When it comes to seaside holidays in the UK, we all love relaxing on the sands, reading a book and maybe making a sandcastle or two, but for many holidaymakers, the main attraction is the sea itself. Yes, it might be chilly, and the salty water might get up your nose, but there’s something about splashing through the waves that no swimming pool can ever capture. Luckily, our native shores have something for everyone, from safe, sheltered bays for beginners, to long stretches of beach where you can put in some serious distance. Slip on your goggles and wetsuit and come with us as we take a look at the very best swimming beaches the UK has to offer.
Treyarnon Bay Beach, Cornwall
This sheltered, sandy beach has Britain’s cleanest waters, according to a 2022 study by Business Waste, and there are RNLI lifeguards on patrol from May until late September. Take a dip in the clean, safe waters of the sea, or wait until low tide, when a natural swimming pool appears among the rocks.
The beach itself is surrounded by low cliffs, with plenty of hidden corners if you’re looking for a more secluded place to sit. It can get pretty busy during peak season, but it’s perfect for families, with level access to the beach from the car park, plus a café and toilet facilities close by. Treyarnon is also famous for its gorgeous sunsets, so bring a cosy fleece and stay until evening for a real treat.
Tynemouth Longsands, Tyne and Wear
With a Blue Flag award, and approximately a mile of clear blue water, Tynemouth is a great option if you want to cover a bit of distance. There are lifeguards on duty during peak season, and the waters are clean and relatively seaweed-free.
The chilly waters of the North Sea may seem a bit daunting at first, but many swimmers find the cold water to be therapeutic, with beneficial effects on both physical and mental wellbeing. The area is certainly popular with outdoor swimmers, and you can meet up with the TOSers (Tynemouth Outdoor Swimmers), or the Chatter Challenge, if you want to swim in a group. Bring something warm to change into when you get out of the water, then pop into a local café for a cup of something hot.
A ten minute walk along the coast, you will find Seafront Apartments, a collection of beautifully-appointed apartments within a characterful seafront terrace. Many have stunning coastal views, so you can look out over the sea and plan your next swim.
Bamburgh Beach, Northumberland
If you enjoy taking in the sights as you swim, Bamburgh offers breathtaking views from all directions. The imposing Bamburgh Castle stands guard to the rear of the beach, while the Farne islands are visible across the water to one end of the bay, and Holy Island, with its own castle, to the other. This 1.5 mile stretch of coast is great for getting in some distance, and with gently sloping sands, it’s also ideal for less confident swimmers.
Bamburgh was voted Britain’s favourite beach in a survey carried out by Which? magazine in 2021, and it’s easy to see why. The views are epic, and its pure white sands are often compared to the Caribbean. Despite its popularity, this broad stretch of sand has room for everyone, so it rarely seems crowded. After your swim, you can simply rest on the beach and soak up the atmosphere, or go for a leisurely stroll among the dunes.
Lunan Bay, Angus
Beautiful Lunan Bay is the recipient of a Scottish Beach Award, which recognises the country’s cleanest, best-managed and most sustainable beaches. The water quality is consistently rated excellent, and the beach is always popular with swimmers. Children and less confident swimmers should stay close to the shore to avoid strong swells, but there is also plenty to do back on the beach, from bird-watching to horse-riding, to simply enjoying the view. Backed by rolling sand dunes and the ruins of the once-formidable Red Castle, this stunning Scottish beach is a sight worth savouring, and if you look out to sea, you might even spot a dolphin or a Harbour Porpoise.
If you’re looking for local accommodation and a warm welcome, you’ll love the Bamse B&B, in the nearby town of Montrose. This friendly, family-run guesthouse offers beautifully-furnished rooms within a characterful town house, and a home-cooked breakfast in the mornings.
Barafundle Bay, Pembrokeshire
A hidden gem on The Pembrokeshire coast, Barafundle consistently appears on top 10 beaches lists, thanks to its breathtaking natural beauty. Backed by a pine forest and sand dunes, it has a secluded, tranquil air, while its pristine sands and crystal-clear waters rival any in the world. The curve of the surrounding rocks means that the bay is well protected from ocean swells, so it’s relatively safe for swimming despite the lack of lifeguards, and those turquoise waters are simply irresistible!
Five miles away, just outside the historic town of Pembroke, The Old Stables offers luxury cottage accommodation, overlooking green fields. The cottage is elegantly furnished, with a large outdoor area featuring a barbecue and fire pit.
Runswick Bay, North Yorkshire
Backed by Jurassic cliffs and the picture-postcard former fishing village of Runswick, Runswick Bay (also known as Runswick Sands), is another beauty spot that’s ideal for swimming. The water quality is classed as excellent, and there are lifeguards in operation daily for most of July and August. In fact, humans aren’t the only species to enjoy swimming in these waters; seals are a common sight in and around Runswick bay, and you may also spot pods of dolphins in the distance, or even a humpback whale if you’re very lucky.
Broadsands Beach, North Devon
Not to be confused with its South Devon namesake, Broadsands near Ilfracombe is a little-known cove, accessed only by a long flight of steps down the side of the cliffs. The water is clear and blue, and the cliffs protect you from strong currents, so you can relax and swim surrounded by a secret paradise. There are no facilities at Broadsands, so bring everything you need with you, but remember to pack light, as everything needs to go back up those stairs, including any rubbish. Broadsands is a place for getting back to nature, and all you’ll want to do is laze about in the water and look up at the towering cliffs covered in lush greenery. Bring a bite to eat, suncream, a towel and something to lie on - you won’t really need anything else.
Whiterocks Beach, County Antrim
Blue Flag award-winning Whiterocks offers a breathtaking backdrop to your swim, with two miles of golden, sandy beach, backed by giant sand dunes and white limestone cliffs, some of which have worn away to form unique, sculptural rock formations. Also popular with surfers and other water sports enthusiasts, the waters around Whiterocks can get a little choppy, but there are lifeguards on patrol daily from mid-June through August, and at weekends only during May and early June. After your swim, take a walk along the cliffs and enjoy the panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean, the Causeway Coast, and the Islands of Scotland.
Overlooking Whiterocks beach, and enjoying the same Atlantic views, you will find Prospect House B&B, a friendly, family-run guesthouse with cosy rooms and a traditional Irish breakfast each morning.
If you’re ready to take the plunge at one of the UK’s beautiful beaches, make your stay a memorable one with savings on your holiday accommodation, courtesy of hoo. With hotels, guesthouses and cottages all across the country, your next staycation is just a click away.