The UK might be one of the most populated places in Europe – and ok, slightly on the chilly side – but that doesn’t mean we don’t have our fair share of brilliant beaches. In fact, our coastlines are packed full of secluded spots and hidden gems, as long as you know where to find them. Get yourself a decent set of wheels and head off to explore some of Blighty’s best coastal drives.
- On the north east coast of Scotland, drivers are spoilt for choice with a series of coastal journeys giving visitors and locals alike a plethora of relaxing spots to choose from. One of the best is Lunan Bay, situated six miles south of Montrose, near the town of Arbroath. Miles of rolling sand dunes and majestic cliffs are skirted by the blue waters of the North Sea and nearby, the ruins of the 15th century Red Castle overlook the hamlet of Lunan. Hidden away further along the coast, Auchmithie is a tiny village with a hidden rocky bay – well worth the trip for the food in the locally renowned But ‘n’ Ben Restaurant.
- Known as the pearl of Dorset, Lyme Regis is an iconic British coastal destination. Home to a number of historical landmarks dating back as far as the 14th century, this resort is a great place to learn about the UK’s heritage and take in spectacular scenery whilst you’re at it. Situated in the heart of the Jurassic coast, the area is a prime location for fossil collecting, and the town, which is best known for its part in Jane Austen’s Persuasion, also boasts some of the best entertainment and dining on the Dorset Coast. Don’t miss the seafood at the Hix Oyster & Fish House, with sweeping views of the famous Cobb.
- After famously being voted as one of the world’s top ten beaches in the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice awards, Rhossili Bay near Swansea has been causing quite a stir. Down Under, the Aussies had their noses put out of joint when this secluded Welsh bay beat Sydney’s famous Bondi Beach into the top ten – but no matter your idea of what makes a great beach, there’s no denying this is a spot worth seeking out. A five kilometre sweep of white sand and blue water is framed by green, rolling fields and, although it may not always be hot, the views are hard to beat in any weather. Situated near the village of Rhossili on the tip of the Gower Peninsula, this bay is part of the first designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the UK. Hire a car to continue the trip round the peninsula to Mewslade Bay and the elusive Fall Bay, one of the most remote beaches on the Gower. And don’t forget to sample the region’s most delicious delicacy – the famous fresh fish and chips.
- Back in Scotland, head out of Edinburgh towards East Lothian for some fantastic scenic spots just a few miles from the city. Take the coastal drive to North Berwick and indulge in some of the best seafood around from the famed Lobster Shack. Situated on the Firth of Forth, this fashionable spot became a popular holiday resort in the 19th century thanks to its two large sandy bays, and it’s certainly worth spending some time here. However, the real jewel in the crown can be found when you’re ready to escape the crowds. Travel just four miles east to the isolated Seacliff beach, a private bay where cars are allowed to enter through a coin operated barrier. And the rewards are certainly worth the couple of pounds you’ll pay to enter, with panoramic views over the Firth of Forth towards the Bass Rock and west to the ruins of Tantallon Castle, perched majestically on top of the cliffs.
- In the slightly sunnier south, Exmoor National Park offers up a spectacular drive with sweeping views of the Somerset coast on one side and green rolling hills on the other. Once you experience the peace and quiet of this inspriational area, it’ll be no surprise to learn this region has links with a number of Romantic Poets, including Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Blake. On the A39, pass the village of Porlock and climb the Porlock Hill – not for the faint hearted, with an ascend of 1,300 feet in under 2 miles – and reap the rewards as you take in breathtaking vistas over the Bristol Channel. Descend back down to the village of Lynmouth and stay on this road to reach scenic Woody Bay in Devon and merge onto the famous Atlantic Highway, finishing your drive in Cornwall.
What’s your favourite British Coastal Drive?