What ruins a lovely family day at the beach? Other people of course! Luckily, the UK has some truly gorgeous hidden beaches up its sleeve, perfect for you and the kids to enjoy a tourist-free day in the sunshine.
15/15 Broad Sands Beach, Devon
This double cove on Devon’s wild north coast is nestled in wooded cliffs. Known as one of Exmouth’s best swimming spots, the bay also has secret caves to explore and the beaches are sheltered from the wind. Older kids will love exploring the island lookout; just be aware that Broad Sands is a ‘wild’ beach with no lifeguards.
This is one to escape to if you’re feeling adventurous with a hamper full of sandwiches and a flask of tea; there is no cafe and the pathway down to the sand is 200 steep stairs.
14/15 Worbarrow Bay, Dorset
Just a short walk from ‘the village where time stopped’, Worbarrow Bay hides a rich and melancholy history. In 1943 villagers were forced to abandon their homes to make space for a military training area. Today visitors can take a look around the village on the way to Worbarrow.
After soaking up the history, stroll down to the coast where the perfect curve of the bay, blue water and golden sands will take your breath away. Access is limited as the area is still used by the army, but visitors can usually come on weekends and public holidays.
13/15 Bosahan Cove, Cornwall
There are three ways to access this hidden treasure of a cove, but car is not one of them. Stroll through the unique sub-tropical gardens of the Bosahan estate with its own micro-climate; bring a small boat or hike the mile-long coastal path.
The pale driftwood sitting on top of the sands and the dense woodland surrounding the cove makes Bosahan truly one in a million. Nestled on the southern-banks of the Helford River it is a must-visit on any holiday to Cornwall.
12/15 Three Cliffs Bay, The Gower Peninsula, Wales
The picturesque bay is accessed via a walk through the sand dunes on to the vast expanse of flat sand. The salt marsh and limestone surroundings as well as hollowed-out rock caves and pools make a fantastic base from which to explore nature.
When the tide comes in, a natural river forms to one side of the beach. Grab a snorkel and see if you can find the flatfish and baby cod that come up river for a swim. Lifeguards are on duty full time during the Easter and summer holidays and on weekends in May and June, and there are toilets nearby.
11/15 Lulworth Cove, Dorset
This heavenly beach is nestled in the chocolate-box village of Lulworth. The cove was formed over 10,000 years ago and continues to evolve as the sea erodes the soft chalk that is typical of Dorset beaches. Grab some lunch from local restaurants on the way to the beach before spending some time paddling or jump in a motorboat to explore the gorgeous coastline.
On the way back, pick up some treats from the old-fashioned sweet shop, hang a bucket on the colourful ‘bucket tree’ or stop in the fantastic Lulworth Heritage Centre for educational exhibits and activities.
10/15 Steephill Cove, Isle of Wight
Step back in time and into the pages of an Enid Blyton novel with a visit to Steephill Cove in the Isle of Wight. Forget the slot machines and flashing lights of the modern seaside resort, Steephill is the place to be if you want to watch children make sandcastles or see fishermen bringing in their haul.
Sample the freshest crab and lobster from the nearby restaurants or go traditional and try a crab pasty. Walk to the Needles or the nearby botanical gardens for a change of scene and more stunning nature.
9/15 Frensham Ponds, Surrey
These two National Trust owned ponds were originally created in the 13th century to supply fish to the Bishop of Winchester; now they are home to fine sandy beaches, perfect for a family day trip on sunny days.
There are car parks at both of the ponds as well as toilets, wheelchair-accessible facilities and refreshment stands. Dogs and barbecues aren’t allowed on the beach, making Frensham an ideal spot for families with very young children.
8/15 Llangennith beach, The Gower Peninsula, Wales
Another gem on the Welsh coast, Llangennith is the place to be if you have budding surfers in the family. Hailed as one of the top 10 surf spots in the UK, you can be sure of some good waves for boogie boarding. Relax on the sand and watch the kite-surfers do their thing or pick up a board and give it a go yourself; just watch out for the shipwrecks hiding just below the waterline.
The sand dunes are covered in beautiful heather and are the perfect place to look for lizards and other wildlife. There is a nearby cafe and toilets, and dogs are welcome on the beach so the whole family can enjoy a day together.
7/15 Port Nam Murrag, Arisaig, Scotland
Another favourite for open water swimmers, this Scottish gem is the treasure at the end of a scenic coastal walk. Bring wellies to splash through the marshy areas and guide books for dipping into the plentiful rockpools.
The small, sandy cove has beautiful turquoise water that is perfect for a swim; just remember that there are no lifeguards and look out for rocks beneath the surface. Alternatively bring a kayak and explore the stunning local coastline; the beaches face south and are often sheltered from the harsher winds.
6/15 Mwnt Beach, Wales
Owned by the National Trust, Mwnt Beach is one of the few places in the UK where visitors can spot wild bottlenose dolphins at play. There is a small shop and cafe, perfect for picking up a picnic and enjoying the scenery in the place that was voted Country Life’s favourite picnic spot.
Take a walk up to the 14th century clifftop church that was once an ancient pilgrimage site or grab a pair of binoculars and see if you can spot porpoises, dolphins or even basking sharks!
5/15 Mellon Udrigle, Scotland
Worth a visit just so you have an excuse to say the name, Mellon Udrigle is one of the most unique beaches in the UK. Visitors will be able to spot Suilven and Stac Pollaidh mountains amongst the stunning range that is the backdrop to this beach.
Meander through the sleepy seaside hamlet down to the white sands and bring a camera to ensure you capture the gorgeous views. For those who love a coastal walk, you will be rewarded with incredible sights such as the Isle of Lewis on a clear day.
4/15 Castlerock Beach, Londonderry, Northern Ireland
Boasting some of the oldest dated sand dunes in Northern Ireland, this small beach is ideal for wildlife lovers. The dunes run up to a National Trust bird sanctuary and are themselves a haven for small animals.
No wonder, then, that Castlerock is considered an Area of Special Scientific Interest and Special Area of Conservation, and its protection means that the surrounding areas are tranquil and quiet. For a special treat look out for seals and porpoises feeding in the nearby estuary in Barmouth.
3/15 Hive Beach, Burton Bradstock, Dorset
Located along the Jurassic coast, Hive beach is as popular with locals as it is with holiday makers. Arrive via one of the walking trails that meanders through unspoilt countryside and take in the lush greenery of the Dorset coast. Visitors are welcome to fish or swim at the beach and there is ample parking that is free for National Trust members.
The highlight of the beach is its award-winning seafood cafe, where everything from king prawns to traditional fish and chips is served in style and with a fine view of the ocean.
2/15 Gaddings Dam, Yorkshire
Living far from the coast doesn’t mean forgoing a beach holiday! Locally-owned Gaddings Dam is home to the highest beach in the UK at 780 feet above sea level. It is a half-hour’s walk to access the beach so baby carriers are a good idea for families with young children.
The views on the walk are of the breathtaking Yorkshire countryside and it is well worth the effort for a refreshing dip on a hot day.
1/15 Speke’s Mill Mouth, Hartland, North Devon
Come and view the spectacular Milford waterfall (Devon’s highest!) at Speke’s Mill Mouth in North Devon. Stretching up 48 metres, the falls cascade over three sections from the wildflower-topped high cliffs down to the rocks of the beach below.
Aside from the waterfall, the hanging valleys and magnificent coastal scenery make an incredible backdrop to any beach holiday. Speke’s Mill Mouth is particularly known for its abundant wildlife, so bring a National Trust guide for the kids and immerse yourselves in nature.