Looking for the best British seaside holidays? Need a seaside break? Read our guide to the best British seaside holidays, from Devon to North Norfolk.
The genteel coastal town of Deal, on the Kent coast, has gone hip in recent years, attracting artists and second-homers from Hackney and Dalston, who can bomb down to “Dealston” in just over an hour thanks to a fast train service from St Pancras.
Sleep: The Rose is a renovated Victorian inn on Deal’s high street. Downstairs is a bar, restaurant and lounge full of bright vintage furniture, while upstairs are eight bedrooms, each painted in a unique bold hue, inspired by the bright beach balls and deckchairs of the local seaside, just a few steps away.
Breakfast is impressive at The Rose. There’s a relaxed vibe in the morning, with magazine and papers piled high and the menu chalked on a blackboard. Vegetarians can fill up on roast mushrooms, oregano, goats cheese and toast, while the Nordically inclined can opt for the Scandi breakfast plate –smoked salmon with avocado, egg, dill, whipped cream cheese and toast.
Eat: The Dealston vibe continues in the kitchen at The Rose, offering British comfort food with a fresh Aussie feel to many of the dishes, like chicken schnitzel jazzed up with fennel slaw, and a creative veggie option of violet artichokes, white beans and dandelion and goats curd. Most of the produce comes from local Deal businesses, including sausages from the Black Pig Butcher across the street, fish from Jenkins Fishmonger and veg from the town’s Bartlett & White greengrocer.
Stop for brunch, coffee or cake at Black Douglas Coffee House, for ice cream at 1960s-style Deal Beach Parlour or for fish and chips at Middle Street Fish Bar. For pan-fried skate wing with brown butter, sherry vinegar and cockles there’s French bistro Frog and Scot.
Do: Deal’s shingle beach, fronted by multi-coloured fisherman’s cottages, is five minutes’ walk from the hotel; walk to Walmer Castle at one end and visit Deal Pier on your way back.
Read our full review of The Rose here
Babbacombe is the kind of place Agatha Christie might have sent a recuperating character to: there’s Devon sunshine, blue seas, charming Oddicombe beach (made private by the shelter of a steep, tree-lined cliff) and even an art deco funicular railway linking the beach to Babbacombe’s pretty clifftop green. Standing sentinel over all of this is the Cary Arms, squeezed inside the curve of the bay directly above the beach.
Sleep: The Cary Arms dates back to the 1800s and feels custom-designed to embrace the view. Bedrooms (some dog-friendly) have a fresh, coastal feel. If there are more of you than two, rent one of the adjoining blue-and-white fisherman’s cottages that come with log fires and fancy bathrooms.
Or, for a romantic weekend, book one of the inn’s beach huts. Inside these duplex suites is a private sitting room and bathroom with a mezzanine bedroom upstairs and nothing but the sparkling English Channel in front.
Eat: This must be the most tranquil place for a pint in Devon; the view stretches to Portland Bill in Dorset and takes in the pink-soil cliffs of the English Riviera and an old pier where both seals and locals like to fish.
The panorama changes depending on where you sit – tables inside the conservatory and the circular ‘captain’s table’ outside are particularly lovely. Also outside is a series of terraces separated by rock gardens while, inside, it’s all log fire cosiness, with tables pointing seawards and shiny nautical brassware.
For breakfast, try grilled kippers or the Devon full English, for lunch a Brixham battered fish and chips with crushed peas. Dinner centres around fish – pick one of the chef’s specials for the freshest catch, delicately poached John Dory, perhaps, or Lyme Bay lobster. The wine list is extensive, as is the local gin selection which includes Black Dog, Wicked Wolf Exmoor and Salcombe.
Do: Walk along Oddicombe beach via a wooden walkway to reach the funicular (look out for crabs skirting the rock pools below) and catch a ride up the cliffs.
Book your stay at The Cary Arms here
For more information see The Cary Arms or visitdevon.co.uk
Tell someone you’re going to Aberdovey and the reply tends to be “Abu Dhabi? Lucky you, off to the sun.” It’s not so much visitors in the Arabian Gulf who are fortunate, however, but those who make a beeline for this picturesque estuary village in Snowdonia, on the west coast of Wales.
Whether in bright sunshine or under dishwater skies, the coastline always seems picture-perfect. For walkers and dog-owners there are miles of wind-whipped sand and dunes to wander (often deserted outside the peak summer months) and, directly behind the village, rolling green hills leading off towards the sky. You can try your hand at all manner of watersports. And Aberdovey itself is a creative little place, with art galleries, cafés and a deli.
Sleep: For a mixed generation get-together, book one of four self-catering houses at the Trefeddian Hotel (choose between two more expensive ‘Seascape’ houses – newer, shinier and right beside the hotel – or two more affordable properties set just apart from the hotel in a row of stately old Victorian terraces). A family-friendly retreat with modern touches, the hotel makes the most of its quiet, out-of-town position; many of the hotel rooms and some of the cottages have balconies offering uninterrupted views across Cardigan Bay.
Self-catering guests can use all the hotel facilities, which include a great children’s games room and swimming pool. There is also a restaurant on-site so, if you’re staying in one of the cottages, you can eat both in or (if you have babysitting-willing grandparents in tow) out.
Eat: Aberdovey has a fish restaurant, pubs and a decent fish and chip shop, but it’s worth booking a table at the Salt Marsh Kitchen in neighbouring Tywyn. This small bistro is particularly good on fish and local meat; check the specials board for adeptly-cooked scallops, mussels or lobster. Or, for fine dining, drive half an hour around the coast to Michelin-starred Ynyshir Hall for chef Gareth Ward’s elegant tasting menus which focus on ingredient led, flavour driven, Japanese-influenced cooking.
Do: It’s all about the shoreline here, whether you want to paint it, sail it or walk it. If you really don’t want to step outside, hunker down at the Trefeddian with a Welsh afternoon tea: buttered bara brith, homemade Welsh cakes and tea or coffee.
Get great deals on Trefeddian Hotel here
Self-catering rates at the Trefeddian Hotel start from £375 for eight people for seven nights. More info: visitsnowdonia.info
Imagine Cornwall, only quieter. Much of The Kingdom of Fife, just over the Forth Bridge from Edinburgh, is neat farmland and its coastline is peppered with sand and old stone villages. Harbours team with fishing trawlers unloading creels of langoustine and lobster, and lanes are lined with fancy farm shops and Italian ice-cream cafés (check out Jannettas in St Andrews): in summer Fife feels like a giant picnic hamper.
In the heart of it, in the village of Elie, is The Ship Inn. A local institution, it’s had a revamp with an upstairs restaurant and six contemporary bedrooms. In the pub, dogs lie in front of a roaring fire, seafaring photos hang on the walls and a beer garden just above the beach is perfect for a sundowner (try a local Eden Mill gin and tonic). This is old-fashioned bucket-and-spade territory. Go cockling on the shore, build sandcastles, tuck into a pub barbecue or walk out along Fife’s Coastal Path.
Sleep: The Ship’s bedrooms are decked out in fresh, coastal style with a smattering of junk-shop finds. Bedside tables are made from stacks of old suitcases. Walls are clad with aquamarine tongue-and-groove and the seaside vibe is accentuated by old wooden oars, rope ladders and glass buoys. Contemporary comfort comes from roll-top baths, monsoon showers, flat-screen TVs, espresso machines and free WiFi. From the window seat of the top-floor ‘Admiral’ room you can gaze down on dog-walkers weaving across the village’s broad, sandy beach.
Eat: Famous for its fish and chips, the inn champions Scottish seafood and local shellfish (the crab, lobster and langoustine are landed at nearby Pittenweem). You can tuck into pub grub, bangers and mash-style, or opt for smoked mackerel pâté with toasted sourdough followed by breaded lemon sole with Jersey Royal potatoes, asparagus, peas and chives.
Do: Watch a game of cricket from the beer garden. The inn is the only pub in Britain to have a cricket team with a pitch on the beach; this year’s cricket festival takes place from 26 – 28 July.
Check out available rooms at The Ship Inn here
Double rooms at The Ship Inn start from £100, b&b. More info: foodfromfife.co.uk
Isle of Wight
Brits have been holidaying in the Isle of Wight’s resorts since Victorian times and its sun-soaked charm remains. On the island’s southern tip you can stay in a hotel (The Royal) that the Michelin Guide has recommended every year since it was first published in 1911. But skip over to Newport or Cowes and you’ll find ambitious young restaurateurs using island produce in modern sleek recipes.
Sleep: Afternoon tea served on manicured lawns and a lofty dining room that looks as if it once doubled as a ballroom show that The Royal hasn’t lost its Victorian feel. Bedrooms enjoy the same ambience and most are painted sky blue to complement the views of Ventnor Bay, a five-minute walk away.
At the opposite end of the scale, The Little Gloster, in Cowes, takes inspiration from co-owner Ben Cooke’s Danish grandmother. Set against The Solent, a stretch of water usually peppered with sailboats, it looks like an unfussy little bungalow from the outside, but inside, its clean, white interiors are illuminated, Scandinavian-style, by candlelight. The three suites here are chic but cosy; lounge on squashy cushions on your veranda and watch the yachts.
Eat: The Royal’s traditional dining room belies the kitchen’s clever, delicate cooking. Try whipped goat’s cheese with beetroot sponge, or roasted pollock with fricassée of spring vegetables and pea velouté. For a more modern menu, head to Thompson’s in Newport.
Chef Robert Thompson’s first solo venture, you can watch him in his tiny open-plan kitchen producing dishes such as soy marinated hens egg with local asparagus, toasted sesame seed mayonnaise and pickled ginger. Not surprisingly, The Little Gloster offers a subtly Scandinavian-inspired menu – try house-cured gravadlax with sprouted spelt bread, or catch-of-the-day with tempura coriander.
Do: Take in the beauty of Tennyson Down (the poet lived on the island for over a decade) on a walk from The Needles to Freshwater Bay, stopping off at Dimbola Lodge for fat scones with jam and cream.
Click here to book your stay at The Royal
Double rooms at The Royal start from £195, b&b and at The Little Gloster from £130, b&b. Return vehicle ferry crossings from Southampton to East Cowes cost from £48.50 (redfunnel.co.uk). More info: visitisleofwight.co.uk
With its cinematic beaches and big skies, the North Norfolk coast has long drawn walkers, cocklers, twitchers and bucket-and-spaders. But, increasingly, visitors are lured there by food. Norfolk’s north-west is especially flavour-intense. Thornham is home to the Orange Tree (Norfolk Dining Pub of the Year 2018), tiny Titchwell has its award-winning Manor (more on that later).
At mast-clanking Brancaster Staithe, the freshest mussels and local smoked fish are stuffed into baguettes at the Crab Hut. And, amongst the pretty flint-and-brick cottages of Burnham Market, you can buy potted shrimp from Gurneys Fishmonger and Norfolk pork pies from Humble Pie Deli.
Sleep: Handsome redbrick Titchwell Manor gazes across the marshes to The Wash. Formerly a farmhouse, built by Oxford’s Magdalen College in 1897, it’s now a smart 31-room hotel that marries Victorian stateliness with bold, modern brio. The manor guestrooms are a riot of statement wallpaper, vintage pieces and acid colours. There are calmer blue-white or neutral retreats in the converted outbuildings, arranged around the herb garden; best is The Potting Shed, a standalone hideaway with log burner, veranda and roll-top bath.
Eat: Head chef Eric Snaith, whose family bought Titchwell Manor when he was a boy, learned on the job. Like its rooms, Titchwell’s kitchen caters for all tastes. Robust bar staples in the hotel’s Eating Rooms offer counterpoint to the Conservatory’s inventive menus and monthly supper clubs (think everything from Crab Shack night to a Norfolk asparagus celebration).
In nearby Thornham, Eric’s Fish & Chips, opened by Snaith in 2015, elevates the old coastal faves: sustainable fish in beer batter, IPA pickled onions and pineapple fritters.
Do: Hire binoculars and explore Titchwell Marsh RSPB Reserve – trails run alongside the wetlands to the beach and state-of-the-art hides. In summer, look for marsh harriers gliding over the reeds and avocets on the lagoons.
Book your stay at Titchwell Manor here
Double rooms at Titchwell Manor start from £130, b&b, or £205, dinner, b&b. More info: visitnorthnorfolk.com
Isle of Mull, Scotland
Sleep: With undisturbed views of Craignure Bay, Pennygate Lodge has six cosy bedrooms, each one peppered with unique touches, from antique furniture to artwork from the owners’ collection. Take breakfast, dinner and drinks in the traditional dining room and make the most of the island gin selection, from Shetland Reel to Misty Isle.
Eat: There can’t be many restaurants in Britain where you have to hail a ferry to get there by flashing a red card from the opposite shore. But The Boathouse on Ulva, just off Scotland’s Isle of Mull, is just such a place. Order the Fisherman’s Catch, a shellfish platter complete with salty oysters, fresh langoustines and squat lobsters. If seafood is your catch, head for lunch at The Creel and dig into Isle of Mull scallop and Stornoway black pudding rolls. Ninth Wave marries sustainably sourced seafood with unusual flavours and ingredients, so expect warm crab soufflé-style cheesecake starter and a sarsaparilla cordial and chocolate cake pudding.
Do: Go for a bracing wall along Calgary Bay stopping off at Calgary Café and Gallery for quiches, warm scones and slices of carrot cake.
Check out available rooms at Pennygate Lodge here
Read our full Isle of Mull guide here
Sleep: Hip hotel Gara Rock, perched on a cliff over the harbour from Salcombe, has 12 rustic-chic bedrooms, a relaxed restaurant with sun terrace, indoor and outdoor heated pools, and a clutch of stylish self-catering family-friendly cottages – all of which are cleverly positioned to make the most of magnificent coastal views.
Eat: Gara Rock’s restaurant and terrace offers a relaxed vibe, a limited but reliable menu that caters for all culinary persuasions, and panoramic vistas through floor-to-ceiling windows (tables 115 or 117 have uninterrupted views). Lancashire-born Chris promises coastal cooking with a northern twist, weaving in personal favourites such as Ampleforth Abbey cider, Lancashire Bomb cheddar, black pudding, and sweets including Bakewell Tart, Eccles and lardy cakes.
In Salcombe itself, tuck into chargrilled scallops at cheery, bunting-garlanded beach café, The Winking Prawn. Overbeck’s, a National Trust property, serves a mean cream tea in tropical gardens overlooking the estuary.
Do: Work up an appetite with a 45-minute coastal walk from Gara Rock to sandy Mill Bay beach, refuel at the cute little Venus beach café, then hop on the jaunty passenger ferry from East Portlemouth to Salcombe, where you can make your own gin at Salcombe Gin and watch ice-cream being made at Salcombe Dairy.
Book a stay at Gara Rock here
Read our full review of Gara Rock here