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Best beaches in the UK: beautiful coastal spots for family escapes

In search of a sandy spot for some family beach time? Luckily you don’t have to travel too far to find a beautiful beach in the UK. We’ve consulted the Mumsnet travel forums to round up the best family-friendly beaches for your next escape.

By Elisa Bray | Last updated Jun 1, 2023

Southwold Pier

Whether you prefer soft sandy stretches or pebbly coves, the UK is blessed with an array of beautiful beaches. The best of the lot? It's a hotly discussed topic at Mumsnet and there are bucket loads of recommendations on the UK travel threads. We've sifted through the posts to narrow it down to 10 of the best family-friendly beaches

1. Castle Beach, Tenby, Pembrokeshire

Castle Beach Tenby

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"Tenby is lovely. The beach is great, and it's a good base for seeing other bits of the area. Caldey Island is a nice trip out too" - recommended by Mumsnet user, StiffyByng

It’s busy, which makes parking a challenge, but the Blue Flag sandy beach at Tenby is both picturesque and gentle for young swimmers, and you have fish and chips and ice cream aplenty nearby. It’s also a great starting point for exploring the area with Tenby Castle, Folly Farm (ideal for young children) and Pembrokeshire national park on the doorstep.

Tenby harbour
One of the nicest family holidays I’ve had was in a cottage in Tenby


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2. Gwithian Towans, Hayle, Cornwall

Gwithian Towans Beach

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"We always walk along the beach to Gwithian, opposite the lighthouse. it's miles of beautiful beach, caves and rock pools. Just lovely" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Genderwitched

With three miles of golden sands and sand dunes atop grassy cliffs, you can’t beat Cornwall’s Gwithian Towans. The gently graduating sea,  rock pools and the old sheep dip - a natural paddling pool - make it perfect for young children. Buy a fishing net from the beachside Cove Cafe where you can also find ice cream, cream teas and sandwiches during peak holiday season. Watch the surfers and bodyboarders or catch some waves on your own lesson. It’s next to Godrevy nature reserve where you can seal-spot, and you’ll have a beautiful view of the lighthouse made famous by Virginia Woolf.

Related: The best paddling pools for summer 2023

Holiday chalet Gwithian
Gwithian beach have some beautiful beach houses and some great lodges to rent out


Holiday Chalet

Gwithian Sands, Cornwall

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3. Southwold, Suffolk

A beach scene in Southwold Suffolk

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"It's gorgeous, very picturesque.. lovely sandy beaches and a really cute town with a variety of shops, pubs & restaurants!" - recommended by Mumsnet user, rollwiththetimes 

The quaint seaside town of Southwold has everything: cafes, restaurants and pubs, pretty streets and shops to walk and browse, a holiday atmosphere - and a beautiful sandy beach, lined with colourful beach huts, that’s perfect for children. While the pier and its arcade are must-sees, the end of the beach by the coast guard hut furthest away from the pier, is the nicest and sandiest area. Take the ferry over the harbour from Southwold to Walberswick for crabbing, and birdwatch on Minsmere or Dunwich.

Bucks Farm, Suffolk
Swimming pool a real bonus. Lovely owners.. had a homemade cake and fresh eggs waiting for us!!


Bucks Farm, Suffolk

10 miles from Southwold
Bucks Farm

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4. Bamburgh, Northumberland

Bamburgh beach and castle

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"The beach at Bamburgh is the best in the world in my completely unbiased opinion. Clean and empty with loads of rock pools" - recommended by Mumsnet user, BorsetshireBlue

The entire Northumberland coast down to South Shields offers spectacular beaches backed by sand dunes. What sets Bamburgh above the rest is its imposing 12th-century castle towering over the sandy beach. Bamburgh is also a prime surf spot for its consistent waves; hire gear and take lessons if you can brave the cool North Sea. Temperatures may be on the low side, but that doesn’t put children off playing on the sand or fishing for crabs in the plentiful rock pools.

Walwick Hall, Hexham
Walwick Hall is a really stunning little country house hotel (with spa)


Walkwick Hall Country Estate & Spa

Hexham, Northumberland

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5. Woolacombe, Devon

Woolacombe beach

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"Woolacombe beach is fab! Miles and miles of golden sand and very shallow, clean waters" - recommended by Mumsnet user, zephyrcat

The award-winning Woolacombe Beach is a Mumsnet favourite for its three miles of sand and shallow, clean waters. It's also a top spot for surfers who flock here to ride the rolling Atlantic waves. It’s ideal for children to learn bodyboarding, and has a river running into the sea for the littlest paddlers. Blending natural beauty, excellent facilities, a wide range of activities, and a laid-back vibe, this Devon beach is also easy to access and there are three large car parks with space for 2,000 cars. 

Sandaway Holiday Park, Devon
We stayed in a holiday park near Woolacombe several years ago, and it was lovely


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6. Camber Sands, East Sussex

Camber Sands beach

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"It's a beautiful beach with gently shelving sea and some lovely coastal walks" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Bestseller

The sand and shingle beach of Camber Sands is good for families with its easy access and facilities. The beach shop and cafes means cold drinks, ice cream and fish and chips are close by, as are toilets and parking. Situated in the village of Camber, near Rye (which is well worth a visit), the beach is home to the only sand dunes in East Sussex and if you’re lucky with the weather, have a look out for France in the distance. Unsurprisingly, it’s popular so sunny days get busy and parking can be a challenge. Pay heed to the tide times: if you are there at low tide, there can be a long walk to the shore. And while the water is blue and clean and inviting, beware the rip tides; this beach is best for playing in the soft sand. 

Parkdean Holiday Park Camber Sands
It was good! In fact we enjoyed ourselves so much that we went back twice more!


Camber Sands Holiday Park

Camber, East Sussex
Parkdean Resorts

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7. Holkham, North Norfolk

Holkham Beach, Norfolk

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"Imo there is no beating the n Norfolk beaches. Wells and Holkham are two of the best beaches in the U.K. the sand is perfect, the vastness of them is just unbelievable and there pinewoods can be ambled around for hours" - recommended by Mumsnet user, MsSlightyConfused

There are plenty of popular beach spots along the scenic North Norfolk coast, including Holkham, Cromer, Wells-next-the-Sea, and Hunstanton. If you like your space when sunbathing, Holkham is a Mumsnet favourite for its stunning and unspoilt seven-mile stretch of sand and sand dunes. The downside of its vastness is that the walk to the car park and toilets is long for little legs. If you have young children, don’t miss the wooded play area in the grounds of Holkham Hall. 

Victoria Inn Holkham
The Victoria is on the coast road, opposite the access road to the most fabulous beach in the world, Holkham Beach


Victoria Inn

Holkham, North Norfolk

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8. Lyme Regis, Dorset

Lyme Regis beach

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"Lyme has a sandy beach and another that is good for rockpooling" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Tuftytail 

Surrounded by beautiful hilly countryside at the point where the West Dorset and East Devon coastlines join, the historic seaside town of Lyme Regis is home to several beaches. If you want to fossil hunt on the Jurassic Coast, aim for the small sand and pebble beaches that are Church Cliff and East Cliff. Or Monmouth, a pebble beach that shelves down to the sea. The Lyme Regis town beach has a sloping pebbly section and a flat, white sandy beach by the harbour, where dogs are prohibited between April and October. With calm waves it’s an ideal spot for splashing about with young children. What’s more, the amenities of the town are easily accessed, and there are toilets along the beachfront. 

The harbour, known as the Cobb, is a 13th-century beauty. Monmouth Beach and Cabanya car parks are a couple of minutes’ walk away, but the long-stay car parks in Holmbush and Charmouth Road are 10 minutes down a steep hill. 

Alexandra Hotel Lyme Regis
Alexandra Hotel in Lyme is amazing and not stupidly priced


Alexandra Hotel

Lyme Regis

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9. Dornoch beach, Highlands, Scotland 

Dornoch Beach, Scottish Highlands

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"Dornoch beach is beautiful - like the Mediterranean, white sand and blue sea" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Alipiggie

For stunning miles of golden sand, head to Dornoch beach, 45 minutes north of Inverness on the tranquil Dornoch Firth. Stretching from Dornoch Point, past Embo beach to the mouth of Loch Fleet National Nature Reserve, this beautiful beach has Seaside Award status for its clean bathing, public toilets and a play area for children. Wildlife lovers will enjoy the Site of Special Scientific Interest next to the beach that’s home to nesting birds, flora and fauna. Nearby there’s a cathedral, local shops, and a golf course.

Evelix Pods Dornoch
We stayed at the pods last year and they were lovely, just right for a long weekend stay


Evelix Pods

Luxury glamping pods in Dornoch

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10. The Gower, Rhossili Bay, Swansea

Rhossili Bay, Gower Peninsula

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"Gower is gorgeous. Rhossili beach is spectacular the views are just beautiful" - recommended by Mumnset user, IamaBluebird

Rhossili Bay has scooped an impressive selection of TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Awards including Britain’s beach beach, the third best beach in Europe and the ninth best beach in the world, and it's easy to see why. At the western end of the Gower peninsula Rhossili’s three glorious miles of golden sands are backed by dunes. The stunning panoramic landscape includes Worms Head and the National Trust-owned Rhossili Down for excellent walking and picnic opportunities. Or relax and watch the surfers in action - this is one of the best surfing beaches in the UK. Dogs are welcome on the beach all year round, and refreshments and parking are 400 metres away. Beware, however, the steep walk down to the beach from the cliff makes getting there with buggies impossible. 

Worm's Head Hotel, Gower Peninsula
It's a lovely, leisurely walk from the Worm's Head Hotel to Rhossili


The Worm's Head Hotel

Views of Rhossili Bay and the Rhossili Downs
Rhossili, Gower, Swansea

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What’s the nicest beach in the UK? 

With its copious awards, Rhossili Bay at the western end of the stunning Gower peninsula in Swansea is a favourite.  It's also one of the best beaches for surfing in the UK. Three glorious miles of golden sands, dunes and a panoramic landscape offer excellent walking and picnic opportunities.

Where’s the best sandy beach in the UK? 

A seemingly endless stretch of sand, Holkham is part of North Norfolk’s breathtaking coast. Its seven miles of sandy beach and sand dunes means you’re likely to find peace even at busy times. 

What’s the best family-friendly beach in the UK? 

Cornwall's Gwithian Towans' natural shallows are perfect for young swimmers learning to bodyboard. There are three miles of sand to build castles on, rock pools for crab fishing, and the “old sheep dip” is a natural paddling pool loved by children. Ice cream is available on the beach, toilets are accessible and you can usually find a shady spot by the cliff. 

How we chose our recommendations

We spent several hours sifting through Mumsnet's forums for recommendations from our users on the beaches in the UK they rate most highly. We were also on the lookout for poor reviews of beaches to avoid.

We consulted recommendations from experts, consumer websites and print media and made sure we included beaches that regularly appeared in top 10 lists.

We then looked at reviews for each of our longlisted beaches to check that previous visitors were satisfied with their visit.

By doing this, we whittled our longlist down and chose a selection of beaches that we think offer something for everybody.

Why you should trust us 

We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful articles like this one.