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The Ultimate Guide to UK’s 12 Favorite Seaside Towns

The Ultimate Guide to UK’s 12 Favorite Seaside Towns

The United Kingdom’s coastline is full of charming seaside towns, each with its own unique magic. From the rugged cliffs of Scotland to the tranquil beaches of Cornwall, the UK’s seaside towns offer a blend of historical richness, culinary delights, and breathtaking natural beauty. This guide explores the essence of coastal living, exploring towns renowned for their maritime heritage, picturesque landscapes, and vibrant local cultures. Whether you’re drawn to ancient harbors, the taste of fresh seafood, or the tranquility of seaside strolls, these destinations promise an immersive journey into the heart of the UK’s coastal charm. 

1. Whitby, North Yorkshire

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Whitby, set against the backdrop of the North Yorkshire Moors, is a town steeped in history and legend, known for its Gothic charm and maritime heritage. The town’s skyline is dominated by the ruins of Whitby Abbey, which inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula, adding a layer of mystique to its cobblestone streets and winding alleys. Whitby’s connection to the sea is palpable, with its bustling harbor, traditional smokehouses, and the annual Whitby Regatta. The town is a gateway to the stunning scenery of the Yorkshire coast, with its dramatic cliffs and expansive beaches. Local cuisine, particularly the world-famous Whitby fish and chips, offers a taste of the sea, while the town’s shops and markets showcase the craftsmanship and creativity of its people.

Insider’s Tip: Take a walk along the East Pier to enjoy panoramic views of the town and harbor, especially beautiful at sunset.

When to Travel: Spring (April to June) and autumn (September to October) are ideal, offering mild weather and fewer crowds.

How to Get There: Whitby is accessible by train from Middlesbrough, with connections from major UK cities. It’s a scenic drive through the North York Moors National Park by car.

2. St Ives, Cornwall

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St Ives is a jewel in Cornwall’s crown, a town where golden beaches meet a vibrant art scene. Once a humble fishing village, St Ives has become a haven for artists, drawn by its unique quality of light and picturesque scenery. The town’s beaches, including the renowned Porthmeor, are perfect for surfing and sunbathing, while its narrow streets are lined with galleries, boutiques, and cozy cafes. The Tate St Ives Gallery and the Barbara Hepworth Museum celebrate the town’s artistic heritage, offering insight into its creative legacy. St Ives also prides itself on its culinary offerings, from freshly caught seafood to Cornish cream teas, reflecting the richness of local produce.

Insider’s Tip: Visit the St Ives Farmers’ Market on Thursdays to sample local Cornish produce and artisanal goods.

When to Travel: Late spring (May to June) and early fall (September) provide the best combination of pleasant weather and manageable tourist numbers.

How to Get There: St Ives is well-connected by train, with a scenic branch line from St Erth, which is on the main line from London Paddington. Driving offers the flexibility to explore Cornwall’s coastline.

3. Brighton, East Sussex

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Brighton is a vibrant coastal city known for its lively atmosphere, rich cultural scene, and inclusive spirit. A favorite escape for Londoners since the Prince Regent (later King George IV) established his exotic palace, the Royal Pavilion, in the late 18th century, Brighton has evolved into a bustling blend of modernity and tradition. The iconic Brighton Pier, with its amusement arcade and Victorian structures, offers classic seaside fun, while the pebbled Brighton Beach is a popular spot for sunbathing, swimming, and water sports. The city’s Lanes are a treasure of independent shops, cafes, and pubs, showcasing the town’s quirky and creative vibe. Brighton’s calendar is packed with events, including the famous Brighton Pride, which celebrates the LGBTQ+ community’s vibrancy.

Insider’s Tip: Explore the lesser-known Kemptown area for its eclectic mix of antique shops, stylish cafes, and lively bars.

When to Travel: May to September offers the best weather for beach activities, while the shoulder seasons (April and October) are quieter but still offer much of Brighton’s charm.

How to Get There: Brighton is easily accessible by train from London Victoria and London Bridge stations, with a journey time of about an hour. Driving from London via the A23/M23 is another option, though parking in the city can be challenging.

4. Tenby, Pembrokeshire, Wales

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Tenby is a picturesque walled town located on the southwest coast of Wales, famed for its sandy beaches, medieval town walls, and colorful Georgian-style houses. This charming town offers a more relaxed pace of life, with its narrow streets leading to quaint shops, traditional pubs, and cafes. Tenby’s harbor, with its bobbing fishing boats, is a starting point for boat trips to Caldey Island, home to a monastery and abundant wildlife. The town is also a gateway to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, known for its spectacular coastal walks and unspoiled natural beauty.

Insider’s Tip: Take a walk on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path for breathtaking views of Tenby and its surroundings. Early morning or late afternoon light offers the best vistas and photo opportunities.

When to Travel: The summer months (June to August) are ideal for enjoying Tenby’s beaches, but spring (April to May) and early autumn (September) are less crowded and equally beautiful.

How to Get There: The nearest train station is in Tenby, which has direct links to Swansea and Cardiff. By car, Tenby is accessible via the A478, offering scenic drives through the Welsh countryside.

5. Portree, Isle of Skye, Scotland

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Portree, the largest town on the Isle of Skye, offers a stunning introduction to the Scottish Highlands’ wild landscapes and rich cultural heritage. Known for its picturesque harbor lined with brightly colored houses, Portree serves as a base for exploring Skye’s rugged terrain, including the famous Old Man of Storr and the Quiraing. The town boasts a selection of local shops, art galleries, and seafood restaurants that highlight the best Scottish produce. Portree’s cultural scene is vibrant, with Gaelic traditions alive in music, language, and local festivals.

Insider’s Tip: Embark on a wildlife boat tour from Portree’s harbor to spot dolphins, seals, and sea eagles in their natural habitat.

When to Travel: May to September is the best time to visit, with longer daylight hours and milder weather, though Skye’s landscapes are dramatically beautiful year-round.

How to Get There: Portree is accessible by road from the mainland via the Skye Bridge. There are bus services from major Scottish cities, and the nearest train stations are in Kyle of Lochalsh and Mallaig, requiring a bus or car journey onwards.

6. Oban, Scotland

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Oban, nestled on the west coast of Scotland, is often referred to as the “Seafood Capital of Scotland,” offering a gateway to the Hebrides islands. This picturesque town is surrounded by dramatic coastal scenery, ancient castles, and distilleries that tell the tale of Scotland’s rich heritage. Oban’s bustling harbor is the town’s lifeline, with ferries departing to the islands and local fishermen bringing in their daily catch, which features prominently in the town’s culinary scene. The Oban Distillery, one of the oldest in Scotland, provides insight into the art of whisky making, a significant aspect of Scottish culture. The town also serves as an excellent base for wildlife tours, with opportunities to see whales, dolphins, and sea eagles.

Insider’s Tip: Climb up to McCaig’s Tower at sunset for panoramic views of the town, the harbor, and the islands beyond.

When to Travel: The best time to visit Oban is during the summer, from June to August, when the weather is milder and the days are longer.

How to Get There: Oban is accessible by train from Glasgow on a scenic route for around 3 hours. Driving from Glasgow via the A82 and A85 also offers stunning landscapes.

7. Southwold, Suffolk

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Southwold, a quintessential English seaside town in Suffolk, boasts a charming lighthouse, a bustling pier, and colorful beach huts that line its sandy beach. This town captures the spirit of a bygone era, with its independent shops, traditional pubs, and a renowned brewery, Adnams, at its heart. Southwold’s conservation area ensures that the town retains its historic character, offering a peaceful retreat from modern life. The Southwold Pier features unique attractions and eateries, while the Adnams Brewery tour is a must for beer enthusiasts. The surrounding Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty provide ample opportunities for coastal walks and nature exploration.

Insider’s Tip: Visit the Southwold Sailor’s Reading Room, an unusual maritime museum that offers a glimpse into the town’s seafaring past.

When to Travel: Spring (April to June) and autumn (September to October) are ideal, offering pleasant weather and avoiding the peak summer crowds.

How to Get There: Southwold is best reached by car, as the nearest train station is in Darsham, 10 miles away, requiring a bus or taxi transfer to Southwold.

8. Llandudno, Wales

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Llandudno, Wales’s largest seaside resort, retains an air of Victorian and Edwardian elegance with its grand promenade, historic pier, and Great Orme, a striking limestone headland. The town is a harmonious blend of natural beauty and architectural charm, offering attractions such as the Great Orme Tramway and the Llandudno Cable Car for stunning views of the Irish Sea and Snowdonia National Park. Llandudno’s beaches, North Shore and West Shore provide different seaside experiences, from traditional family fun to tranquil walks. The town’s thriving arts scene, including the MOSTYN gallery, adds a contemporary touch to its historical backdrop.

Insider’s Tip: Take a leisurely walk around Marine Drive, a scenic toll road that circles the Great Orme, offering breathtaking views and encounters with local wildlife.

When to Travel: May to September provides the best weather for enjoying all of Llandudno’s outdoor attractions.

How to Get There: Llandudno has its own train station with direct links to major cities like Manchester and Liverpool. The town is also easily accessible by car via the North Wales Expressway (A55).

9. Torquay, Devon

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Torquay, located on the English Riviera in Devon, is famed for its sunny climate, palm-lined seafront, and sandy beaches. This town has a rich literary history as the birthplace of Agatha Christie, celebrated through various landmarks and the annual International Agatha Christie Festival. Torquay’s marina is a hub of activity, offering boat trips, watersports, and a glimpse into the town’s nautical heritage. The town’s prehistoric caves, Kents Cavern, provide a fascinating journey into its ancient past. Torquay also prides itself on its vibrant nightlife, with many restaurants, bars, and clubs catering to all tastes.

Insider’s Tip: Explore the Agatha Christie Mile to visit locations that inspired the famed author, including her childhood home and favorite swimming spot.

When to Travel: The summer months (June to August) are perfect for making the most of Torquay’s beaches and outdoor activities.

How to Get There: The easiest way to reach Torquay is by train, with direct services from London Paddington and other major cities. By road, the M5 and A380 lead directly to Torquay.

10. Bournemouth, Dorset

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Bournemouth, set on the Dorset coast, is celebrated for its seven miles of golden beaches, Victorian architecture, and vibrant cultural scene. This bustling town blends the charm of a classic British seaside resort with the energy of a modern city. Bournemouth’s gardens, stretching from the beach to the town center, offer a beautiful green oasis perfect for leisurely walks or picnics. The town’s commitment to the arts is evident in its many festivals, galleries, and theaters. Adventure seekers will find plenty to do, from water sports off Boscombe Beach to exploring the coastline’s stunning natural formations, like the nearby Durdle Door.

Insider’s Tip: Take a day trip to the Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage site, to explore England’s dramatic prehistoric coastline and discover fossils.

When to Travel: The warmest months of June to August are ideal for beachgoers, though September offers milder weather and fewer crowds, perfect for exploring the outdoors.

How to Get There: Bournemouth is easily accessible by train from London Waterloo station. By car, the M27 and A31 provide direct routes from London and the southeast.

11. St Andrews, Fife, Scotland

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St Andrews, widely known as the “Home of Golf,” offers much more than its world-famous golf courses. This historic town on the east coast of Fife boasts stunning beaches, medieval ruins, and a prestigious university, making it a unique blend of ancient history, scholarly prestige, and coastal charm. With its sweeping views of the North Sea, West Sands Beach provides a dramatic backdrop for walks and outdoor activities. St Andrews’ rich cultural heritage is explored through its castle, cathedral ruins, and the oldest university in Scotland, offering a glimpse into the town’s storied past.

Insider’s Tip: For a change of pace, visit the Eden Mill, Scotland’s first single-site brewery and distillery, for a tour and tasting of local gin, whisky, and beer.

When to Travel: Late spring (May to June) and early autumn (September to October) offer mild weather and fewer tourists, ideal for enjoying all St Andrews has to offer.

How to Get There: The nearest major railway station is in Leuchars, just a short bus or taxi ride from St Andrews. Driving from Edinburgh via the Forth Road Bridge takes approximately an hour.

12. Margate, Kent

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Once a quintessential British seaside resort, Margate has undergone a renaissance, merging its nostalgic charm with a vibrant contemporary art scene. This town in Kent is home to the Turner Contemporary Gallery, celebrating the town’s connection to the painter J.M.W. Turner. Margate’s sandy beaches, historic amusement park Dreamland, and the mysterious Shell Grotto make it a fascinating destination for all ages. The Old Town offers a maze of galleries, vintage shops, and cafes, reflecting Margate’s creative resurgence.

Insider’s Tip: Don’t miss the chance to explore the Margate Caves, recently reopened to the public, offering an intriguing journey beneath the town’s streets.

When to Travel: The summer months of July and August are perfect for enjoying Margate’s beaches, though the shoulder seasons provide a quieter experience to enjoy the town’s cultural offerings.

How to Get There: Margate is well-served by train, with direct services from London St Pancras and London Victoria. By road, the M2 and A299 lead directly to Margate.

The Bottom Line

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As you set out to explore the UK’s seaside towns, keep in mind the diverse array of experiences each offers, from historical richness and cultural vibrancy to the simple joy of coastal walks. These destinations showcase the scenic beauty and culinary delights unique to each locale and invite you to delve into the stories and heritage that define them. Your journey through these towns will offer insights into the UK’s coastal life, encouraging you to discover these communities’ underlying charm and character. Whether you’re drawn to the serene beaches of the South, the rugged cliffs of Scotland, or the artistic enclaves of the English coast, this exploration promises a deeper understanding of the maritime legacy and contemporary culture that shape these regions. So, as you embark on this adventure, remember to embrace the discoveries each town brings, enriching your travels with memories of the UK’s remarkable seaside landscapes.

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The post The Ultimate Guide to UK’s 12 Favorite Seaside Towns first appeared on The Green Voyage.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Lukasz Pajor.

For transparency, this content was partly developed with AI assistance and carefully curated by an experienced editor to be informative and ensure accuracy.

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