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The best beaches for sun-soaking and swims in the UK and Ireland

Swap pricey European breaks for a seaside escape closer to home, says Sarah Marshall.

(Hastings Hotels/PA)

It may not measure up to the Amalfi Coast or the French Riviera when it comes to water temperature and hours of sunshine, but the coastlines around the UK, Ireland and the Channel Islands can be just as captivating.

With good weather on the horizon, there’s never been a better time to discover and appreciate the beaches on our doorstep. Here are some of the top sandy spots for lazing, bathing and strolling.

Saye Beach, Alderney


Who: Nature lovers.

Why: One of the lesser-known Channel Islands, Alderney is still far enough from the beaten track to have crowd-free stretches of sand. A gleaming white horseshoe bay, Saye – on the northeast coast of the island – is one of the most attractive spots. Walk through a campsite and over sand dunes to access the area, where oyster catchers and the occasional grey seal can be found frolicking in the surf.

What to do: Measuring just 2.4 by 5km in size, the island is easy to explore. Hike through nature reserves, take a boat trip to see puffin colonies on neighbouring Burhou, or ride the Channel Islands’ only railway to the Mannez Lighthouse. Visit between August 7-12 to see circus performers and parades at the annual Alderney Week carnival.

Where to stay: The Blonde Hedgehog ( is a collection of 18th century buildings transformed into a boutique Georgian retreat. From £160 per night with breakfast. Book through F&P Travel (; 01306 264 006).

Llandudno Bay, Wales

North Shore Promenade, Llandudno (Visit Wales/PA)

Who: Children and fantasy fans.

Why: Masters of great architecture, the Victorians were also a dab hand at constructing promenades. One of the UK’s most impressive coastal walkways can be found in North Wales at Llandudno Bay. Originally 74m long when it opened in 1858, it was later extended and now stands at 700m. Funfair rides, a Ferris wheel and cafes can be found along the front. Or step down to the water for a walk along the pebbly beach.

What to do: Alice Liddell, Lewis Carroll’s real-life inspiration for Alice In Wonderland, spent many summer holidays on Llandudno’s West Shore. Pick up a map from the tourist information office to discover statues and sites connected to the classic tale. Along the Grade II listed promenade, Professor Codman’s Punch and Judy also still takes place. Performed for more than 160 years, it’s one of the longest running shows in the country.

Where to stay: Lewis Carroll supposedly penned part of his famous story at the seafront St George’s Hotel. Napoleon and Sir Winston Churchill are two of the famous faces who have stayed in the 81-room property. From £128 per night (two sharing), including breakfast through

Bream Cove, Cornwall

Who: Families.

Why: The West Country has stacks of sensational swimming and sunbathing spots – but finding an empty space to throw your towel down becomes a challenge during busy summer months. Accessed via a short woodland walk near Mawnan Smith village, this southeast-facing, secluded sand and shingle cove is one of the few remaining secret hideaways – a refreshing relief from the busy Falmouth town beaches. The calm waters are great for snorkelling and paddleboarding, while it’s also one of the few places in the area where dogs are allowed in the summer.

What to do: Hire a paddleboard from Little Wolf Adventures (2.5-hour private tours from £60 per adult and £30 per child under 14, including a picnic stop; Afterwards, head for a coffee at the Bream Box (horse box cafe at the end of Hotel Meudon) or walk along the South West Coast Path towards Rosemullion Head and the Helford River, an important area of marine conservation.

Where to stay: Set within sprawling sub-tropical gardens, Hotel Meudon has a superb terrace for enjoying afternoon tea or sunset cocktails. Rooms from £129 per night (two sharing), including breakfast. Visit

Ballygally Beach, Northern Ireland

Who: History buffs and Wim Hof wannabes.

Why: Stretching for 300km, this beach has won awards for its cleanliness, choice of facilities and the quality of its water for bathing. In the distance, Scotland and the Mull of Kintyre are visible on a clear day.

What to do: Aside from swimming and strolling along the seaweed and boulder-strewn sands, there are many attractions in the area. An hour’s drive north, the Giant’s Causeway’s 40,000 interlocking basalt columns have inspired legends of giants straddling the sea. Head inland to The Glens, an area of outstanding natural beauty, or take a walk around Carnfunnock Country Park located between Drains Bay and Ballygally.

Where to stay: Built in 1625, Ballygally Castle overlooks the beach and is one of the largest hotels on the Causeway Coastal Route. A new Sea Dips & Hot Sips overnight package provides guests with everything they need for a bracing swim in the North Channel. From €260/£224 for two people, including breakfast, hire of dry robe, slippers, hot water bottle and thermos flask. Visit



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