Cockles, castles and chip shops: five great British seaside spots

The British seaside is enjoying a revival. Not since the sashay of bustles and lace parasols on the promenade has our coastline been so chic. For their Spring/Summer campaign in 2012, Mulberry – along with fashion photographer Tim Walker – created a retro vision of oversized ice creams, fish-and-chip wrappers and sticks of rock in helter-skelter patterns. For us, this jump-started a trip down memory lane to our personal favourite British coastal spots.

From sandy sandwiches to rock pooling, rickety rollercoasters to mastering the art of changing on the beach with just an artfully held towel between you and public nudity; sometimes there’s just nowhere you’d rather be than beside the seaside.

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Brighton seagulls

Mousehole

Mousehole is a small fishing village in West Cornwall. It’s known to children everywhere as the home of The Mousehole Cat, star of the children’s book that put the village on the map. Mousehole has two quaint little beaches on either side of the village and then if you fancy exploring, the more glamorous Longrock Beach is just 20 minutes drive away (on a good day, you could almost believe you were in the Med).

Mousehole’s most renowned dish is the poetically named ‘Star Gazey Pie’, a fish pie baked with the unlucky fish heads poking out of the crust. And there’s plenty more seafood where that came from, ranging from fish and chips on the beach, to steamed mussels and baked Cornish crab in the local restaurants. If you have a sweet tooth, you can’t beat a traditional cream tea in a seafront cafe with jam, clotted cream and Earl Grey from proper china cups. And don’t get me started on the cider (locally brewed and wonderful).

Mousehole

Mousehole

Whitstable

Located just outside Canterbury, the Kentish maritime town of Whitstable is easily reachable by car if you’re coming from London. A sat-nav won’t be necessary. Wind your windows down and follow the scent of salty air, potted eels and Tabasco-speckled oysters – particularly in summer when the famous Whitstable Oyster Festival is on. If you haven’t yet glugged a pearl of the sea, this is the place is to do it. The native oysters here are regarded as some of the best in the world; thick-shelled, sweet and served with a pint of creamy stout.

Even if shellfish isn’t for you, it’s worth coming here for a walk around the pastel-coloured town centre. The quaint character of Whitstable is totally authentic – with musty bookshops, second-hand record joints, cream teas and vintage clothing boutiques all part of the town’s DNA. The last time I was here I picked up a yellowing copy of Hardy’s Under the Greenwood Tree and flicked through it by the harbour, next to the ropey old fishing boats.

Whitstable

Whitstable

Bamburgh

What’s the only thing better than arsing around on a beautiful beach when it’s warm and sunny? Arsing around on a beautiful beach that has a massive castle overlooking it, that’s what. The magnificent beach at Bamburgh, on the Northumberland coast, positively reeks of fresh air and history. Fair enough, the chances of the weather being fine enough to wear your smalls near the Scottish border may be slim, but when it does happen it’s a magical experience.

The beach is just breath-taking – wedged between the roar of the North Sea and the haunting facade of Bamburgh Castle; scenery likely to make even most most amazing beaches in Europe green with envy. With the Farne Islands nearby for the bird-watchers, and Alnwick, Berwick and Seahouses perfect little dry land day trips, you’ll struggle to find anywhere better to squeeze the brakes on real life and feel tangible benefits. I love it…even when it’s freezing.

Bamburgh

Bamburgh

Whitby

So much more than a place to bring a bucket and spade, Whitby in North Yorkshire was a magical place to visit when I was a nipper. This seaside town comes complete with tales of gothic legends and famous explorers.

Literary buffs will know that Whitby was famously name-checked in Bram Stoker’s Dracula as the place where the blood-sucking Count’s ship was wrecked. This has inspired the annual Whitby Goth Weekend – one of the world’s premier goth events. Another famous Whitby resident was explorer and navigator, Captain James Cook, and what was once his house is now a museum. Other sights to see in Whitby include the whale bone arches above the beach, the ruins of Whitby Abbey teetering ominously on the East Cliff and the steep 199 steps leading up to it.

The wide stretch of sandy beach that’s bordered with candy-coloured beach huts is fun for rock pooling and you must sample the fish and chips from Quayside – voted the 3rd best chippy in the whole of the UK. For a less-busy patch of sand, head to the beautiful Robin Hood’s Bay further down the coast. If you’re staying over, try the cheerful and kitsch La Rosa Hotel – a Victorian-themed townhouse, which children’s author Lewis Carroll stayed in on numerous visits to Whitby.

Whitby, photograph by David Speight.

Whitby, photograph by David Speight.

The Lizard

Drive right on by the well-trodden Cornish tourist spots of Newquay and St. Austell and head to where few other visitors can be bothered to go: the most southerly point of mainland Britain. You’ll be rewarded with The Lizard Pensinsula – one of the most quintessentially pretty spots in the British Isles. With its cob-walled cottages, quaint fishing villages, world famous botanical gardens and tranquil sandy coves, there’s more to this secluded spot than cockles, cream teas and deckchairs (though you’ll find those too). What makes The Lizard truly spectacular is its sometimes stormy and dramatic persona. Know where to look and you’ll find sweeping, crescent views of weather beaten cliffs, thundering waves and untamed, rugged landscape.

The Lizard is that magical kind of place where surfers can ride the best waves in the region at Kennack Sands, while foodies tuck into a top-drawer, triple-scoop Roskilly’s ice cream. Sailing aficionados should check out the boats bobbing in Helford’s picturesque creeks and nature-lovers can marvel at stunning National Trust botanical gardens or the world-famous Eden project. As for walkers and sun worshippers, this corner of Cornwall is your freshly-caught oyster. Who said you couldn’t have it all?

The Lizard

The Lizard

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3 Comments

  1. Stunning photographs. I love them. If I get a chance I definitely visit those places.

  2. Whitby brings back some great memories of childhood holidays. One of my very favourite seaside towns and where I was first inspired to pick up Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

    Thanks for stirring a few great recollections.

    Christopher

  3. Great post (and photos) – if you write a similar one, make sure you include Felixstowe. There’s something for everyone there; penny arcades for the kids, windy walks along Landguard Point ; the “hidden” beach toward the mouth of the River Deben; a links-style golf course; not one but two foot-ferries (including one operating a triangular route across the River Orwell to Essex) and one of the best pubs in Suffolk too (Ferry Boat Inn)!

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