When it comes to Britain’s beaches, it’s not all rain-soaked pebbles and windy walks; with thousands of miles of varied UK coastline, you don’t have to travel to far-flung places to find white sand and crystalline seas.
Instead, prepare to be surprised by some positively tropical scenery on any of the UK’s most exotic-looking beaches.
Porthcurno Beach is a small Cornish cove found between two rocky headlands, lapped by teal-blue waves and with sand so fine, it wouldn’t feel out of place on a Greek island. Carved into the granite cliffside behind the beach, you’ll find the remarkable open-air Minack Theatre, where a summer programme of Shakespearean and classic plays are put on with an unforgettable Atlantic Ocean backdrop. At low tide, you can paddle from Porthcurno through the shallows and walk across the sandbars to find other small, sandy stretches around the bay. Stay in the nearby port town of Penzance at Trereife House, a manor house dating back to the reign of Elizabeth I that’s only a 20-minute drive from the beach.
This wide, perfectly-curved crescent of brilliant white sand feels reminiscent of the Philippines, yet is actually a remote and contemplative spot in the Scottish Highlands. And it’s gorgeous even with grey and moody skies, when wind whips up the seas and porpoises bob their heads out of the choppy water. Stay just a 15-minute drive from the beach, at Mountview Pod, a wooden cabin overlooking Loch Inver with a terrace, hot tub and stove barbecue.
Luskentyre, the Outer Hebrides
It’s often said of Luskentyre that you could be in the Caribbean if it wasn’t for the difference in temperature. You can reach this blissful beach by driving down a winding, rocky road on the wild coast of the Isle of Harris. Visit at low tide, when more of the powder-fine, gleaming white sand is exposed, lapped gently by azure water and backed by sand dunes with grass that ripples in the wind. It’s a remote spot, and you’ll often find you’re the only people here, occasionally accompanied by the beach’s two resident white wild horses. Stay right on the coast in the pretty Harris White Cottage.
Rhossili Beach, Wales
Regularly receiving accolades as the best beach in Europe or in the top ten beaches in the world, Rhossili lies at the tip of the Gower Peninsula. Yet its 3-mile-long, broad, golden sands, pristine surf and grassy cliffs facing the sea could be in Australia. A favourite of Welsh writer and poet, Dylan Thomas, this romantic bay offers up midnight blue and orange sunsets, as well as coastal walks over the cliffs. Visible on the beach at low tide are the remains of the Helvetia, a ship wrecked in 1887. The strawberry-coloured Western House is only a short drive from Rhossili Bay.
Man O’War Beach, Dorset
The Man O’War beach (a local name on account of its shape resembling the deadly jellyfish, not presence of the creature in the water) is a calm, Mediterranean-esque bay between sloping hills. Reaching the water’s edge, you’ll often spot some people snorkeling around the rocks at either end. Walk around the whole bay for sweeping views of turquoise sea and curved sands. Enjoy the sound of the waves from your suite at Lulworth Lodge Hotel, which is a 6-minute drive or half an hour’s walk from Man O’War Beach.