalton - 16 minute read

Whether you’re look­ing for a peace­ful sandy beach in Devon, or you’re keen to escape city life and you’re look­ing for a sandy beach near Lon­don, we’ve round­ed up a selec­tion of our favourite coastal spots. From crowd-pleas­ing favourites with high-end facil­i­ties through to seclud­ed nooks that are stag­ger­ing beau­ti­ful (and peace­ful), there’s a stretch of sand for everyone. 

The best sandy beaches in Cornwall

Sandy beach in Penzance with cliffs.

Cornwall’s beach­es are exceptional.

Some of the best sandy beach­es in Eng­land are locat­ed in Corn­wall. We’ve already told you about Porthcurno which was men­tioned in our roundup of the best UK beach hol­i­day des­ti­na­tions, but there are loads more to shout about. Locat­ed in the Pen­zance region, Lon­grock Beach is a huge favourite with the locals, par­tic­u­lar­ly as it’s dog-friend­ly year-round. Marazion Beach is anoth­er treat, par­tic­u­lar­ly as it ben­e­fits from views of St Michael’s Mount. Head to Chapel Rock and Marazion Har­bour to find the best rock pools, while those of an ener­gic dis­po­si­tion can book them­selves into the wind­surf­ing school.

If you want to pre­tend you’re on a trop­i­cal island, head to natur­ist-friend­ly Pedn Vounder which is exquis­ite with its turquoise waters and white sand, though make sure you’ve got the right footwear to tack­le the path that leads down to the beach – and don’t for­get that there’s no life­guard on duty, so exer­cise cau­tion when swim­ming. Holy­well Bay and Water­gate Bay are both near Newquay, so they both attract large crowds on the hot­ter days, while the views over St Ives Bay from Porth­min­ster Beach are unfor­get­table. In fact, this beach is gen­er­al­ly a lit­tle more peace­ful than oth­ers and ben­e­fits from often calm waters, so it’s a real­ly pop­u­lar with fam­i­lies. For an added dose of fun, you can’t go wrong with Sum­mer­leaze Beach, which is a short walk from Bude. Boast­ing a salt-water pool which is cleaned and refilled dai­ly by the tide, it’s undoubt­ed­ly one of the best sandy beach­es in England. 

The best sandy beaches in Devon

Golden sand. Sandy Bay in Devon.

Sandy Bay is sim­ply beautiful.

If you’re look­ing for the ulti­mate sandy beach in Devon, then your search can end here. Sandy Bay in the Exmouth area is noth­ing short of stun­ning. While it’s not the eas­i­est beach to reach as there’s no near­by park­ing, it’s worth the trek! Sim­ply fol­low the coastal path from Exmouth or Budleigh Salter­ton which will take you around 40 min­utes, or you can walk there from the equal­ly delight­ful Exmouth Beach at low tide – just be care­ful that you don’t get cut off. In fact, check the tide tables before you even con­sid­er doing the walk. Life­guards are on duty in the sum­mer months, and there’s a handy café – plus you can hire deck chairs and pedalos! 

If the crowds of peo­ple at Sandy Bay get too much for you (it can get busy in the sum­mer months), then anoth­er con­tender for the crown of best sandy beach in Devon would be East Portle­mouth which is locat­ed on the estu­ary oppo­site Sal­combe. Alter­na­tive­ly, head to Ban­tham Beach which offers shal­low waters for safe fam­i­ly swim­ming, or Slap­ton Sands and Tor­cross Beach where you can try your hand at surf­ing, wind­surf­ing and canoe­ing. Bet­ter yet, Slap­ton Sands has dis­abled beach access and toi­lets, mean­ing every­one can enjoy this love­ly stretch of water that sits with­in an Area of Out­stand­ing Nat­ur­al Beauty. 

All of these beach­es are in south Devon – but its north­ern shore­line is also love­ly. Gen­er­al­ly slight­ly wilder than the well-main­tained facil­i­ties of the south, north Devon offers unspoilt beau­ty. Just look at Saun­ton Sands as an exam­ple of one of the best sandy beach­es in Devon. Offer­ing more than 3 miles of gold­en sand that’s per­fect­ly off­set by pret­ty beach huts that you can rent for the day, this beau­ti­ful stretch of coast­line is a huge hit with fam­i­lies. Woola­combe Sands is pop­u­lar with tourists, but if you want to escape the crowds, then walk along the beach to Puts­bor­ough Sands. With a few big rocks dot­ted along the sand, this unkempt area is often blus­tery, which is great fun for surfers – though don’t for­get that there’s no life­guard here, so it’s only suit­able for strong swimmers. 

For the ulti­mate unex­pect­ed sur­prise, head to Bar­ri­cane Beach which is next door to Woola­combe. As a peace­ful sandy cove, beach combers are often lucky enough to find exot­ic shells which have been car­ried by the tide from the Caribbean! 

The best sandy beaches near London

White chalk cliffs, beach and sea at Botany Bay.

Make sure you’re off the beach before high tide at Botany Bay!

Many Lon­don­ers look­ing to escape the sum­mer heat head to the gor­geous 5‑mile stretch at Cam­ber Sands (which we men­tioned in our round-up of the best UK beach hol­i­day des­ti­na­tions), but one of the loveli­est sandy beach­es near Lon­don has to be Botany Bay. Locat­ed in Broad­stairs, the bay is sur­round­ed by white cliffs and chalk stacks – though do be aware that at high tide, the ends of the beach are cut off. Per­fect for fos­sil hunt­ing and splash­ing in rock­pools, it’s a true gem. 

In fact, the whole Kent region is home to some of the best sandy beach­es near Lon­don. Stone Bay in Broad­stairs is a pop­u­lar haunt with locals (par­tic­u­lar­ly as it’s not quite as devel­oped as the main beach area), but many are sim­ply con­tent to while away a few hours on the gold­en sands of Viking Bay. Famous for its colour­ful beach huts, it’ll look stun­ning on your Insta­gram account. If you get a few snaps, don’t for­get to tag us with the hastag #welove­home­swap so that we can like’ your photos! 

Fur­ther afield, West Mersea in Essex offers a few sandy beach­es. As a small fish­ing town, this joy­ful lit­tle secret doesn’t often top the list of the best sandy beach­es near Lon­don, but that’s a real injus­tice as it’s sim­ply charm­ing. Anoth­er hush-hush spot that the locals don’t want you to know about is the Isle of Grain Beach in Kent, which is locat­ed between the Thames and the Riv­er Med­way. Come armed with your pic­nic, as this less­er-known spot doesn’t have the facil­i­ties of many sandy beach­es in England. 

The best sandy beaches in Northumberland

Bamburgh castle with the beach

There are great views of the cas­tle from Bam­burgh Beach.

So your fin­gers are hov­er­ing over your key­board and you’ve just typed sandy beach­es UK’ into your search engine. Bet you didn’t expect to be told that Northum­ber­land region has some of the best sandy beach­es in Eng­land, did you?! Well sur­prise folks, because the north east coast of Eng­land is indeed home to some gor­geous stretch­es of sand. Bam­burgh Beach is just one such exam­ple. This excep­tion­al white sand beach affords a love­ly view of Bam­burgh Cas­tle, and is huge­ly pop­u­lar with surfers – you can even book surf lessons if you fan­cy try­ing your hand at rid­ing the brac­ing­ly cold waves! Rock­pools and a small light­house are at the most north­ern part of the beach, and kids will enjoy dis­cov­er­ing the white stag paint­ed on Stags Rock.

Oth­er local delights include Emble­ton Bay which is over­looked by the ruins of Dun­stan­burgh Cas­tle, while the grassy dunes that lead down to Druridge Bay’s 7‑mile stretch of sand are pop­u­lar with fam­i­lies for the fact that they pro­vide shel­ter from wind and sun. Fur­ther north is pret­ty Aln­mouth Beach, but swim­ming and pad­dling isn’t rec­om­mend­ed here – so sat­is­fy your­self with a walk on the beach, then head into the vil­lage for a bite to eat. Fur­ther north still, the horse­shoe-shaped sandy beach at Bead­nell Bay is spec­tac­u­lar. Pop­u­lar with water­sports enthu­si­asts, it’s per­fect for surf­ing, sail­ing, wind­surf­ing, and kitesurfing. 

The best sandy beaches in Scotland

Luskentyre Beach on the Isle of Harris. Blue sky and sandy beach with Scottish flag.

Find some peace and qui­et on Lusken­tyre Beach on the Isle of Harris.

Fire up your search engine and enter sandy beach­es UK’, and we’d be pre­pared to put mon­ey on the fact that Scot­land gets a huge amount of ref­er­ences – and quite right­ly so. With the most incred­i­ble stretch­es of white sand beach­es along the west coast, and gold­en sands in the east, this coun­try is spoilt for choice. Now admit­ted­ly Scotland’s cli­mate tends to be a lit­tle chill­i­er than it’s Eng­lish neigh­bour, so you might not spend quite as much time sun­bathing as you would on the sandy beach­es in Eng­land – but when the sun is shin­ing, you sim­ply have to get your swim­ming cos­tume or wet­suit on, and go for a brac­ing swim! 

Tol­s­ta Beach on the Isle of Lewis is just one exam­ple of the beau­ty that awaits you. Pop­u­lar with surfers due to the mas­sive swells, it’s breath­tak­ing. Neigh­bour­ing island Isle of San­day is equal­ly stun­ning, par­tic­u­lar­ly as it’s home to the beach and sand dunes of Tres­ness, which forms part of the penin­su­la. As this remote spot is in the Out­er Hebrides, it’s entire­ly pos­si­ble you’ll have the entire beach to your­self. Pure bliss. Speak­ing of pure bliss, Lusken­tyre Beach on the Isle of Har­ris is noth­ing short of mag­nif­i­cent. As the set­ting for BBC’s Cast­away, this beach boasts miles of white sand – so no real sur­prise that it received one of Tri­pAd­vi­sor Trav­ellers’ Choice Awards. 

Back on the main­land, East Beach at Lossiemouth is pop­u­lar with the locals. With views over the har­bour town and a light­house to explore, it’s a great place to while away some time with the chil­dren. If you’re look­ing for an icon­ic beach, then you can’t go wrong with West Sands Beach at St Andrews. Famous for being in the open­ing scenes of Char­i­ots of Fire, you’re bound to spot a few tourists recre­at­ing the scenes (and who can blame them?!) plus lots of fam­i­lies enjoy­ing the spec­tac­u­lar sand­cas­tle-build­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties here. 

If you tend to pre­fer city breaks, then we’ve got two great sug­ges­tions. If you’re stay­ing in Inver­ness, then make the 16-mile dri­ve to Nairn Beach – with turquoise waters and white sand, it’s a real­ly pop­u­lar loca­tion, but some­how nev­er feels too crowd­ed. Try your hand at pad­dle-board­ing while you’re there, before head­ing back to the city! For an even eas­i­er city break with a sandy beach inter­lude, head to Aberdeen where you can spend some time on the well-main­tained Aberdeen Beach. Stretch­ing 3kms in length, you might even spot a bot­tlenose dolphin. 

Many peo­ple think that beach­es are dif­fi­cult if you have acces­si­bil­i­ty issues, but Scot­land is lead­ing the way by pro­mot­ing their acces­si­ble beach­es. Vis­it Euan’s Guide for a great insight on which beach­es are tru­ly acces­si­ble, or head to North Berwick, Seton Sands, Por­to­bel­lo, St Andrews or Balme­die in Aberdeen­shire where you can hire a beach wheelchair. 

Want to see a blog devot­ed to the best beach­es in Scot­land? Let us know by leav­ing your thoughts in the Feed­back’ tab above! 

The best sandy beaches in Wales

Benllech Beach.

Ben­l­lech Beach is one of many love­ly sandy beach­es in Anglesey.

Some of the best sandy beach­es in the UK lie with­in Wales. Offer­ing every­thing from adren­a­lin-fuelled water­sports to pic­ture-per­fect sandy coves for a roman­tic pic­nic, Wales is sim­ply inun­dat­ed with gor­geous options. We’ve already told you about Rhos­sili Bay on the Gow­er Coast and Bara­fun­dle Bay in Pem­brokeshire in our round-up of the best UK beach hol­i­day des­ti­na­tions, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg! 

Harlech Beach is one such exam­ple. With views of the Snow­do­nia moun­tain range, this gold­en sand beach is backed by grassy dunes, mak­ing it a top favourite with kids of all ages. With four miles of sands to go at, there’s plen­ty of space for every­one, and while swim­ming is gen­er­al­ly safe, it’s worth remem­ber­ing that there isn’t a life­guard so you’ll need to exer­cise the usu­al cau­tion. Fresh­wa­ter West Beach (near Pem­broke) is blessed with great water qual­i­ty and pow­er­ful waves, so it’s huge­ly pop­u­lar with surfers and kite-surfers. Park­ing is lim­it­ed, so get there ear­ly if you want to grab a space. 

If you’re head­ing to Angle­sey, you’re in for a treat as the sandy beach­es are pris­tine and peace­ful. Ben­l­lech Beach is sim­ply huge, and offers every­thing from rock­pools to unlim­it­ed space for pad­dling and sand­cas­tle-build­ing. Bet­ter yet, the Isle of Angle­sey Coast Path runs through Ben­l­lech vil­lage, so it’s a per­fect stop-off for hun­gry hik­ers in need of lunch and a refresh­ing dip or pad­dle in the sea! Towards the south-west­ern cor­ner of Angle­sey, you’ll find Lland­dwyn Beach, which is framed by sand dunes and forests. With a nar­row penin­su­la that pokes into the Irish Sea and a strong kite-surf­ing com­mu­ni­ty here, it’s a tru­ly love­ly spot. While not strict­ly a natur­ist beach, you will find the odd naked sun­bather. Treard­dur Bay is anoth­er beau­ti­ful sandy beach in Angle­sey, and it wins addi­tion­al bonus points for being dog-friend­ly year-round. At low tide there’s a huge amount of space for dog-walk­ing and ball games, and it’s an ide­al loca­tion for kayak­ing, canoe­ing, sail­ing and wind surfing. 

The best sandy beaches in Northern Ireland

Beach at sunset. Portstewart Strand.

Port­stew­art Strand – one vis­it will nev­er be enough!

Pose the ques­tion which is the best beach in North­ern Ire­land?’ and you’ll get oodles of dif­fer­ent answers – because the area is burst­ing at the seams with some of the loveli­est sandy beach­es in the UK

Backed by lime­stone cliffs, White­rocks Beach in Portrush, Coun­ty Antrim is breath­tak­ing. In the sum­mer months it can get busy (after all, it’s one of the top sights in the area), but vis­it at any oth­er time of the year and you might have this beau­ti­ful stretch of sand all to your­self! Swim­ming in the sum­mer months is absolute­ly fine as long as there’s a life­guard on duty – and con­sid­er vis­it­ing first thing in the morn­ing or the evening for the chance to spot race­horse train­ers exer­cis­ing their hors­es along the length of the beach between White­rocks and East Strand! 

Anoth­er spec­tac­u­lar sandy beach is Port­stew­art Strand, which is locat­ed in Coun­ty Lon­don­der­ry. As a Nation­al Trust-owned loca­tion, this gold­en sandy beach is beau­ti­ful­ly main­tained, and offers some­thing for every­one. Make sure you book your park­ing space before you arrive via the Nation­al Trust web­site, and while you’re there, set aside a cou­ple of hours to do the love­ly sand dune and estu­ary walk – it real­ly is the best way to blow out the cob­webs at any time of the year! 

Oth­er key favourites are West Strand and East Strand Beach­es in Portrush (it’s a busy sea­side resort, so you’ll find plen­ty of eat­ing and enter­tain­ment options local­ly), Helen’s Bay Beach in Ban­gor (con­ve­nient­ly locat­ed near Belfast if you fan­cy a city break), Ball­gal­ly Beach (which is locat­ed on the beau­ti­ful Cause­way Coastal Route), and New­cas­tle and Mur­lough Beach which is one of the top sights in Coun­ty Down. 

A final men­tion has to go to Benone Beach which was announced as North­ern Ire­land’s first ful­ly inclu­sive beach. Work­ing in part­ner­ship with the Mae Mur­ray Foun­da­tion, there are now great dis­abled toi­lets and dis­abled access, and spe­cial­ist beach access equip­ment can be hired for those with lim­it­ed mobil­i­ty, so that every­one can enjoy this excep­tion­al stretch of sand. Pre-book­ing is essen­tial, so take a look at www​.mae​mur​ray​foun​da​tion​.org for more info. 

The best beaches in Norfolk

Little boy digging in the sand in Gorleston Beach.

Grab your buck­et and spade, and head to Gor­leston Beach!

There are many rea­sons why Gor­leston is one of the best sandy beach­es in Eng­land. First­ly, it’s huge, so there’s space for every­one. Sec­ond­ly, the sand is absolute­ly per­fect for build­ing sand­cas­tles – which is a pas­time that nobody should grow out of. And last­ly, there’s a Banksy cre­ation on one of the seafront shel­ters. The giant arcade claw is sten­cilled above a bench, so pose under­neath it for a pho­to to remember! 

Else­where in this beau­ti­ful region you’ll find a pletho­ra of unspoilt stretch­es of sand. The most pop­u­lar beach in Nor­folk is Holkham, which is backed by the love­ly town of Wells-by-the-Sea. A long way from the car park is a natur­ist beach, so if you want to get a top-to-toe tan, this is the place to go! Horsey Beach is much-loved for its seal-spot­ting oppor­tu­ni­ties and Bran­cast­er Beach is breath­tak­ing­ly beau­ti­ful, while Cromer draws hoards of tourists for the chance to taste its famous crab, which is par­tic­u­lar­ly deli­cious. You can even have a go at crab­bing’ from the pier between March and Octo­ber, when its crab season’. 

Best beaches in Suffolk

Sand and blue sky at Covehithe beach.

Cov­ehithe Beach is delight­ful­ly secluded.

A quick Google of sandy beach­es UK’ will direct you to some of the UK’s best-known beach des­ti­na­tions, includ­ing South­wold (which we men­tioned in our roundup of the best UK beach hol­i­day des­ti­na­tions). But if you fan­cy get­ting off the beat­en track and you’re not both­ered about facil­i­ties and easy-access carparks, then Cov­ehithe Beach should be top of your buck­et list. Accessed from the vil­lage, sim­ply fol­low the sin­gle track, past the pigs and around the edge of the field, and you’ll find an incred­i­bly beau­ti­ful and seclud­ed stretch of gold­en sand that very few peo­ple know about. Per­fect for sand­cas­tle-build­ing and kite-fly­ing, this hid­den gem is exceptional. 

Head fur­ther north up the coast, and you’ll find the eter­nal­ly pop­u­lar Low­est­oft Beach, though we much pre­fer the wild beau­ty and remote­ness of Kess­ing­land Beach which is admit­ted­ly a mix of sand and shin­gle – but the shin­gle pro­vides a great dec­o­ra­tive addi­tion to any sand­cas­tles! The beach is a pop­u­lar spot for swim­mers and wind­surfers, but bear in mind that there isn’t a life­guard on duty. 

We know there are sim­ply loads more regions that boast some of the best sandy beach­es in Eng­land, so we’ll update this arti­cle with a few more entries soon. We think Dorset, the North West and the York­shire coast could all do with a bit of love. Or would you rather see some more info on sandy beach­es near Lon­don, or per­haps a spot­light on the best sandy beach in Devon? What­ev­er your pref­er­ences are, let us know and we’ll set our research and edi­to­r­i­al team on the case!