15 of the best quiet beaches in the British Isles


Tor Bay, Gower

When the tide is low, it’s easy to access this beautiful beach via Three Cliffs Bay; when the tide is high, clambering down the footpath is the only option, so, despite being in the popular south Gower, this sandy stretch is virtually empty when others are bustling. The nearest car park is in Penmaen village, a 20-minute walk away. There are no facilities or lifeguards, but for experienced surfers there can be good waves from mid to high tide.
The Oxwich Bay Hotel offers Secret Garden pods for 2 from £79 a night in summer; other accommodation options include hotel rooms, caravans and cottages, oxwichbayhotel.co.uk

Murlough Bay, County Antrim

Murlough Bay, Country Antrim, near the coastal town of Ballycastle.
Murlough Bay. Photograph: Jason Friend/Getty Images

Though renowned for its natural beauty, Murlough Bay remains quiet as it can only be reached by a steep, single lane road too narrow for buses. There is, however, a small car park at the top of the hill, where cows and sheep might also roam. Hugged by lush, green hills, with views to Rathlin Island and the Mull of Kintyre beyond, the beach is breathtaking. Explore the surrounding ruins, both prehistoric and modern – the bay has a captivating history.
Doubles at Fullerton Arms from £80 B&B, fullerton-arms.com

Sandwood Bay, Sutherland

Footprints leading across pristine sandy beach of Sandwood bay,
Photograph: Spencer Bowman/Getty Images

Looking for wild and windswept? This is the place. Far from the madding crowd, the vast swathes of sand and dramatic rock formations along north-west Scotland’s coastline make it the perfect place to embrace the elements. Come equipped with the right clothing and attitude though; there can be high winds here even in summer. Four miles from the nearest car park, Sandwood Bay is a feast for the eyes and the soul, with a dramatic sea stack, a freshwater loch, a saltwater lagoon and a mile of white sand.
Doubles at Ben Loyal hotel from £105 B&B; glamping pods for 2 £120 B&B; cottage sleeping 6 £800 a week, benloyal.co.uk

Santon Gorge, Isle of Man

Santon gorge, with cliffs and clear water
Photograph: Ian Pilbeam/Alamy

This secluded, shingle beach lies at the mouth of the Santon River, which has carved its way through the rock to create this sheltered spot. A haven for seabirds and native plants, it’s an Area of Special Scientific Interest, thanks partly to its relic oak woodland. Further up the gorge there’s a deep lagoon at high tide, which can be reached by kayak. Approach by foot on the coastal path, a couple of miles from the nearest parking spot close to Ronaldsway airport runway.
Roy Cottage sleeps 2 and costs £590 a week in May/June or £700 Aug/Sept, roycottage.im

Cove Bay, Moray Firth

Two Bottlenose Dolphins Jumping in the Moray Firth
Photograph: Catherine Clark/Getty Images

There is a multitude of gorgeous beaches on the Moray Coast Trail, and Cove Bay is one of my favourites. While most holidaymakers head for the more accessible seaside resort of Lossiemouth, walkers and cyclists can enjoy peace and quiet at this sheltered spot just east of Hopeman. Full of character, the sand and shingle bay offers rockpools and caves, plus a good chance of spotting the curve of a bottlenose dolphin rising from the waves, as I did. The Moray Firth has a resident pod of 190 of these large creatures, and sightings close to shore are both common and thrilling.
A wagon for two at West Beach Caravan Park costs from £60 a night, a “huttie” is £40, westbeachcaravanpark.co.uk

Rumbling Kern, Northumberland

The beach at Rumbling Kern, with small ochre cliffs
Photograph: daverhead/Getty Images

So hidden is this sheltered cove near Howick that it was reputedly used by whisky smugglers to store their booty. It is reached on foot by following the coast path from Sugar Sands, or park in a layby just beyond the village (left at the T junction, signposted Craster) and walk down a gravel path for about 10 minutes before scrambling over rocks. It’s a great location for a coastal adventure, especially when the tide is out and rockpools deep enough for swimming are revealed. However, the Rumbling Kern itself – a hole in the steep rocks separating the sea from the beach – creates a pool that isn’t safe for swimming when the tide is high.
The Bothy at Almouth sleeps 2 from £550 a week, northumbria-cottages.co.uk

Rushy Bay, Bryher, Isles of Scilly

Path to Rushy Bay beach in Bryher, Isles of Scilly.
Photograph: Stephen Rees/Getty Images

Bryher is the smallest inhabited island in the Scillies archipelago, which sits 28 miles off the coast of Cornwall. With just a scattering of buildings across its rugged terrain and a limited number of sea taxis serving the island, its beaches never get busy. Rushy Bay, with its sapphire sea and soft, white sand looks like the Caribbean – though obviously the water is much colder. Little has changed since I first visited as a child and thought I had discovered paradise.
Camping at Bryher Campsite from £11.75pp a night (under-4s free), bell tents from £53 a night (three nights minimum), bryhercampsite.co.uk

Woody Bay, north Devon

The rocky beach at Woody Bay
Photograph: Getty Images

The steep descent to this National Trust beach on Exmoor’s wild coastline deters many visitors, particularly those with young children, but there’s a worthwhile reward at the bottom. Although the cove has none of the assets of a modern seaside resort, a developer in Victorian times had hopes of turning to turn it into an attraction and began constructing a pier and a swimming pool, whose remains make this an idyllic spot for wild swimming.
The Lodge at Woody Bay cottage sleeps two; very limited availability, from £976 a week in July/Aug and £593 in September, marsdens.co.uk

Saltfleetby-Theddlethorpe Dunes, Lincolnshire

Sand Dunes and beach at Saltfleetby, Theddlethorpe National Nature Reserve
Photograph: Paul Glendell/Alamy

It’s easy to stay socially distanced when you have 1,377 acres of sand dunes, salt flats and marshland to lose yourself in. This vast national nature reserve, managed by Natural England and the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, is home to smooth newts, natterjack toads and bee orchids. Unlike nearby Donna Nook, which is often inundated with visitors wanting to see the seal pups, this vast, unspoiled area doesn’t even get crowded in the height of summer.
Doubles at Saltfleet Manor House from £85 B&B (two-night minimum) saltfleetmanorhouse.co.uk

Lantic Bay, Fowey, south Cornwall

Beaches at Lantic Bay with blue sea and green cliffs behind
Photograph: Getty Images

Cornwall may be the UK’s most popular county for tourists, but even so it has so many beautiful beaches that it is possible to find a few quiet ones, even in the middle of summer. Known for its clear water and soft sand, secluded Lantic Bay, a few miles east of Fowey, is accessible only by boat or a steep footpath. There is parking in the National Trust car park, but be prepared for a 30-minute walk down from the cliff-top, and a rather longer one back up. Check the tide times, as the two beaches that make up the bay are separated at high tide.
Doubles at the Galleon Inn, Fowey, from £105 B&B in May/June or £115 in July/August, galleon-inn.co.uk

Oyster point, Herm, Channel Islands

Sandy beach with small island offshore
Photograph: Robert Harding/Alamy

It’s hard to find remote beaches that are child-friendly, but this tiny island offers just that. A short boat trip from Guernsey, the white, sandy shores of Herm are never packed, and even in summer there will probably be no one else at Oyster Point. Rocky outcrops shelter the bay from the wind, but there’s a strong current here, so care should be taken if swimming. Out of season enjoy Shell Beach, where there’s a beach cafe and quiet coves you can have to yourself.
Stay in an equipped 8-person tent at the Seagull campsite for £65 a night (£100 in peak season), cottages also available, herm.com

Traeth Soden beach, Ceredigion

Brynsiloh Cottage, near Traeth Soden, Ceredigion
Brynsiloh Cottage, near Traeth Soden, Ceredigion

A lack of parking, toilets, cafe, lifeguard and road access means that this pretty beach is largely undiscovered by tourists. Accessible only by the coast path or a woodland trail from the village of Nanternis, it sits at the mouth of the gentle Afon (River) Soden. This stream snakes down a valley dotted with dog violets, a home for the endangered pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly. The stream sometimes forms temporary lagoons in the sand, perfect for paddling.
Brynsiloh cottage, near New Quay, sleeps 6, limited availability, from £687 a week in May or £556 in Sept, sykescottages.co.uk

Worbarrow Bay, Dorset

Beach at Worbarrow Bay Dorset
Photograph: Peter Lane/Alamy

An MoD shooting range may not be the first thing you look for when seeking a remote beach, but those that have been requisitioned for this purpose tend to get overlooked by tourists. Worbarrow is a stunning azure cove on the Jurassic Coast, open to the public most weekends and holidays. Access is by foot along the South West Coast Path or, when it’s open, via the “lost village” of Tyneham, commandeered by the MoD in the second world war and never returned to its occupants (and well worth a day trip in its own right). Check Lulworth Ranges activity before setting off.
Doubles at Lulworth House B&B from £100 a night, lulworthhousebandb.co.uk

Scarista, Isle of Harris

Cows on the beach at Scarista, Isle of Harris
Photograph: David Clapp/Getty Images

This vast arc of golden sand faces the Atlantic, where you might spot porpoises or the odd surfer playing in the waves, or cows on the beach. Experienced walkers can climb Ceapabhal – the westernmost summit of Harris, which sits at the end of the beach – and take in the jaw-dropping view. Although some people have trouble finding the access to the beach, there are several paths from the A859, one of which is just by Scarista House.
La’al Bothy sleeps 6 in bunks and one bedroom, £795 in September (when it’s next available), laalbothy.co.uk

Covehithe beach, Suffolk

August on Covehithe beach.
Photograph: Getty Images

Just a few miles north of popular Southwold, and yet worlds apart, Covehithe can only be accessed on foot or by bike and remains peaceful even when its neighbouring resort is heaving. A path can be found near the church in Covehithe village; follow this through fields and it leads to a long stretch of sand and shingle, where you may be lucky enough to spot a seal or two. Sitting next to an important nature reserve, it attracts bird spotters as well as fossil hunters in search of geological treasures revealed by the relentless coastal erosion in this area.
Doubles at the Bell Inn from £110 B&B, (two-night minimum at weekends), bellinnwalberswick.co.uk



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