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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.
Gara Rock, South Devon
Best for a chic and quiet beach retreat
Gara Rock is home to one of South Devon’s most spectacular sea views. The hotel’s remote location at East Portlemouth means the only passing traffic is on foot, so peace and quiet is guaranteed. Simple, seasonal and sustainable is the food mantra. There’s a commitment to sourcing the majority of ingredients within 100 miles or an hour’s drive of the hotel; Pipers Farm near Dartmouth supplies all meat, veg comes from Springfield organic farm in Kingsbridge or is grown in Gara’s own kitchen garden.A crab salad, big bowl of mussels or grilled sardines with a Salcombe Brewery Shingle Bay beer make for a perfect coastal lunch (dishes £7.50-£18.50). Dinner is smarter: there’s côte de boeuf, 13-hour pork belly, or the signature light ricotta and chard ravioli, and a chocolate ganache with sea salt harvested by the chefs (mains £14.50-£60). Breakfast shows imagination, too – tomatoes and nduja on sourdough, local cheeses and Rusty Pig vanilla coppa with poached eggs and hollandaise are on offer along with the full English (dishes £4.50-£9.50).
Rooms are modern, comfortable and Scandinavian in feel, some with freestanding baths and/or wet rooms; and many with a balcony or garden with sun loungers. There are cottages, apartments and ‘out of the ordinary’ suites to rent too, with hot tubs, direct beach access, and such quirky architectural features as a lighthouse-like conical eaves room. Should you tire (unlikely) of the pool, spa, or screening room, then head to the beach or take the coastal path to Salcombe, hopping on the tiny ferry across the estuary for the last leg. It’s a lovely spot for a pint by the water.How to do it: Gara Rock has double rooms from £200 per night, room only.Christine Hayes
Best for beach walks and low-key luxe Scottish hospitality
Golfers and birdwatchers have long known the pretty Scottish coastal village of Gullane as a cracking place to take a break with 22 courses in the local area, and the Scottish Seabird Centre in nearby North Berwick. Thanks to the arrival of chef Tom Kitchin and his wife Michaela, and their revival of the village hotel, this East Lothian seaside spot is now a fine foodie retreat, too. Tom and Michaela took on the 19th-century inn last year and have transformed it into The Bonnie Badger, a welcoming establishment full of thoughtful detail. The Stables Dining Room has a menu that’s approachable-yet-special: grass-fed Highland Wagyu burger, fish and chips, and steak & bone marrow pie (mains £13.50-£24). The starter of haggis, neeps and tatties was presented beautifully as a deep-fried bonbon of haggis on a base of creamy mash with tender slivers of swede draped on top (£8.50). The blood orange panna cotta was a standout (£8). Wonderful Scottish produce is found throughout the dishes – the pea soup with crowdie cheese dumplings was really satisfying – and it doesn’t stop at the food. Try the sea buckthorn & apple mocktail, made with locally grown sea buckthorn (£6).
Breakfast at The Bonnie Badger is really special. It starts with a pot of fruit compote, yogurt and granola, followed by a thoughtful platter of continental breakfast-style items; a wedge of cheese, some cured ham, a couple of pieces of avocado, and some fresh tomatoes, managing to leave room for a proper full Scottish breakfast complete with sausage, black pudding, bacon and tattie scone. It’s excellent fuel for a long walk. Turn left out of the hotel and walk along the road until you reach the Archerfield Estate, with its walled gardens, microbrewery, café and shop. Alternatively, take a pleasant stroll through the beer garden, across the village green and you’ll hit a path to the coast taking you through sea buckthorn bushes and onto a shell-filled sandy beach complete with rock pools to explore.How to do it: Overnight stays at The Bonnie Badger from £295 including b&b accommodation in a double room, a welcome drink and sweet treats, a three-course meal, and bottle of house wine.Miriam Nice
Best for a summer crab crawl
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. 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. You can eat fish and chips with gusto at No 1 Cromer – chef Galton Blackiston’s affordable gaff.On the clifftop between Cromer and Sheringham, walk the Norfolk Coast Path to Rocky Bottoms. Take a table on the terrace to sample Weybourn king crab salad (£17.50), 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). 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.
How to do it: Rooms at Congham Hall start at £140 per night. Sarah Barrell/Lulu Grimes
Symondsbury Estate, Dorset
Best for a refined, foodie family getaway
Just inland from the Jurassic Coast, privately owned Symondsbury Village has golden sandstone cottages 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. 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 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 (mains from £6). 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.
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). Sarah Barrell
Best for outdoor family fun
How to do it: The Olde House is a collection of self-catering cottages (sleeping two to 10, from £473.00 per week) on Penpont Farm. It’s a five-minute drive from the beach and activities include a surf club.
Best for beer and harbour views
How to do it: Stay at The St Moritz Hotel near Rock and Padstow. Family garden suites are available from £280 a night with breakfast included.
Plockton, West Highlands
Best for getting away from it all
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
Isle of Wight
Best for local food and long beaches
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.
Best for wildlife and smoked seafood
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 £465.
Best for an island getaway
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 (£17.95) 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.
Best for bracing walks and fresh fish
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.
Do you have any seaside recommendations? We’d love to hear from you below…