‘Have a beer by the pier’: 10 readers choose their favourite UK seaside town

Sundowners with a view, North Yorkshire

Saltburn-by-the-Sea boasts a magnificent beach and plentiful ice-cream, coffee bars and a burgeoning arts scene. Among the highlights has to be a stroll along the Grade II-listed pier and hopefully a ride down the UK’s oldest water-balanced cliff tramway (still closed at time of writing after a fire in January, but being repaired). Head for lunch at the superb Seaview fish restaurant, which has views across the bay. Walk off the meal as you wander through beautiful Valley Gardens for the flora and fauna and smuggling history from the 18th century. Later, perhaps visit the Ship Inn, an 18th-century pub right on the beach, for a sundowner with a view.
David Cowling

A genteel summer on Essex shores

Beach huts line the Frinton seafront. Photograph: Aerial Essex/Getty Images

Frinton-on-Sea looks like the archetypal bucket and spade holiday resort, but look again and you’ll realise that the beach huts are mostly private, rather than hireable, there are no seafront vendors (take a picnic or walk up to Connaught Avenue for supplies and ice-cream) and the pier is at the adjacent town of Walton-on-the-Naze. That said, it has amazing golden sands, blue sea and genteel summer events. Visit Great Danes for quirky souvenirs, enjoy a beer in the Lock & Barrel (the only pub in town) and have a meal in one of the excellent bistro restaurants (or queue for fish and chips at Young’s Other Plaice) before heading home. One great benefit is the town’s train service, with the local station connecting to London via Thorpe-le-Soken and Colchester North.


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Seaweed baths are a must in County Antrim

Ballycastle’s harbour offers seaweed baths. Photograph: Ballygally View Images/Getty Images

Ballycastle is a wonderful seaside town with a friendly community. Lovely, long sandy beaches edge the wild Atlantic, and there’s fantastic fish and chips at Morton’s and two terrific ice-cream parlours. Seaweed baths at the harbour are a must, and a tiny ferry takes you bouncing over to lovely Rathlin island, with puffins and golden hares. In 1898 George Kemp and Edward Glanville, working under Guglielmo Marconi, sent some of the earliest radio signals between Ballycastle and Rathlin. Traditional Irish music can be heard in many of the pubs, and there’s an award-winning bakery called Ursa Minor. Beautiful coastal walks abound.
Bridget Mellor

A favourable impression, North Yorkshire

Painterly scene … nightfall over Staithes. Photograph: Helen Hotson/Getty Images/iStockphoto

One of my favourite under-the-radar coastal towns in the UK is Staithes. With its picturesque harbour, colourful fishermen’s cottages and winding cobbled streets, Staithes exudes charm at every turn. It offers breathtaking views of the North Sea, perfect for leisurely strolls along the rugged coastline. Its artistic heritage – it was once home to the renowned impressionist-inspired Staithes group of artists – adds to its allure. Visitors can enjoy fresh seafood at quaint cafes, explore fossil-rich beaches or immerse themselves in the town’s maritime history. Staithes is a tranquil retreat for those seeking authentic coastal beauty in the UK.

Modernism by the beach in East Sussex

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea. Photograph: Zoonar GmbH/Alamy

Bexhill-on-Sea is overshadowed by its larger neighbours, Brighton, Eastbourne and Hastings. But it has its own burgeoning art community and culture with the impressive Grade I-listed modernist De La Warr Pavilion right on the seafront and miles of pebble beaches stretching out on either side. Meander through quirky local gift shops and art studios in the small town, and be sure to stop at Marinos, one of the town’s traditional fish and chip outlets, which is as gourmet (with gluten free batter) and wallet-friendly as you will find on the south coast.
Lucy Barr

Good vibes on the Firth of Clyde

The beach at Ayr, with the Isle of Arran in the distance. Photograph: Cloud77/Getty Images

If you’re all about sandy shores and good vibes, Ayr is your ticket to bliss. Picture this: golden sands, a putting green to test your aim, a fine children’s play area and some wild crazy golf action. And the view? Oh, it’s a stunner – gaze across the sparkling waters to catch sight of Ailsa Craig and the enchanting Isle of Arran. Plus, it’s a mere hop, skip and jump from Glasgow. So pack your sunnies, grab a bucket and spade, and let’s hit the beach.
Stuart McIntyre

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Cakes and ale in Kent, with memories of Van Gogh

The Wetherspoon Royal Victoria Pavilion, Ramsgate. Photograph: David Hare/Alamy

Ramsgate is my unsung hero. It’s a little further along the coast than popular Margate, but has much quieter beaches. There are lots of independent cafes and bakeries – my favourites are Crusties, the Modern Boulangerie and the Falstaff, good for vegan food and where you can grab a reasonable room starting from £90 a night on the harbour. Also the town boasts the largest Wetherspoon in the UK, and it’s right on the beach so you can listen to the waves while enjoying a pint. Lots of interesting history to stumble upon too, including exploring the Ramsgate Tunnels (UK’s largest network of civilian wartime tunnels) and nods to Vincent Van Gogh’s stay in the town in spring 1876.

Steaming to the Somerset coast

West Somerset Railway, Minehead. Photograph: GP Essex/Alamy

Minehead sits at the northern end of the 630-mile South West Coast Path. With few large hotels, more reasonably priced B&Bs come in around £60 a night. The West Somerset railway, one of Britain’s best established heritage railways, ends here in its restored station. On some days you can travel, mostly by steam, the 20 miles to Bishops Lydeard near Taunton. There are few tacky beach outlets and you can amble along the fossil-strewn coast to delightful Watchet. When my friends and I finished the coast path, we were royally dined and wined at the Old Ship Aground, a lovingly renewed Edwardian pub, with fantastic rooms.
Sarah Williams

A stroll along the Belgian Promenade on Anglesey

The Menai Bridge and Eryri beyond. Photograph: John Martin Davies/Alamy

The small town of Menai Bridge (Porthaethwy) on the Isle of Anglesey overlooks the Menai Strait and has spectacular views across Eryri (Snowdonia) mountains. Stay at the recently refurbished Victoria hotel, with its elevated view from the garden terrace over the water and town. It has a small beach area and easy access to the coastal path. Check out the history of the Belgian Promenade – it was built by Belgian refugees displaced by the German invasion of 1914 – and visit Church Island to see medieval St Tysilio’s church then take a short stroll to Dylan’s to enjoy the terrace view and seafood linguine.

Winning tip: vast beaches, gin and donkeys, Lancashire

Keeping up traditions the seafront at Lytham St Annes. Photograph: Kevin Walsh/Alamy

Lytham St Annes is a traditional seaside town with expansive beaches, sand dunes, donkeys and a pier. The town centre contains an increasing number of interesting food and drink venues. Lytham has a picturesque promenade; a historic windmill; a high street full of excellent independent shops to browse, bars and restaurants; a small stately home, Lytham Hall, with acres of grounds to stroll around; its own highly regarded gin brand, and the annual Lytham festival.
Samantha Pilgrim


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