Staycation ideas: the UK’s best seaside towns to visit this summer

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Lauren Geall
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Bamburgh, Northumberland

Fancy taking a trip to the seaside this summer? These are the top spots to visit this year, according to Which?.

With the possibility of holidays abroad still cloaked in uncertainty, 2021 could be the perfect year to explore all the brilliant destinations the UK has to offer.

From awe-inspiring road trips to picturesque parks and rural escapes, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to staycation spots – especially when it comes to the UK’s impressive collection of beaches.

Sure, a beach holiday at home may not guarantee the hot, sunny days you’d expect from a trip abroad, but what the UK lacks in reliable weather conditions it makes up for with its quaint, seaside towns and beautiful coastline. The only issue? Choosing between the wide array of brilliant spots just waiting to be explored.  

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With this in mind, Which?’s latest reader’s survey couldn’t have come at a better time. Ahead of summer holiday season, the team at Which? asked readers to rate the beach, attractions, scenery and value for money for nearly 100 seaside towns and villages across the UK, in order to reveal the best places to visit this summer.  

While many popular spots in Devon and Cornwall made the list, there were also some unexpected additions, including several spots across the Scottish Highlands, which could provide an under-the-radar escape for those looking to get away from the crowds this summer.  

Ullapool in the Scottish Highlands
Although it didn’t make the top 10, Ullapool, a coastal village in the Scottish Highlands, was still highly rated.

Of course, no matter which UK location you choose to visit this summer, it’s important to do so safely, so make sure you check out the latest rules before you travel and try to avoid particularly busy areas where social distancing isn’t possible.

In the meantime, whether you’re looking to book a summer getaway or are just intrigued to see which spots made the list, keep reading to discover the UK’s top 10 seaside towns, according to Which?’s guide. 

  • 10. St Davids, Pembrokeshire

    Whitesands Bay in St Davids, Pembrokeshire
    Best UK seaside towns: St Davids, Pembrokeshire.

    Known for being Britain’s smallest city, St Davids in Pembrokeshire, Wales is surrounded by a number of beautiful beaches including Caerfai Beach and Whitesands Bay.

    Unlike some of the other spots on this list it’s not located directly on the coast, but with its quaint array of shops and an impressive cathedral to boot, there’s plenty to explore. 

  • 9. Southwold, Suffolk

    Southwold, Suffolk
    Best UK seaside towns: Southwold, Suffolk.

    Thanks to its relative proximity to London, Southwold is a great place to visit if you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

    It’s home to an impressively long pier (800m) and beach-hut lined promenade, so it’s got all the makings of a perfect summer holiday.

  • 8. Filey, North Yorkshire

    Filey, North Yorkshire
    Best UK seaside towns: Filey, North Yorkshire.

    It’s not hard to see why Filey has become such a popular destination for holidaymakers, thanks to its impressive golden sandy beach and variety of eye-catching Edwardian architecture.

    If you’re travelling by train, it takes just over three hours to reach Filey from London.  

  • 7. Rye, East Sussex

    Rye, East Sussex
    Best UK seaside towns: Rye, East Sussex.

    With the golden expanse of Camber Sands just a stone’s throw away and it’s quaint, cobblestoned streets (Mermaid Street, pictured, is particularly famous), Rye has got a lot going for it.

    Throw in the fact that it’s just over an hour from London by train, and you’ve got the makings of the perfect summer day trip. 

  • 6. North Berwick, East Lothian

    North Berwick, East Lothian
    Best UK seaside towns: North Berwick, East Lothian.

    Located just along the coast from Edinburgh, North Berwick boasts a number of brilliant attractions, including the Scottish Seabird Centre and an impressive collection of shops, cafes and bars.

    If you’re looking for a challenge, try climbing the famous Berwick Law; at the top, you can see all the way out to Bass Rock, an island just off the coast which is home to the world’s largest northern gannet colony. 

  • 5. Aberaeron, Ceredigon

    Aberaeron, Ceredigon.
    Best UK seaside towns: Aberaeron, Ceredigon.

    Home to a picturesque array of colourful houses, Aberaeron is a beautiful seaside town located on Wales’ west coast.

    If you’re a fan of wildlife, Cardigan Bay – the expanse of water off the coast of Aberaeron – is just one of two places in the UK where bottlenose dolphins can be spotted.  

  • 4. St Andrews, Fife

    St Andrews, Fife
    Best UK seaside towns: St Andrews, Fife.

    Alongside being home to the world-famous university, St Andrews is a beautiful seaside town with lots of places to explore.

    The town’s expansive West Sands beach is backed by a cluster of dunes which are home to many important plants and animals, and is famous for appearing in the opening scenes of Chariots Of Fire. 

  • 3. Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear

    Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear
    Best UK seaside towns: Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear.

    As one of the larger towns on this list, Tynemouth is a great option for those who like to be in the centre of the action.

    On top of the golden sandy beach at Long Sands, Tynemouth is home to an impressive range of restaurants, bars and cafes, as well as the dramatic Tynemouth and Priory Castle, which takes pride of place on the headland. 

  • 2. Dartmouth, Devon

    Dartmouth, Devon
    Best UK seaside towns: Dartmouth, Devon.

    It wouldn’t be a list of the best seaside towns without Devon getting some kind of a mention, would it?

    Located on the county’s South Coast just along from Exeter, Dartmouth is surrounded by picture-perfect scenery. 

  • 1. Bamburgh, Northumberland

    Bamburgh, Northumberland
    Best UK seaside towns: Bamburgh, Northumberland.

    Topping the list is the historic town of Bamburgh in Northumberland, which is famous for its iconic castle which can be seen from miles around.

    Plus, it’s beach is seriously big, so you won’t need to worry about things getting too crowded. 

To find out more about booking your perfect UK staycation, including Airbnb’s trending UK locations for 2021 and the best self-catering spots to enjoy, you can check out Stylist’s staycation content here

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.