5 Quintessentially British Seaside Towns
There’s nothing quite like the Great British Seaside. Take a stroll on a warm summer’s day, ice cream in hand. Do a bit of window shopping in a few independent boutiques and then dip your toes in the sea. Take a stroll, well wrapped up, on a crisp winter’s day, takeaway cup of tea in hand, and watch the waves come crashing in. Take refuge in a cosy pub, watching the sails bob around in the harbour.
Whatever time of year you visit, the British coastline is always charming. Being an island with hundreds of other islands clustered around it, one thing Britain isn’t short of is seaside towns, each with their own distinctive charm. I’ve picked out my personal favourites and I defy you not to be beguiled by them.
I myself have spent many a happy day nestled in the corner of one of Southwold’s many pubs whilst storms rage outside, taken many a leisurely stroll down to the harbour when the weather’s fine, and eaten far too much at the legendary Mrs T’s, a hut on the edge of the River Blythe that serves up some of England’s best fish and chips. Take a tour around the Adnam’s brewery or distillery in the heart of the town and then climb the lighthouse for panoramic views, both inland and out to sea. Visit the ‘Under the Pier Show’, the wacky, alternative arcade on the traditional pier, and then saunter along the prom, past the multi-coloured beach huts.
Walk down the beach as far as the harbour and then take the rowing ferry over to Walberswick and join the families avidly hauling crabs out of the river. Visit Walberswick’s two pubs before heading back to the Harbour Inn, then finishing up your pub crawl back in the heart of Southwold. Whether you just come for the day or spend a week, you can never get bored in Southwold, the ultimate seaside town, which just oozes old-world Victorian seaside resort charm.
Cornwall’s rugged coastline is dotted with natural harbours that shelter dozens of impossibly pretty towns and villages, but Looe is my favourite. Looe hugs the edge of the river from which it takes its name, which flows out to sea here, and picturesque houses are built on the sides of the river valley, all with magnificent river or sea views. There are dozens of quaint, independent shops in the heart of the town, and lots of pubs, all of which have live music all year round. This town draws lots of visitors in the summer months but also has a thriving local community, which means it’s full of life all year round, unlike some of the other picture-postcard towns in the area which have been bought up by second home owners. A music festival takes over the town and the beach in September, and the residents of Looe famously take to the streets in fancy dress on New Year’s Eve. There are beautiful walks along the coastline to neighbouring towns and along the riverbanks if you want a taste of the local countryside.
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For those that love country walks as well as exploring the coastline, Lymington is the place to be. On the coast at the edge of the New Forest, this quaint seaside town is wonderfully located. Take the train from Brockenhurst and to Lymington and peer out of the windows at the herds of New Forest ponies that roam free in this area. Wander down the cobbled street which was the heart of the original fishing village, and peer through the original windows of the tiny gift and sweet shops. Lymington’s sheltered harbour is charming, full of boats bobbing up and down. Get some takeaway fish and chips on the high street and eat them on the harbour’s edge, weather permitting, or take shelter in The Ship, a beautiful pub and restaurant perched right on the waterfront. In the summer, go for a swim in Lymington’s lido, the oldest in the country.
It isn’t only south of England which boasts quintessential seaside towns. Whitby, perched on the banks of the River Esk in North Yorkshire, has been attracting tourists since the early 1800s. Visitors are drawn by the beauty of the coastline here, and the proximity to the North York Moors National Park. Whitby also has a rich literary history, with part of the novel Dracula being set here, inspired by the ruins of the gothic abbey, and the likes of Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens having written parts of their most famous novels whilst staying in this seaside town. Pay a visit to the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, where the famous explorer once lived, and then wander along the beach and admire the brightly-coloured beach huts. Whitby Folk Week brings folk fans to Whitby in their droves on a yearly basis, with every pub and venue in the town being taken over by performers, and a party atmosphere gripping this picturesque corner of Yorkshire.
Smaller than the other seaside towns on this list, this village on the North Norfolk coast is a real getaway. This sleepy village comes alive in the summer months, but it’s also the perfect winter’s escape. With stately homes nearby and the whole of the North Norfolk coast to explore, you won’t be stuck for things to do. One of the main attractions is the amazing grey seal colony out at Blakeney Point, just a short boat ride away. If you want to catch a glimpse of wild seal pups, the breeding season is between November and January. Thanks to conservation work, their numbers are ever increasing, and now around 2,000 pups are born each year. Keep the kids, or the big kid in you, entertained by buying a crabbing line and whiling away a few hours fishing crabs out of the quay, perfecting the skills you learnt in Walberswick.
There you have it, five of my favourite spots on England’s ever-changing coastline. From beach walks to gigs in traditional harbourside pubs and from gothic abbeys to alternative arcades, you’d be hard-pressed not to fall in love with the Great British Seaside.