The best British seaside breaks for foodies

Looking for a UK seaside break? We share several quick trips you can take that incorporate fantastic food, beautiful beaches, and hopefully a little sun too...

Padstow harbour with boats

Take a trip to the seaside for fresh air, fabulous views and all manner of foodie delights. From Cornwall to the Highlands, we've rounded up the best of Britain's beachside breaks.


Best for a summer crab crawl
Congham Hall, North Norfolk

Cromer pier and beach in sunset

Celebrate those long sunny days in East Anglia with some of Britain’s best seaside fare: crab. Norfolk country house hotel Congham Hall has pioneered some inventive tourist trails, with free self-guided tours taking in everything from Norfolk’s gardens (including such leafy local estates as nearby Sandringham and its own extensive herb gardens), to art and nature trails. This holiday season the crustacean is king, with the newly-launched Congham Crab Crawl. Follow the annotated trail map (available from reception) to local foodie landmarks, exploring some of the coast’s best sights as you go.

Start, of course, in Cromer. This traditional seaside resort is a must-see for its Victorian pier, golden sands and the crabs that thrive in the shallow waters of the coast’s chalk shelf – conditions that produce the famed sweet, white meat. The World Crabbing Competition takes place on Cromer’s esplanade every August, but the sea wall is populated with have-a-go crabbers all year round. Galton Blackiston’s waterfront restaurant No1 serves up a free-range pork, prawn and crab ramen (£15.95), and cracking sea views.

Crab sandwich and salad

On the clifftop between Cromer and Sheringham, walk the Norfolk Coast Path to Rocky Bottoms. Formerly a 19th-century kiln, it’s now a buzzing restaurant. Take a table on the terrace to sample Weybourn king crab salad (£14), or buy dressed crab from the seafood counter (from £3.50), and picnic on the enclosed grass area, a winner with fidgety children (BYO for £2.50pp corkage).

What crab crawl would be complete without a straightforward sandwich? In the old fishing village of Sheringham, Whelk Coppers Tea Rooms is set in former fisherman’s cottages and serves a classic crab sandwich, while a hearty doorstop sarnie is on offer at Cookie's Crab Shop in Salthouse, surrounded by nature reserve saltmarshes that sing with redshank and skylark in the summer months. The Crab Hut, in the port of Brancaster Staithe, does a sort-of-Gallic take: baguettes stuffed with crab and salad. Munch while gazing at the surrounding mudflats, carved by insistent tidal waters: rich pickings for birdwatchers and painters alike. Sandwiches £3.90-£4.50.

Pots of seafood at outdoor market stall

Buy tackle and bacon (the crustacean’s favourite snack) at Wells-next-the-Sea for crabbing off the quay. This is catch-and-release territory, but you can sample a sandwich made with catch fresh off the boat from the quayside Picnic Hut (01328 710436). Or at Wells Crab House, Frary’s Wells dressed crab (£14) is a refined local variant. For rainy day fun, try the old malt house Wells Maltings with its revamped arts centre.

Back at Congham Hall, chef James O’Connor has brought together local seasonal ingredients – some from its kitchen garden – for a summery addition to the menu: dressed Cromer crab with plum tomato, lime, crème fraîche, dill, crowned with caviar (£12).


How to do it

The Congham Crab Crawl package includes info for the self-guided tour, and two nights dinner, bed and breakfast for the special rate of £538 for two (saving £140); available Monday-Thursday until 13 September.  

Review by Sarah Barrell


Best for a refined, foodie family getaway
Symondsbury Estate, Dorset

Sandstone cottage in front of Colmer Hill

Just inland from the Jurassic Coast, privately owned Symondsbury Village has golden sandstone cottages, including the old post office and an outlying clifftop beach chalet, available as classy holiday rentals. Our four-bedroom retreat (Crepe Cottage) came with a terrace, hot tub, BBQ, gardens, plus a kiddie-pleasing trampoline, and a warm welcome for dogs. The large kitchen and wood burner made for cosy rainy days; beds and linens were notably plush.

Set on a working farm estate, expect related agricultural aromas; the rams in the field neighbouring our cottage made for some pretty pungent terrace sittings. Other cottages, minus the ram field, would likely be less offensive on the nose. Upside: wonderful views across the fields and the distinctive peak of Colmer’s Hill.

Manor Yard, a five-minute walk away, has the Kitchen café where quiches, crustaceans, pâtés, salads and cream teas (£5-10) were simple but perfectly executed, often accompanied by produce from the organic kitchen garden. The Kitchen closes at 3pm, the annex Store at 4pm, so you can exit through the shop and pick up goodies for dinner.

Salad topped with feta on table with mug of coffee

These might include Symondsbury’s award-winning chutneys and oatcakes, or from the bakery, fresh scones and joyfully blowsy cakes. The deli counter has local cheeses and luxurious Devon/Dorset ice cream. There’s a daily selection of local meats, veg, lemonades and apple juices, and even the daily papers. English wines and local brews including the estate’s own Colmers Ale are complimented by Med choices, all at reasonable prices for such convenience.

Manor Yard also sells logs for your wood burner, choice linens from Provence, glassware from Italy, and balsamic vinegar from Modena’s best producers. Such curated perfection could have been objectionable if it hadn’t all been so darned civilised.

The village’s thatched boozer, The Ilchester Arms, is less than staggering distance, serving Palmer’s beers and classic pub fare: halfpints of whitebait, West Country steak burgers (mains from £10) and a decent kids’ menu (two courses and a drink, £9).

Explore Symondsbury’s 8km of cycle trails (bike rental on site), or head to the beach. Of the vast Jurassic Coast choice, the wild, cliff-backed Eype beach is a quiet, shingly retreat sandwiched between crazy-busy West Bay (where Broadchurch is filmed) and Lyme Regis. Fossil hunts and cliff walks stretch 15 miles south towards the Seaton Jurassic centre, which brings the world of 200 million years ago to life.

Cottage adjacent to Eype beach with sunset

Starry local food options include Hix Oyster & Fish House in Lyme Regis, the inland River Cottage Kitchen, Deli & Cookery School, and the lovely, laidback Hive Beach Café.


How to do it

Symondsbury Estate’s nine properties sleep from two to 21 people and cost from £525 (seven nights) or £325 (three-night weekend stays).  

Review by Sarah Barrell


Best for outdoor family fun
Wadebridge, Cornwall

Camel Trail next to Estuary near Wadebridge

Get the family to work up a proper appetite on the picturesque 18-mile Camel Trail. Base yourself in the pretty riverside town of Wadebridge to walk a manageable, coast-hugging six-mile segment of this disused railway line to Padstow, where all manner of Paul Ainsworth and Rick Stein fare awaits as reward. This greenway is entirely flat, so easy going on little legs. Alternatively, you could hire bikes and attempt a longer stretch.

Back in Wadebridge, indulge foodie needs at The Ship Inn, a gastropub run by former protégées of Stein, or enjoy a cosy evening meal at The Maltster's Arms, a 300-year-old restaurant in the outlying Chapel Amble village, which serves classics like grilled Cornish sole and salmon fillet on samphire.


How to do it

The Olde House is a collection of self-catering cottages (sleeping two to 10, from £400 per week) on Penpont Farm. It's a five-minute drive from the beach and activities include a surf club.

Review by Sarah Barrell
 

Best for beer and harbour views
Padstow, Cornwall

View over Padstow harbour and beach

You’ll find vineyards, distilleries and breweries, as well as places to eat, around Padstow's sheltered bay. Daily catches supply local eateries, including Prawn on the Lawn. Try a plate piled high with Porthilly mussels and clams or a whole red mullet.

Visit the cosy Harbour Inn for a glass of delicate Camel Valley Pilsner, the brainchild of two Cornish drinks giants: Camel Valley wines and Sharp’s Brewery. Or try Seven Souls ale, a perfect balance of bitter and sweet. Indulge in dry-aged rib-eye and roasted pumpkin with plump burrata and romesco sauce at Nathan Outlaw’s The Mariners, and end with Crackler cheddar alongside fruitcake infused with Doom Bar – an almost porty beer.

Prawn and guacamole on toast, topped with parsley

For Padstow's most fuss-free food experience, get a takeaway from Stein's Fish & Chips, which requires no booking or sitting still. Draw the short straw to queue (and there will be one) while the others cool weary feet in the waters of the Camel Estuary. Specials include battered St Ives squid or chilli fish burgers (plus the usual perfectly fried fresh catch of the day with chunky chips).

Just down the road, you can visit the National Lobster Hatchery, which teaches kids about sustainable fishing and the crustacean's life cycle, and offers the chance to see baby lobsters.


How to do it

Stay at The St Moritz Hotel near Rock and Padstow. Family garden suites are available from £395 a night with breakfast included.

Review by Georgina Kiely
 

Best for getting away from it all
Plockton, West Highlands

It might take some time to get here, but once you do, put your phone away and slip into a slower rhythm of things. Plockton is a settlement with fewer than 400 inhabitants, a shop, a couple of hotels and an artists' colony, in a sheltered bay overlooking Loch Carron. Here, nature is king. Enjoy solitary walks with just the wind and life affirming views for company, take a boat tour to watch seals, or kayak on the still waters. A highlight is the fresh and very local food. The three Ps come highly recommended. Plockton Shores serves hand-dived scallops, local langoustines and venison from Fort William. The Plockton Inn has its own smoker — try the smoked haddock and salmon fishcakes — and offers a changing smoked seafood platter assortment of mussels, clams, oysters and salmon, served with wasabi mayo and crusty bread. Overlooking Loch Carron, The Plockton Hotel has its own smoked fish soup, just-caught langoustines and local fresh salmon fillet, which is baked with spring onion, lime & chilli, as well as some gluten-free and vegetarian choices.


How to do it

To get to Plockton from London, you can take the overnight Caledonian Sleeper to Inverness (excitement in itself for children). From there, it's a two-and-a-half hour journey to Plockton, along one of Scotland's most scenic rail lines. For more information, visit plockton.com.

Rooms at The Plockton Hotel are from £45 per person per night on a B&B basis, there are two family suites, plus a four-bedroom cottage annex.

Review by Olivia Greenway
 

Best for local food and long beaches
Isle of Wight

Once known for Victorian grandeur, traditional seaside fun and the yachties who descend on Cowes for its sailing regatta in August, the Isle of Wight has reinvented itself to attract a foodier crowd.

Food is right at the heart of this revolution. Across the island chefs are getting creative with local produce, from seafood to garlic and tomatoes, craft beer is on offer and the first distillery to be opened supplies local gin and vodka. The Little Gloster, near Cowes, is a chic beachside restaurant with rooms that puts a Nordic spin on seafood dishes (chef proprietor Ben Cooke's grandmother was Danish).

For a long, sandy beach visit Ryde, walk the length of it and where it rounds the headland at Puckpool Park you’ll find the Dell Café, here you can eat excellent crab sandwiches for lunch or tapas, burgers and crisp fried fish platters for an early dinner. The bar menu offers Wight Mermaids gin and tonic (among other gins) making it an excellent venue for a sundowner and some ship-spotting.

You can take your car but the local bus service is excellent and there’s a rickety ex-London tube train that runs from Ryde pier head to Shanklin past many of the East coast resorts. Take the bus to Bembridge and visit the lifeboat station stuck out on its own little pier, have a quick dip at Lane End beach then lunch on seafood at the Lifeboat View café or take walk round to The Beach Hut on Foreland Road for a tiny kiosk serving excellent food between May and October – weather permitting. 


How to do it

The Red Funnel ferry from Southampton to East Cowes or the Red Jet Hi Speed service to West Cowes, or WightLink ferries run Portsmouth to Fishbourne and Lymington to Yarmouth with a high speed to Ryde, or there’s the hover which takes 10 minutes but is best without too much luggage. For more info, visit the Isle of Wight's tourism website.

Review by Lily Barclay
 

Best for wildlife and smoked seafood
Suffolk


With Orford Ness National Nature Reserve and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Minsmere and Havergate Island within a 30-minute drive of each other, this stretch of the Suffolk coast is a blessing for wildlife lovers. Sometime home of the BBC's Springwatch, Minsmere is one of the UK's most impressive bird-watching centres, with woodland and wetland walks and marshy coastal scenery.

This is also a superb area to delve into smoky British seafood. Here, every day is smoked kipper, smoked mackerel and smoked salmon day. The Butley Orford Oysterage is the place to come for no nonsense platters of seafood, smoked or otherwise. Don't miss the skate with brown butter sauce and the richest of fish pies.

The Trinity Crown and Castle hotel has kitchens led by food writer Ruth Watson. Book for Sunday lunch and get there early for the best fish selection, including Orford landed skate with sautéed grapes, almonds & nut brown butter, or Suffolk lamb rump with Sicilian caponata for seafood naysayers.


How to do it

Choose from two smartly decorated cottages, both sleeping four, on a working farm in Orford. Week-long breaks starting from 442.

Review by Sarah Barrell
 

Best for an island getaway
Anglesey

Anglesey

This Welsh island comes with a royal seal of approval — the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge lived here as newlyweds. So it's not surprising that the Oyster Catcher restaurant, amid the dunes on Rhosneigr beach, has a Will's Bar that serves super fresh fish and seafood, including oysters from the Menai Strait.

Anglesey is dotted with beautiful beaches, including Newborough in the south, with views of Snowdonia. Nearby The Marram Grass does a brilliant Welsh breakfast (including homemade brown sauce), plus impressive lunch and dinner dishes starring local produce: Menai mussels, Newborough lamb and Rhoscolyn beef.

With spectacular views over Benllech Beach and Red Wharf Bay, The Tavern on the Bay is a great family gastropub with a menu full of crowd pleasers. The two-course Sunday lunch (£15.95) offers beef and lamb from Benllech. Go crabbing on the pier at Beaumaris, then cycle or drive for tea at the Pilot House Café at Penmon Point, overlooking the lighthouse and Puffin Island. Scones and a pot of tea is what a day beside the sea is all about. Menai Bridge also hosts an annual seafood festival on 20th August.


How to do it

Visit Anglesey has a family trail featuring ‘the stinky old bits’ and there are plenty of ideas for fun days out with the family.

Review by Barney Desmazery
 

Best for bracing walks and fresh fish
Northumberland

The underexplored coast of Northumberland runs north of Newcastle up to Berwick-upon-Tweed: a 100-mile stretch with lots of beautifully wild and often deserted beaches. This region is made for walking, rich in birdlife and flora. Take a boat trip to the Farne Islands, which have some of the UK's largest seabird colonies. The fishing village of Seahouses, which has a good choice of accommodation, is a good base for exploration. Read a kid's guide to Seahouses, by all accounts it’s worth taking a wetsuit!

The best walk is from Craster to Low Newton-by-the-Sea (six miles), with castle ruins and superb sea views. Don't miss Low Newton's The Ship Inn — right next to the beach, it brews its own beer. Sate that sea air fuelled appetite on kipper paté with oatcakes, or crab salad. In Craster, try The Jolly Fishermen's special — crab soup with local bread.

In Seahouses, visit Swallow Fish, which has the village's original smokery, established in 1843. Owner Patrick Wilkin, one of Rick Stein's 'food heroes', produces award-winning kippers, using oak sawdust and no colouring. He also sells dressed crab and salmon.

Fresh crab sandwiches don't come better than at The Olde Ship Inn overlooking the harbour, which are best accompanied by one of its well kept cask ales. And for the best fish & chips, go to Pinnacles.


How to do it

The Bakehouse B&B in Seahouses, with an open fire in the lounge and a hearty cooked breakfast, has rooms starting from £75; the Olde Ship Inn has 18 charming rooms, with good service, doubles from £94. From Newcastle, a coach service to Seahouses takes around two-and-a-half hours.

Review by Olivia Greenway

Accommodation for this feature was provided by: on the Isle of Wight, Red Funnel, and Isle of Wight Tourism; in Anglesey, Visit Anglesey.

Do you have any seaside recommendations? We'd love to hear from you below...


Photography credits: GETTY
Assistance for the Padstow feature was provided by sharpsbrewery.co.uk

Comments, questions and tips

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jessyhoops
8th Jul, 2017
Sad to see there's no mention of Pembrokeshire on here! Some of its hidden gems tick the boxes across the board! Islands, beaches, food festivals, vineyard tours, fabulous seafood, market towns and stunning countryside!!
ClaireHector
16th Aug, 2016
Wonderful to see the Isle of Wight mentioned and the restaurants you feature are great and very well know... but you've missed a bit! Arguably the Isle of Wight's best... and definitely its longest... beach is Sandown Bay... take the London tube to Sandown or to Shanklin for a fantastic selection of new and newish beach restaurants... Beach Shack with its seafood and white wine on the esplanade, ammonites in the sand in front of you and fulmars nesting on the cliffs behind, The Bandstand - spectacular glass views framing Culver Cliffs, Salix at the magically-named Small Hope Beach, and don't forget doughnuts at the historic '30s Henry Cotton-designed golf course and greenhouse-style cafe, Browns at Yaverland, once part of the PLUTO Pipeline's disguised workings!
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