23 Beautifully Desolate Beaches In The UK

It doesn’t always have to be buckets, spades and cheap bikinis. These are the perfect places to visit if you need to clear your head.

1. Bamburgh, Northumberland

Bamburgh (population around 500) is a tiny fleck on the Northumberland coastline, and while visitors flock to the imposing castle of the same name, the surrounding sands are blissfully human-free.

2. Luskentyre, Isle of Harris

Far, far away from anywhere you’re likely to be - just behind the back of beyond and somewhere near BFE - lies Luskentyre beach on the Isle of Harris, where white sand fringes empty landscapes and nothing much has changed in millions of years.

3. Littlehampton, West Sussex

Littlehampton might be a mere 50 miles from London, and home to a burgeoning seaside foodie scene, but its beaches are still largely bereft of people. One of the quietest parts of the crowded south coast.

4. Camber Sands, East Sussex

They saw a lot of action in the war, and once a year play host to hundreds of emaciated indie fans for the ATP festival, but the protected dunes around the village of Camber are usually deserted and are actually accreting (getting bigger) all the time.

5. Barafundle Bay, Pembrokeshire

It doesn’t take much to keep the hordes away. Barafundle Bay in Pembrokeshire, Wales, is only a half kilometre stroll from the nearest car park, but the rough pathway wards off pushchairs, buggies and their bratty, noisy occupants nonetheless.

6. Tresco, Isles of Scilly

It may look far flung and Mediterranean but Tresco is as British as they come. Meaning “island of elder trees” and once home to a confederacy of hermits, it now denotes one thing: sheer tranquility.

7. Lundy Island Beach

28 residents, zero pubs, no chip shops or hotels and nary another soul in sight - Lundy trades in natural splendour, wildlife-spotting and scuba diving, all managed by the National Trust.

8. Great Bay, St Martins, Scilly Isles

The northernmost Scilly Isle has three towns (Higher, Lower, and Middle), one pub (closed) and one hotel (also closed). It’s not exactly bumping. Which is why it’s perfect for a soul-cleansing walkabout.

9. Rhossili, Gower Peninsula

At the far end of the already sparse Gower Peninsula in south Wales, Rhossili is buffeted by epic waves that carve out opportunities for surfers and keep sunseekers elsewhere.

10. Slapton Sands, Devon

Bigged up since it was name-checked in the Domesday book (as Sladone), Slapton Sands might not be sandy, but it’s a quiet oasis in the middle of Devon, a two mile bar so big and empty they practised the D-Day landings here.

11. Beadnell, Northumberland

It sees a handful of tourists in the summer months but during most of the year Beadnell’s beach is unadulterated emptiness. There are more people on the water - windsurfing, canoeing, and surfing - than there are among the dunes.

12. Priory Bay, Isle of Wight

Priory Bay is privately owned, which means the masses head elsewhere, but you’re allowed to meander in from nearby Seagrove Bay. It’s worth it for the sheer seclusion and Crusoe-esque fantasies, plus there’s an oyster bar at the Priory Bay Hotel for post-walk eats.

13. Crosby Beach, Liverpool

You’ll see a few people here, but they’re all made of cast iron. Anthony Gormley’s sculptures are among the few silhouettes blighting this stretch of the beach (aside from the hulking great wind turbines). It’s a good spot to clear the head.

14. Oxwich Bay, Gower Peninsula

Once named the most beautiful in Britain, the 2.5-mile sandy stretch is bordered by a large wetland reserve and the cliffs of High Tor. It’s also where submarine telephone cables leave Britain for the US and Ireland, but don’t let that bother you.

15. Porthcurno, Cornwall

At the end of an “unclassified” road on the tip of mainland England near Land’s End, Porthcurno takes a while to reach. It’s worth it though; as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in a county bursting at the seams with natural beauty, it’s pretty spectacular.

16. Brancaster Beach, Norfolk

The makers of Alan Partridge may relentless diss north Norfolk, but it has its charms. Switch off the provincial radio chatter and explore the deserted shorelines if you need some psychic space.

17. Portstewart Strand, Northern Ireland

Comprising 6,000-year-old dunes and two miles of sandy shore, Northern Ireland’s best beach boasts every kind of conservation award and blue flag for good reason.

18. West Wittering, West Sussex

A spectacularly quiet expanse of solid sand ideal for dogs and kite-surfers, West Wittering is home to rock royalty in the form of Keith Richard and, er, Michael Ball. There’s no-one else here, really.

19. Musselwick Sands, Pembrokeshire

You need to know your tides to get here, and even then you’ve got three hours tops to enjoy the sands. The watery barrier keeps most visitors at nearby Marloes Sands, but this is the spot to aim for.

20. Covehithe, Suffolk

There’s nothing much at Covehithe, bar the odd bit of driftwood, which is precisely why it’s worth exploring. Rising sea levels are eroding what is here too, giving a visit to the area a sense of urgency.

21. Roanhead, Cumbria

Separated from Barrow-in-Furness by endless dunes, Roanhead is a world away from the industrial town, facing the tumultuous tides of the Duddon estuary.

22. Chesil Beach, Dorset

While nearby beaches have succumbed to the Broadchurch effect, seeing fans of the show descend en mass, the 18-mile sliver of Chesil Beach somehow still goes blissfully unnoticed.

23. Druridge Bay, Northumberland

One of several empty beaches in the region (including Alnmouth, Embleton, Bamburgh), Druridge Bay is filled with nothing but birds for most of the year, unless you rock up at the same time as the annual naked swimmers…

Tim Chester is Editor of Rough Guides.

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