A UK Coastal Trip – Beaumaris

Benllech

This is a popular holiday destination with its gently shelving clean, soft sand. A café guards the ramp. There are public houses & hotels, camping & caravan sites and several B&Bs.

Red Wharf Bay

Red Wharf is bordered by salt marshes and sand dunes, a nature reserve attracting lots of bird life. The village, with its three restaurants, is virtually at the water’s edge.

Beaumaris

This is a gem of an historic walled town with narrow, cobbled streets and arched gateways through high walls. In 1295, Edward I, having conquered Wales, commissioned the building of Beaumaris Castle as part of a chain of fortifications around the North Wales coast and the town became the main commercial centre of Anglesey. The pier opened in 1846, a masonry jetty on wooden & concrete pilings and a busy base for yachts and pleasure vessels of all kinds. Backing onto the walls, elegant Victorian terraces face across the water to Snowdonia.

 

The Swellies

This is the stretch of the Menai Strait between the Britannia and Menai Bridges. Its shoals and rocks cause whirlpools and surges as a result of the tides washing around Anglesey.

Menai Bridge

Menai Bridge is a small town that overlooks the Menai Strait by the Menai Suspension Bridge, built in 1826 by Thomas Telford to take road traffic to/from the mainland.

Bangor

Bangor is the oldest city in Wales and one of the UK’s smallest. Its religious roots go back to the 6th century. It is a lively place with a good shopping scene, a university and lots of leisure facilities. Tourism grew with the building of the road that runs through the town to the bridge over the Strait, in 1826. The pier opened in 1896 for use by pleasure steamers from Liverpool.

A UK Coastal Trip – Amlwch Port

Cemaes

A picturesque village sits on two small bays where boats and fishing vessels moor in front of terraces of painted houses. The shack in the car park takes the parking fee and serves tea & bacon rolls.

Bull Bay

A low, grass-covered bump of cliff overlooks the small bay. A few houses with empty-looking windows gaze at the gently-lapping waters, unflustered by any human activity.

Amlwch Port

In the 18th century the port serves what used to be the world’s largest copper mine. In its day the metal was used for covering the bottom of ships and in the making of coins of the realm. At one point it was the second largest town in Wales. But industry declined and gradually tourism took its place. Now the inner harbour has a museum dedicated to mining and the outer one houses a modern fishing fleet.

Moetfre

A low outcrop with a few parking spaces and a café, looks over the small beach of this picturesque former fishing village, with old fishermen’s cottages fronting the bay.

Treath Bychan

This small rocky beach, at least at high tide, has a sitting audience of caravans on the land behind. A few houses, the sailing club and a toilet block are situated by the sands.

A UK Coastal Trip – Holyhead

Anglesea

Britannia Bridge is the southern crossing to the island of Anglesey across the Menai Strait. In 1845 work began on a tubular bridge of wrought iron, rectangular, box-section spans for carrying rail traffic to link London to Holyhead. Following a fire in 1970 the bridge was redesigned and two decks were built on the original piers to carry rail and road traffic.

Once across, the road cuts across emptying rivers and the south western corner of the island. Most human habitation is away from the shoreline, leaving large wild areas, such as the glorious beaches and woodlands of Newborough Warren & Ynys Llanddwyn.

Aberffraw

 

Rhosneigr

This is a largish village with caravan sites, camp sites, holiday homes and pubs, hotels and cafes. Out of season the place has its own atmosphere. The metal lines on the sailing boats drawn up on the beach, ring harmoniously in the tugging wind. Out at sea, wind & kite surfers snap their sails before soaring off over the spilling waves, taking control of the elements to get that full adrenaline rush.

Four Mile Bridge to Holy Island

Off Anglesey’s western edge, with an area of just 15 square miles, is Holy Island, with its own coastline, notched with tiny coves, sweeping bays and dramatic headlands. Four Mile Bridge dates from 1530 and takes a small lane over the narrow Cymyran Strait which, at either end, opens up into the Irish Sea. A few houses cluster around the crossing. Real excitement is caused by the activities of the Police Diving Team, who are practicing procedures in the shallow waters at the shore’s edge, watched by a single local with a whimsical expression on his face.

Rhoscolyn

A narrow, wiggle of a lane ends at a wide, beach of lovely, soft sand. Building activity is taking place with a lot of work going on renovating/constructing some smart homes.

Treddur

A popular holiday spot, the local waters are good for sea fishing, scuba diving, sailing and some of the best kayaking in the world. It has two golf courses and a couple of hotels.

Holyhead

Holyhead has a character all of its own. Everyone seems to pass through the town on their way elsewhere. Millions of passengers and thousands of vehicles pass through the ferry port each year, across the Irish Sea to Ireland. A port of some kind has been here since Roman times due to its position on the western extremity of the UK. In 1845, an Act of Parliament was passed to enable the construction of a new port. A railway station was opened in 1851 with a direct link to London.

The town centre is built around St. Cybi’s Church, which is built inside the three-walled Roman fort. In a rather shabby high street, £1 shops rub shoulders with pubs offering karaoke nights and fast food outlets. There seems little renovation going on or any effort to revitalise the shopping opportunities in the middle of town. The port and ferry services, with associated shipping businesses, provide most employment opportunities.

Cruise ships do visit. The old jetty, originally used to unload alumina for the now defunct processing plant, is wide enough for coaches to travel down to collect and deliver passengers to the town and on local tours.

A UK Coastal Trip – Caernarfon

Pwllheli

Pwllheli has a long association with the sea. Wines from the continent were landed here and the coast was a haven for smugglers and pirates. It used to be one of the main fishing and ship-building centres in North Wales with nearly 30 ships in production at any one time. With the arrival of the railways it developed into a tourist centre with a sandy beach beside the harbour and a shingle one along the promenade.

Llanbedrog

At the end of narrow lanes lies a large National Trust car park. It is a short walk through shady woods to this popular beach. A smart NT café/restaurant marks your arrival at the soft sands that spread down to the sea. A line of beach huts on one side and a couple of old fishermen’s cottages on the other, stand back in the shade provided by tall trees, unwilling to go out into the full glare of the sun.

Abersoch

Originally a fishing port, Abersoch is now a popular, and rather fashionable,  resort and sailing & water sports’ centre, with fine beaches and a sheltered harbour. This is a bustling village with a good selection of bars, cafes, restaurants and a busy bistro life plus a choice of accommodation and attractions including pony trekking, boat trips and a crafts centre. Lanes lead from the centre to the peaceful harbour and around to the beach of lovely, soft sand, backed by grass-tufted dunes and a line of beach huts.

Aberdaron

Formerly a fishing village, it developed into a shipbuilding centre and a port for exporting limestone, lead, jasper & manganese from the local mines and quarries. The mining collapsed after WWII and the village developed into a holiday resort. Situated on the seashore, St Hywyn’s Church has served this once small community for centuries. Now it sits amongst white-washed properties on the edge of the village.

Porthdinllaen & Morfa Nefyn

These two settlements share the beach, facing each other along the crescent of sand. Porthinllaen is an old fishing village, owned by the National Trust, with a popular pub and the lifeboat station. Morfa Nefyn is quite a lot larger. A single-track road leads through suburban housing, down to beach properties and a manned, beach-warden’s hut.

Dinas Dinlle

Dinas Dinlle is a popular beach. The coast road runs along its upper shore of small pebbles which soon gives way to a vast expanse of firm, golden sand. A café, a large car park and a cluster of houses pin one end. Two slipways provide easy access to the sea. Iron Age remains can be found here. Ornithologists are attracted by its bird populations and anglers by its exceptional bass fishing.

Caernarfon

This walled town with the magnificent Caernarfon Castle, overlooks a small, neat harbour and the Menai Strait. Begun in 1283 by Edward I, Caernarfon was constructed not only as a military stronghold but also as a seat of    government and a royal palace. It was designed to echo the walls of Constantinople, the imperial power of Rome and the dream castle of Welsh myth and legend. Standing at the mouth of the River Seiont, the fortress, with its unique polygonal towers, intimidating battlements and colour banded masonry, dominates the walled town, also founded by the English king. Three centuries later, the ascent of the Tudors to the English throne eased hostilities between the English and the Welsh, resulting in Caernarfon Castle falling into a state of disrepair.

Despite this, the town has flourished, leading to its status as a   major tourist centre and seat of Gwynedd Council, with a thriving harbour and marina. It is home, both within the medieval walls and in the wider suburban areas outside, to numerous guest houses, inns and pubs, hotels, restaurants and shops, making it a popular destination for tourists, holidaymakers and water-sports enthusiasts.

A UK Coastal Trip – Criccieth

Tywyn

A long crescent of beach is divided by a series of regular groynes spread in front of hard sea defences, all constructed to protect bungalows, cafes and blocks of low apartments from the ravages of the weather and erosion.. At the far end is a caravan park.

Fairbourne

This strip of low houses at the mouth of the River Mawddach is losing its battle with the sea. As sea levels rise, it has been identified for locals as an area for ‘managed retreat’.

The crossing point for vehicular traffic is further up the estuary than the rail crossing.

Barmouth

On the other bank of the River Mawddach lies Barmouth. Now a resort town, it grew up around shipbuilding, evidence of which can be seen around the harbour. On the far side of the headland, hotels and guesthouses have grown up fronting onto the sandy beach along with a car park and a collection of seaside amusements with a small funfair.

Llanaber

Just out of the small village the road climbs to open fields, revealing a magnificent view along the coast, even though it is dominated by a carpet of caravans.

Llandanwg

Narrow lanes head over the railway, past caravans and bungalows to soft sands. Harlech Castle overseas a similar route across the golf club, along a wooden walkway through dunes to the beach.

 Portmadog

Situated at the top of a wide channel where two rivers join the sea, this resort town was a vital, busy shipping port for the international slate trade, brought down from Blaenau Ffestiniog on the narrow railway that still operates today. With accommodation, craft shops and restaurants it is an excellent centre from which to explore inland and the coast.

Black Rock Sands

Criccieth

The town developed into an attractive seaside resort from 1868. Its beach has a tranquil atmosphere, lacking an abundance of amusements or arcades. It is perfect for peaceful walks or messing about in the water around the jetty. The castle, prominent on the headland, was taken by Welsh forces in 1404, its walls torn down and set alight, leaving the ruins you see today.

A UK Coastal Trip – Aberystwyth

New Quay

The town was once important for fishing and shipbuilding, with wooden boats being built on the local beaches. The miles of secluded coves around New Quay provided ideal hiding places in the less salubrious, but probably more profitable, trade of smuggling spirits and tobacco. The Pier was built after 1834 and, in 1839, a small stone lighthouse, 30 feet high, was built at its end. A severe storm in 1859 damaged the pier and washed the lighthouse away.

Towards the end of the century, as shipbuilding died out, tourism gradually filled the void with visitors arriving by steamer from Liverpool and Bristol. The earliest motorised bus system was set up by Great Western Railways who established a line from Aberystwyth to Carmarthen in 1860. The buses served to connect local communities to the railway and horse-drawn versions brought visitors from the stations at Aberystwyth and Llandysul in the 1890’s. In the summer, New Quay becomes a bustling and vibrant holiday resort aided by the growth of the caravan industry in areas around the town. The hillside to the north of the town is covered with lines of brightly-painted houses in the shape of a cruise liner.

Aberaeron

The pretty town of Aberaeron developed from a small fishing village in the 1800’s. The Rev Alban Gwynne designed the harbour to hold back the River Aeron, creating calm waters, today used mostly by recreational craft. At the time there was also a thriving shipbuilding industry when dockyards built both sail and steam vessels. Many of the houses that we see today stem from this time and were built in the Regency style. Many occupants, being seafaring men who travelled the world during the Victorian age, often named their houses after far-off exotic places. it is a popular resort with numerous hotels and restaurants for visiting tourists along with many other attractions. A wooden pedestrian bridge crosses the estuary upstream.

Llanrhystud & Llanon

 

Aberystwyth

The working part of town is to the south where a terrace of brightly-coloured fisherman’s houses line the pebble beach with the harbour behind the end of the promenade. A blunt, rocky headland is the site of the castle which has been here since 1277. It was razed to the ground by Parliamentary troops in 1649 but three ruined towers still remain to wander around and feel its history.

The bluff divides the town’s two beaches. It marks the end of the north beach where much of the seaside activities take place. A visit to Aberystwyth is impossible without a walk or jog along the mile-long Victorian promenade. The seafront boasts the oldest pier in Wales, built in 1864, which offers the second-best vantage point of the town.  The best vantage point is at the end of north beach at the top of Constitution Hill, 150 metres in height, accessible via the longest cliff railway in Britain. At the top, the world’s largest Camera Obscura provides a bird’s eye view of more than 1000 square miles, in a 360 degree sweep around Aberystwyth. with superb views of the town itself. The promenade is also famous for the sighting of starling murmurations.

Brynowen & Borth

From the hill above the bungalows and Brynowen Holiday Park, the wide, pebble beach can be seen stretching through the village of Borth.

Sand is exposed at low tide as is an ancient, submerged forest where stumps of oak , pine, birch, willow and hazel can be seen. A closer look at this strip settlement shows a line of low housing, bunkered down for protection behind the tall sea defences.

Ynyslas

The extensive sand dunes of Ynylas mask the caravans and chalets that line the coast side of a narrow peninsula. At the end, where it meets the meanders of the River Dovey, is a vast area of flat sand that acts as a car park,looking over to the village of Aberdyfi on the far bank.

Aberdyfi

Aberdyfi was founded around the harbour and shipbuilding, but is now a popular seaside with a family-friendly beach. The centre of the village is on the river and seafront, around the original wharfs and jetty and stretching back from the coast and up the steep hillside.

A UK Coastal Trip – Llangrannog

Abercastle

A small village, cottages are mostly rented as holiday lets. There is a path up the cliff through a slate-stacked lime kiln on one side of the cove and an ivy-clad, ruined building on the other. This long, narrow, picturesque inlet, sheltered from the prevailing winds, makes it a perfect anchorage and an excellent launching platform for boats and kayaks. There is a small car park and some toilets. The nearest facilities can be found in Trefin & St Davids. Here you will find a selection of cafes, B&Bs, camp sites, caravan parks, self-catering accommodation and, in the latter place, a selection of hotels.

Fishguard

The two parts of Fishguard are separated by a rocky promontory. Goodwick is the modern town, built around the port from where ferries takes vehicles across the Irish Sea. The Lower Town is the original hamlet. Fishermen’s cottages, now mostly holiday rentals, line the quay. The ruined fort was completed on the headland in 1781, to protect the harbour.

Parrog

The beach and harbour at Parrog are situated down from the pretty village of Newport on the main road, with its craft shops & tea-rooms. The bends of the River Nevern meet the sea here. At low tide it meanders through the sticky mudflats with lazy boats flopped at different angles, awaiting rescue by the incoming tide.

Poppit Sands & Gwbert

From its position on the cliffs, the hamlet of Gwbert overlooks the wide beach of Poppit Sands. The long, flat, family-friendly beach at the mouth of the River Teifi, is popular throughout the year for bathing, family games, beach combing or just strolling. At the far end, by the car park, is the Lifeboat Station and an excellent café.

Aberporth

This unremarkable, large village comes alive in the summer with holiday-makers and visitors. A narrow ridge of rocks separates two family-friendly beaches. There is a car park on top, with spaces adjacent to a flourishing fish & chip stall/tea bar. Once important for herring fishing, mostly crab & lobster are landed today and it is a popular spot for sea fishing and sailing.

Tresaith

A steep, narrow lane leads down to a small bay, lined  by a few houses and a largish tea-rooms. There are a handful of parking spaces & a very useful turning area.

Llangrannog

Small cottages and grander buildings line a gushing stream that runs down the valley. The village centre, boasting a shop, a café and two pubs, clusters around the beach. The coastal path climbs away on both sides.

 

A UK Coastal Trip – Tenby

Tenby

Now, I love Tenby. This delightful, walled harbour town is a real gem. Built in Norman Times, its narrow streets, historic houses, independent shops, and unique atmosphere became a fashionable destination for Victorian holidaymakers. It remains so today. Tall, coloured terraces stare down with empty eyes from their line of clifftop perches onto the steps, alleys and lanes of the old town. Either side of town, soft, sandy beaches attract holidaying families and groups of all ages. Parties of guys and dolls, celebrating some kind of life-changing event, enjoy the range of pubs and clubs in this small town. A drunken sailor or two would not be out of place, if we could just decide what to do with him.

Manorbier

Manorbier Castle was built by the Normans on this site overlooking the bay. The Norman knight Odo de Barri was granted lands in the last decade of the 11th century, and built a wooden hall here, surrounding it with earthworks. It was his son that began building the stone Manorbier Castle we see today. A great square tower was constructed, together with a fine hall block, enclosed by two high stone curtain walls with towers and a strong gatehouse. Behind is the village itself, made up of white-painted bungalows amongst the low foliage of bushes and shrubs. A Norman church shares the skyline.

The waterway that is Milford Haven cuts inland, providing access to the oil terminal of the same name and the docks at Pembroke. Back on the coast, impressive crags & cliffs separate crescents of soft sand. Settlements congregate on cliff tops around these bays. They attract walkers to their windy cliff walks up and down the shoreline, windsurfers to their Atlantic swells and weather-laded winds and families & couples to their beaches and cafes. At low tide it is possible to walk along the sands past headlands and clawing lines of rocks to individual bays and beaches. But beware – it is easy to get cut off by an incoming tide with no way to climb the cliffs.

Little Haven

Broad Haven

Holton Haven

Newgale

The road descends to a two-mile beach of large rounded pebbles and stones. This was thrown up by huge storms in 1859. It is a mixed blessing. Although it is exposed and magnifies any wind, however slight, it does offer some protection to the houses that nestle in its lee. Kite surfing and surfing are popular here. At low tide at both ends, it is possible to walk along the sand to reach sheltered bays.

St Justinians lifeboat stations

The village of Solva, comprising Lower Solva and Upper Solva, straddles its oen natural inlet. Further up the coast, set on the cliffs above a small harbour and a private residence a mile or so out of St Davids, the old lifeboat station, built in 1869, stands in front of its modern counterpart which was built in 2016.

Abereiddy

A rather lonely handful of fisherman’s houses huddle around this peaceful spot where a brook trickles over the small beach to reach the sea. Today, many are rented out as holiday homes.

Porthgain

Porthgain means ‘Chisel Port’ in English with the chisel representing the quarrying that once took place here. From around 1850, slate, then brick, and then granite were shipped from the harbour. The crushed, granite road stone was dispensed from the massive brick-built hoppers, constructed at the beginning of the 20th century, directly into small ships moored alongside. These hoppers, and earlier slate quarrying related structures including the lime kiln, the harbour itself and the pilot’s house, can still be seen. Slate was also quarried at Abereiddi and transported along the tram road to Porthgain for export. Mining finally stopped here in the 1930s. Now it is a very popular tourist centre thanks to a great pub, a super café/restaurant and excellent galleries displaying local arts & crafts.

A UK Coastal Trip – Burry Port

Llanelli

Llanelli, a coastal town with a long association with the tinplate, steel, and coal-mining industries, was such a significant producer of tin that it was referred to as ‘Tinopolis’ by the latter half of the 19th century. The town has undergone a metamorphosis during the past thirty years which has witnessed the closure of virtually all the old heavy industries, the reclamation of derelict sites and the creation of many environmental and tourist attractions. Tinplate, inflatable craft, general engineering, chemicals and steel fabrication still continue. The increase of leisure and tourism opportunities have enhanced employment opportunities in the town. In recent years much development has taken place to improve the Town Centre. Along the coast, the sandy shoreline has been   reclaimed and alongside it, regeneration has taken place in the form of a golf resort, the Wetlands Centre, Millennium Coastal Path & new housing developments. The local rural area supports dairy, beef, and sheep farming.

Burry Port

Originally farming and fishing were the main focus of the local population until the Industrial Revolution bought coal mining and industry to the town. In 1832 a harbour was built at Burry Port. Fed by a series of chaotic canals and wagonways it finally offered a way to ship Gwendraeth coal out by sea. No village or town of Burry Port yet existed. By 1840 the canals feeding Burry Port and their tramways fed coal from the entire Gwendraeth valley down to the sea. Early records of Burry Port as a town appear in 1850, springing up around the new docks at Pembrey. Wagonways were built to carry traffic from the mines to the canal which took it on to the port. Several of these wagonways became plateways and then railways as technology improved. With the closure of all the mines at Cwm Mawr, the railways up the valley were lifted. Much evidence of the industrial history of the area is dotted around the harbour with rusting winches and chains and tracks. Old canal gates separate silted docks where large information boards describe where smelting took place. The harbour is now a marina for small leisure craft and Pembrey & Burry Port Station is still served by regular services.

That’s me, waving from the harbour wall at dusk.

Pendine

Over the roofs of the village houses, Pendine Sands can be seen stretching along the coast for as far as the eye can see. The flat surface can be reached through an opening in the imposing sea wall. It was here that Allied forces practised for the D-Day Landings during WWII. It is here, also, that speed heads gather for their hit of thrills and, over the years, many attempts at land speed records on a variety of machines.

Amroth

The sands in front of a strip of housing are only exposed at low tide. The flattish stones are a permanent feature of this beach. There are many stacks along the crest, built as a memory of a special moment.

Wisemans Bridge

In the 19th century, rather surprisingly, coal was loaded and exported from here. Now, a row of parking spaces, a single pub and a couple of workers’ houses are all that remains of any industrious activity.

Saundersfoot

Once a fishing village, this now popular resort grew in size when it became a thriving coal port, exporting anthracite. In the 1870s, the coal ran out and it turned to more recreational activities to provide employment for the locals.

A UK Coastal Trip – Mumbles

Porthcawl

The town started life as a coal port in the 19th century, doubling up as a resort town for mining communities on their annual holidays. When mining fell into decline it continued to cater for holidaymakers from the South Wales valleys. Around the town, sites of static caravans still welcome visitors. The harbour area feels interesting with historic buildings having a new career as restaurants and attractions. The lighthouse, built in 1860, still operates.

Port Talbot

The vast steel works of Port Talbot are a dense tangle of black/grey smoking tubes, pipes, chimneys, scaffolding and furnaces, mixed up with heaps of slag and piles of coke & ore. Surprisingly, it is the roads that bring some order to this landscape. Vehicles make their way around the edge of the works and then dive into the grid of streets that separate the steelworkers’ houses. Manoeuvre the correct way through and find the small car park and beach which provides recreational opportunities for the local families. Man-made promontories of rocks and boulders have created a popular surfing beach. But one can never get away from where you are. Large ore-carrying vessels dock at the neighbouring concrete pier to unload their cargo – the life and blood of Port Talbot.

Swansea

Swansea’s sandy beach area stretches all the way around the bay. Swansea originally developed as a centre for metal and mining. It was the centre of the copper-smelting industry from the early 1700s to late 1800s and also had a role in transporting coal and steel. These have now been replaced along the five miles of sandy beach by modern apartments and offices. There’s also a promenade, a children’s lido, a leisure pool, a marina and several museums. Swansea was the birth place of Dylan Thomas.

Swansea Bay

Mumbles

The magnificent Mumbles is the southern anchor to the bay with a long promenade around the crescent of sand. It is popular for visitors from Swansea and wider afield. From 1835, lifeboats operated from here. Initially they were stored under the cliff and a proper boathouse was built on shore in 1866.

A pier was built in 1898 with access to a new boathouse and the slipway. Another lifeboat station was built directly onto the end of the pier in 2014.

Caswell

Passing almost hidden from elegant homes with rhododendron-lined gardens, the road drops to the soft sands of Caswell. The café is prepared for the summer rush to its soft sandy beach.

Oxwich

A privately-owned beach charging an admission fee, provides access to the sands, a simple café with a scattering of aluminium tables/chairs and an elegant-looking restaurant.

Port Eynon

Soft sands line the bay, backed by grass-tufted dunes, with a few scraped rocks at the low tide mark. A few houses pin each end of the crescent. Smuggling was a common village activity between the 17th & 19th centuries. A derelict salt house is close by, used for extracting salt from sea water.

Rhossili

A large National Trust Centre, with shops, café and large car park occupies the tip of this headland overlooking the wonderful curves of Rhossili Bay. In the distance, the only sign of human habitation are small white-washed farm buildings. Sheep dot the landscape as white pinheads.

A UK Coastal Trip – Ogmore-by-Sea

Penarth

Penarth is a delightful seaside town, full of charm and character. Today, the town, with its traditional seafront, continues to be a regular summer holiday destination, predominantly for older visitors. It is now a dormitory town for Cardiff commuters.

Penarth’s Victorian and Edwardian founders created an elegant resort with fine public buildings and ornate houses. It boasts a number of splendid parks that link the seafront to the quirky independent shops in the tree-lined centre. Because of the growing popularity of the beach, the Cardiff Steam and Navigation Company started a regular ferry service to Penarth in 1856 which continued until 1903. Boats were loaded and unloaded at Penarth using a landing stage on wheels which was hauled up the beach. In an attempt to find a safer way to unload passengers, a permanent pier opened in 1895. In 1907, a small wooden “Concert Party” theatre was built at the seaward end. In 1929, a new pier-head berthing pontoon was added and in 1930 the current art deco pavilion was built. In 2013 a revamped pier was reopened, complete with art gallery, café and cinema.

Swanbridge

From the late 1890s Lavernock and Swanbridge were popular holiday locations for day trippers from the valleys of South Wales. Beaches were packed with visitors throughout the summer. There was an ice cream parlour, two busy cafes, the Golden Hind public house and a hotel. Most travelled by steam trains that stopped at Lavernock and Swanbridge Halts until they closed in the 1960s. Today, Swanbridge is a mostly rocky beach at the end of a narrow lane. A popular seafront pub, The Captain’s Wife, has outdoor seating and a car park which doubles up for the beach. Offshore, Sully Island can be reached via a causeway at low tide, not that there’s a lot there..

Barry Island

There are several distinctive parts to Barry Island but an island is now not one of them, even though the peninsular still goes by that name. It was an island until the 1880s but it became linked to the mainland as the town expanded and the Barry Docks were constructed in the gap of water between the two. The docks were originally built in 1889 to export coal and although coal is no longer shipped out, the docks still handle a variety of chemicals and goods. Tourism has now become the town’s bread & butter. This took off in 1896 when a rail link connected the two via a 250-metre long causeway. Before that, the only access to the island’s beaches had been either on foot across the sand and mud at low tide, or when the tide was in, by ferry from the shore at the Old Harbour, which is now hardly used as it is no longer dredged and it has become silted up.

The recently refurbished seafront offers a sweeping promenade along the entire length of the beach, against a backdrop of cafés and restaurants, a climbing wall, mist feature, adventure golf and landscaped gardens. Amusements and rides can be found in the Pleasure Park.

Cold Knap

The Knap marks the edge of  Barry a strip of pebbled beach squashed in by apartment blocks, cliffs and a large park with a boating lake in the shape of a harp. It also has a line of parking spaces right by the shore. When I was there, a van was doing a brisk trade in teas, bacon sarnies and ice creams. Along the promenade at Cold Knap Point, there used to be an outdoor swimming pool. Despite a campaign to reopen the Knap Lido, it was filled in and turned into a tourist trail. The Romans used the spot as a port and the remains of Roman buildings are now scheduled as a monument.

Aberthaw

In the 16th century, the port of Aberthaw, was a small but thriving harbour. By the 1840s, it had declined as a port but the cement works and the lime works till operated near the shore. At that time the River Thaw was diverted and the old port effectively disappeared. In 1963, the ‘A’ Power Station opened, followed by the “B” station in 1971. The former was demolished in 1998 and the latter closed in 2019.

Llantwit Major

Its medieval streets exudes history with shops, cafes and inns dating from the 12th century. The beach of large pebbles and cubed boulders is close by, a gentle walk along the banks of a gurgling stream. Excellent café here.

Dunraven

The Romans built a fort on the cliff here. In the 1700s it was replaced by a manor house, Dunraven Castle, now in ruins. It is an excellent spot, best explored at low tide, for fossil hunting and rock pooling.

Southerndown

A narrow, paved road leads down to the car park & toilets at the beach at Southerndown, known as Dunraven Bay. The road that runs along the headlands through the village, provides wonderful views of the Glamorgan Heritage Coast.

Ogmore-by-Sea

The village itself is set back on the raised land, overlooking the shore. The River Ogmore enters the Bristol Channel here and combines with the sea to create a large sandy beach at low tide. But watch out, it is easy to become cut off by the incoming tide. The small caves and rock pools are a magnet for those who enjoy exploring a varied coastline, like beach walkers and fossil hunters. The higher ground around the village hosts a large Pay & Display car park, along with a toilet block. Sheep graze on the cliffs, happily ignoring any activity on the beach or road above

 

A UK Coastal Trip – Weston-super-Mare

East Quantoxhead

This small, privately owned village seems caught in a time capsule. The centre feels very tranquil with an exquisite manor house, thatched cottages, medieval barns, its own duck pond and old mill building.

Hinkley Point C

There are three nuclear power stations on this headland. Plant A has been decommissioned, Plant B is in operation and Plant C is due to open in 2013 and expected to produce electricity for 60 years.

Steart

This small village lies in an isolated position on the Steart Peninsula which lies between Bridgewater Bay and the estuary of the Parrett. Largely low-lying farmland, it borders marshes managed by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust.

Burnham-on-Sea

 

from the town website

In the late 18th century Burnham grew from a small fishing village into a popular seaside resort. Several 19th century buildings line The Esplanade, the concrete sea-wall that was completed in 1988. A stone-built pier and jetty opened in 1858 to connect with a paddle-steamer ferry service which stopped in 1888. The second pier was built here just before WWI but never extended and so it remains the shortest in Britain at 37 metres in length, nothing more than a pavilion on piles. There has always been a risk to shipping in the area and several lighthouses have been built over the years. The Round Tower was built in 1799. It was sold after it stopped operating in 1992, converted and is now available for holiday lets. At the end of the beach the Low Lighthouse was built in 1832 on nine wooden piers.

Brean

Northwards along the coast and past the dunes and grasses that line the shore behind the Nine Pins Lighthouse the beach merges into Berrow and then Brean. These small villages are mainly made up of caravan park after caravan park; oh, and throw in a holiday camp. Over the road, the vast, sandy beach  stretches away  in either direction. It waits for the high sun to come out and the families to emerge from their compact holiday homes to take ownership of the shore, even if the water is far, far away. The beach is also a business. It is large enough and flat enough to park cars – at a charge.

Weston-super-Mare

Early in the 19th century, Weston was a small village of about 30 houses, located behind a line of sand dunes which stretched along the shore, which had been created as an early sea wall after the Bristol Channel floods of 1607. With the arrival of the railway in 1841, thousands of visitors came to the town from Bristol, the Midlands and further afield. Mining families also came across by paddle steamer from South Wales. To cater for them Birnbeck Pier was completed in 1867, offering arcades, amusements, tea rooms and rides. It closed in 1994 and now stands derelict. The Grand Pier opened in 1904, supported by 600 iron piles and 366 metres long. Weston has one of the longest beaches in the UK. Due to its large tidal range the low tide mark is about 1.6 km from the seafront. Although a bit jaded in places, the resort continues to offer numerous facilities to attract millions of visitors every year.

 Clevedon

Jutting out into the Bristol Channel sits Clevedon Pier. The pier was opened in 1869 to attract tourists, provide a ferry port for rail passengers to and from South Wales and serve as an embarkation point for paddle steamer excursions. The pier is 312 m long and consists of eight spans supported by steel rails covered by wooden decking, with a pavilion on the pier head. This Victorian resort town has the usual attractions that appeal to holidaymakers, next to the pier and along the promenade – cafés, bars, restaurants and fish & chip shops. After a chequered history dating back to 1929, Marine Lake still provides safe sea water swimming for families and training long distance swimmers within its artificial boundaries. Salthouse Field has a miniature railway, mini-golf and plenty of family-themed activities.

Portishead

The town of Portishead has a long history as a fishing port. The Esplanade is a reminder of the Victorian splendour that the town was long known for. As a Royal Manor, it expanded rapidly around the docks during the early 19th century. A power station and chemical works were added later but these have since closed and the area redeveloped into a glitzy marina & apartments blocks.

Severn Beach

Severn Beach used to be a thriving holiday resort. However, over the years, decline set in. Today it is quite hard to imagine the idea of anyone coming here on holiday. It is mostly a commuter town and the beach itself is a mix of mud, pebble and rock sloping into the silty waters of the Severn Estuary. The Second Severn Crossing can be seen in the background.

A UK Coastal Trip – Lynton & Lynmouth

Lynton & Lynmouth

Lynmouth is a pretty harbour of bobbing boats, nestling beneath the cliffs with quaint fishing cottages and shops lining the narrow street down to the quay and the distinctive Rhenish Tower, built in the late 1850s by General Rawdon to store salt water to supply his house with sea baths.The East Lyn River and Hoar Oak Water come together at Watersmeet and flow through the village to the sea. In 1952 they both flooded and a torrent of water destroyed nearly 100 homes with the loss of 34 lives.

Lynton is a Victorian village perched high above the shore. The steep gradient between the two had always been a deterrent to visitors and a hard climb for the locals. In 1887 a 300-metre twin track was laid up the steep gradient. The water-operated cliff railway opened in 1890. Apart from needing new tracks in 1908, it operates now as it always has.

Porlock Weir

Porlock, the village 2 km from the coast, means ‘place of the port’ and Porlock Weir is its harbour. It was the working arm of Porlock Manor Estate where fishermen and builders had their homes. Weir refers to salmon stakes and traps that were situated along the shore. The quaint stone buildings and thatched cottages cluster around the harbour with the 15th century Ship Inn, restaurants, shops and places to stay.

Minehead

Originally this was a rather ordinary town with drift net fishing as its main source of income. This was concentrated around the fishing quarter and the historic harbour. Tourism was late to arrive here as it is a bit out of the way. It did not really become popular until the railways bought tourism to this part of the coast.

In Victorian times wealthy industrialists built large houses on North Hill and hotels were developed so that tourism became an important industry. There are still signs of Victorian and Georgian splendour but it was not until the 1950s that the place really took off. That was when Billy Butlin opened his holiday camp, meeting the need for cheap, multi- activity holidays for working families. Many of the visitors use the facilities of the beach and town before returning to camp for their all-inclusive meals and entertainment.

Dunster Beach

The medieval village of Dunster and the castle and grounds are well worth a visit. A lane leads down from the main road to the beach. A small refreshment hut stands on a wide, open expanse of land running along  the beach. This seems safe with groynes stabilising the shore. It is also a car park and you do have to pay if you want to stay. The track ends at a barrier- ‘Private Holiday Complex’. On the other side, the white-washed fences of private beach huts are proof that ’An Englishman’s home is his castle’.

Blue Anchor

A few detached houses pin the village to its beach of rocks and pebbles and stones. The raised coast road runs above the shore with white-painted railings preventing pedestrians from toppling onto the rocks below. A camp site and a large caravan park line the other side. At the west end, it turns away from the shore at a level crossing over the West Somerset Railway. 20 miles of track make this the longest,              independent, heritage railway in Britain. The line meanders through the Quantock Hills with 10 stations along the way.

Watchet

Watchet has history going back to the Dark Ages. Its then natural harbour made it an early trading centre, moving commodities up and down the coast, including iron ore, bought down by the railway. It has remained an active port ever since. Old cottages and shops lead down to the modern harbour. Cafes & benches are positioned on the quayside overlooking the moorings and the pontoons.

A UK Coastal Trip – Combe Martin

Woolacombe

This beach is really quite impressive, all 4.8 km of its surfing paradise. Vans & motor homes parked on the cliffs, empty the cool crowd onto the sands and into the sea. Rows of black-clad bodies wait for that one wave that will take them to the next level and nirvana.

Lee

This is a quiet gem, away from the relentless activity on the surfing beaches. Positioned in a small cove, the village is surrounded by glorious Devon countryside. There are a few houses, some holiday lets and a ramshackle hotel.

Ilfracombe

The town has been popular with holidaymakers since the 1800s. Beaches abound close by. The Tunnels Beaches transformed the town into a seaside resort whilst maintaining Victorian etiquette. Men, women, girls and boys were segregated through four tunnels on the way to a unique and stunning, secluded beach. Damien Hirst’s 20-metre-high statue of Verity stands at the entrance to the harbour, overlooked by sweeping public gardens and terraces of tall, elegant, white-faced buildings.

Hele

Looking down from the headland, Hele is like a model village. At low tide its beach is edged by interesting rock formations, caves and holes. The sands are empty, crying out for groups of holiday makers and playful children. The village is home to a paper mill which produces sausage casing paper and paper for teabags. Originally a grist mill producing flour, it was converted to a paper mill in 1762. It was here that John Dewdney produced the first glazed writing paper in England in the 1840s. He was also famously called upon to supply the paper for the catalogues of the Great Exhibition in 1851.

Watermouth

Watermouth Castle was the residence of a local family, built in the mid-19th century to resemble a castle but it is in fact a country house. The castle is now an amusement centre with such attractions as Castle Treasure, Dungeon Labyrinths and The Watershow Extravaganza and, in its grounds, are nine rides spread across themed areas known as Adventure Land, Merry go Land and Gnome Land. Opposite the castle a track leads down to a caravan park and a slipway where yachts are hauled up for the winter. A small tearoom offers simple refreshments.

Combe Martin

The village wraps itself around a small, sheltered cove with the steep coastal path winding up the cliffs on either side. It boasts some of the best rock pools in the UK. Houses line the one single street that runs 3.2 km from the valley head to the sea. The Pack o’ Cards public house was built around 1700 by George Ley, reputed to have been funded by his gambling successes. It originally had 52 windows, 13 rooms and four floors, matching the corresponding numbers from a pack of playing cards. Disused silver mines are located nearby. Items in the Crown Jewels are made from Combe Martin silver.

A UK Coastal Trip – Westward Ho!

Bude

The resort town/surfing centre of Bude is made up of different areas, each with a different feel. There is the busy town centre with national and independent shops and numerous hotels, guesthouses, bars and eateries. Tall cliffs climb behind the coast with open spaces for dog walkers and family play and exercise, before dipping down to numerous coves up and down the shore. Crooklets Beach is at the end of the golf club. Popular with surfers it has changing huts and showers and is close to town.

It is separated from Summerleaze Beach by Bude Sea Pool, a large, open-air tidal pool beneath the headland. The pool is refreshed daily and used when the tide is out. This beach stretches around the front of the town.

The life-savers have a high lookout, along with a cluster of beach huts, on the paths that lead up the cliffs. At the far side of the beach, the Bude Canal starts its low climb to Druxton Wharf near Launceston. Built in 1823, cables were used to haul tub boats up its 35 mile course.

Hartland Quay

This remote spot on the coastline of the teeth and tails of fiery dragons, used to be a small harbour. Ships would berth here to unload their cargoes of stone and lime and coal.  Agricultural products would have been loaded and taken to be sold. A line of workers cottages and an inn were built here. These have been converted into a hotel and bar, with a small shop selling items for tourists.

Clovelly

From the days of Elizabeth I, Clovelly has been privately owned. This means that it has kept its unique atmosphere but it also means you have to pay in the Visitor Centre to get in.

A single steep, cobbled street tumbles its way down to the ancient fishing harbour and the 14th century quay, past flower-strewn cottages broken only by little passageways and winding alleys that lead off to provide further surprises. This street, known as ‘Up-a-long’ or ‘Down-a-long’, was built of stones hauled up from the beach. Donkeys used to be the main form of transport but today man-powered sledges transport goods around the village. Clovelly was once a busy fishing port renowned for herring and mackerel. During the high season, the return to the car park can be made by vehicle from behind the pub on the quay.

Bucks Mill

This charming hamlet stands proudly on its high perch. It is unspoilt, with just a handful of cottages, no pub, no shop. At the time of the Spanish Armada, the survivors of a Spanish Galleon took refuge here and settled, marrying local women. They were self-sufficient, from fishing, agriculture and lime burning. On the beach, now sprinkled with disused lime kilns and rusty winches, is the abandoned quay.

Westward Ho!

Westward Ho! is the only town in the UK to have an exclamation mark as part of its name.

The vast beach is Westward Ho!’s big attraction, backed by amusements, go-carts and a surf school. This wide expanse of sand stretches away for 3 miles and is made for surfing, as long as you have the energy to get out there at low tide. The shore slopes away so gently that the low tide mark feels like a mile away. A promenade runs along in front of the resort providing protection for the beach huts, the numerous eateries and apartments, chalets, clubs and pubs.

On the neighbouring headland, bungalows, huts and caravans dot the grass in grid clusters. Permanent holiday housing has been built alongside two holiday camps which are still in operation.

Saunton

Surfers seem to go out in any weather as long as the surf is up. The village itself is small and provides the access to the beach car park. A small collection of shacks sell surfing paraphernalia and steaming mugs of tea to shivering wet suits. In the grey of a cold, windy, spring day, beach huts stand a bit forlorn, unwanted, unhired.

Croyde

Around the headland Croyde sits on a small bay. An unspoilt village steeped in old-world charm, it huddles behind the dunes. Between the houses, tracks head down to the surfing beaches. The surrounding cliffs offer grand views of the sport on offer amongst the surf-topped waves.

A UK Coastal Trip – Port Isaac

I am back on it now. I have travelled through all the remaining coastal settlements of the West Country and of Wales, so all the images and the blurb are mine.

Polzeath

A small seaside resort, Polzeath’s wide, sandy beach is popular with families and surfers. Cars park directly on the sand and offload their youngsters into numerous surfing schools dotted around the shore. Other families take their beach-paraphernalia to their spot, marked out with windbreaks and cool boxes. Surfing school staff and life savers give an air of authority in case anyone is feeling nervous about entering the distant sea. Steaming tea and bacon rolls are available from the cafes and stalls, providing further comfort.

Port Quinn

Port Quin is an unspoilt cove sitting in a deep inlet that faces the Atlantic. Narrow and sheltered, its beach is only accessible at low tide when rock pools appear. Forming a natural harbour, Port Quin, like villages close by, once had a thriving pilchard fishing industry. There was mining here too, but over the years both went into terminal decline with the village eventually becoming deserted. The cove and village have been  re-energised and both are now run by the National Trust. It a quiet and peaceful spot that is popular with experienced walkers and those taking part in snorkelling and kayaking. On my visit, a small van was making good quality, bespoke coffee in the small car park.

Port Isaac

Port Isaac is all very quaint and photogenic. The time to visit is out of season otherwise the narrow streets and eateries are swamped by visitors, to the extent that cars are parked all the way up the roads running down and through the village. A well-known set for TV and film, one almost expects familiar members of the cast to be seated in the pub with a bevy or beer in his/her hand. Yep, it happened when I was there! In the centre of the village, numerous restaurants and eateries offer seafood menus, landed by the boats that moor in the harbour or are dragged up onto the small slipway. Reservations are essential all year round.

The village was a busy coastal port from the Middle Ages to the mid-19th Century by which time it was an active harbour handling stone, coal, timber and pottery. Fishing and fish-processing have always been important. The centre consists of narrow alleys and ’opes’ winding down steep hillsides, lined with white washed cottages and granite, slate fronted houses.

Tintagel

Tintagel is a busy village with numerous attractions to pull in the passing tourist. The most well-known is Tintagel Castle – a Cornish castle with links to the legend of King Arthur. A spectacular new bridge links this island fortress to the mainland. The castle ruins, covered in lichen and tufted grass, cling to the cliffs. A life-size bronze statue of an ancient regal figure keeps watch over the wild seas below.

Boscastle

Quaint, picturesque, white-washed cottages line the stream that gurgles down to the harbour and the sea. In 2004 flash floods caused terrible damage.

Before the railways, Boscastle was a thriving port, serving much of North Cornwall. The harbour, sheltering from the weather and sea behind crags and outcrops, is a natural inlet protected by two stone walls, built in 1584.

Crackington Haven

This is a lovely shingle cove dominated by majestic cliffs. Golden sands & rock pools are exposed at low tide. Until the 19th century, it was a small port handling limestone, coal & local slate. The village car park, at the mouth of a gurgling brook where it spreads over the beach, is partially circled by a cluster of houses, a few being B&Bs, an inn, and an excellent cafe.

Widemouth Bay

The beach is a wide expanse of open sand with fingers of rock all that remains of eroded headlands. This exposed stretch of coast, faces west, straight into the full force of the Atlantic.

A UK Coastal Trip – Brixham

Brixham

Narrow streets and attractive old buildings cling to the steep slopes that encircle the harbour. This is a working port that remains in use as a dock for fishing trawlers and home to a large fishing fleet. It is the oldest town in Torbay. Historically, Brixham was two separate communities with only a marshy lane to connect them. Cowtown was the area on top of the hill where the farmers lived, while a mile away around the harbour was Fishtown where the fishermen and seamen lived. Along the quayside ranges a terrace of fresh crab stalls, fish & chip shops, pubs and taverns. Locals perch on upturned boats and reminisce over past friends, local characters & stories of the sea.

Dartmouth

Dartmouth Castle, dating from the 15th century, guards at the mouth of the Dart estuary. A 229-metre chain was stretched across to the opposite bank to defend the harbour and prevent invaders sailing upstream. The town has a long maritime history. Streets are steeply sloped or stepped and many over overhung by the upper floors of medieval houses.

Originally two fishing villages it was in Tudor/Stuart times that it developed into a prosperous trading port. Grapes carved on the buildings, reflect its days as a wine port. The Butterwalk is a row of trading houses built in the 1630s. The upper floors, supported on columns, provided shelter for the merchants as they traded below.

Blackpool Sands

High wooded cliffs shelter the crescent of golden sand and fine shingle at the northern end of Start Bay which attracts many visitors in the summer. All you need is a café and a car park and a smashing beach.

Strete

This quaint village is first mentioned in 1194. It lies on an ancient trackway up on the cliffs, overlooking Start Bay. The coffee shack down on the shore is a good point for starting a beach walk.

A UK Coastal Trip – Teignmouth

Beer

What a great name for a village. Fishing boats and tackle are lined up on the shore in a very orderly way. They share the beach with holidaymakers and anglers. The café is great.

Sidmouth

Handsome hotels, many of them Regency and Victorian, and seafront buildings, line the roads and the esplanade. Peaceful gardens & clipped lawns lie at the eastern end.

Budleigh Salterton

This small town is sited where the River Otter reaches the sea. Its broad sweep of pink, pebbled beach is guarded by red sandstone cliffs.

Exmouth

Stylish and spacious, Exmouth has some grand gardens and parks. The cliffs that form the coast along here give way to miles of flat sandy beach.

Dawlish

The spine of this family resort is The Lawn, ornamental gardens through which Dawlish Water flows over a series of small weirs. The main Exeter to Plymouth railway line runs beside the sea on this stretch of coast and trains are frequently battered in winter storms. In Dawlish the sea can be reached by walking under the track. Turning left or right, a wide scenic footpath tops the sea wall beside the railway and above the deep-red shingle/sand beach.

Teignmouth

Like many of its neighbours, stone was shipped from here in the early 19th century. Today ball clay from local quarries is exported and used to make crockery and bathroom fittings. The sea side consists of a long beach of dark red sand backed by a promenade. From the centre, the Grand Pier, opened in 1867, reaches out into Babbacombe Bay.

The River Teign flows out at the southern end of the beach and creates, on the land side, a shelter for pleasure craft and fishing vessels. Working sheds share the water’s edge with smart residential buildings.

The shore shelves steeply here and there can be treacherous currents. A passenger ferry crosses regularly over the estuary to Shaldon.

A UK Coastal Tour – Lyme Regis

Seatown

Smuggling and fishing took place from this private, open shingle beach. Thatched cottages of honey-coloured stone line the river before reaching the holiday park. The Anchor Inn watches.

Charmouth

The beach is famous for its fossils, exposed during centuries of cliff erosion. For this reason, it is a popular resort although fossil-hunters should take care on the shingle/sands.

 

Lyme Regis

This delightful resort town has a long maritime history that covers sea battles, smugglers and sieges. In more modern times, it also hosted some major cricketing and recreational moments arising from the annual tour to the area by Greys Green Cricket Club. Many of these adventures centred on The Cobb, a long stone breakwater, built in 1824 to protect the harbour, where a few, rather forlorn vessels, balance on their keels at low tide.

It, along with the seafront of cafes, holiday lets & private homes in front of the cliff gardens, remains the focal point of the town with visitors enjoying the salty atmosphere of yachts and fishing boats. Lanes and narrow streets, lined with colour-washed houses, climb steeply away from the beach. The cliffs around Lyme Regis constantly crumble and slip into the sea, revealing fossils from 180 million years ago.

Axmouth

This sleepy village was once Roman Britain’s busiest port. Landslips have since choked the mouth of the River Axe and left the village itself a mile inland.

Seaton

This is a sedate resort with a mile-long beach of shingle/pebbles. The 13 trams of the Electric Tramway travel three miles inland, to & from Colyton.

A UK Coastal Trip – West Bay

Overcombe

The village of Overcombe guards the approach to Weymouth, two miles away along the Jurassic Coast. The shingle and sand beach has a different feel with very little development. It is a popular spot with local families as well as kite-surfers and kayakers. As the tide goes out the expanse of sand is exposed. The water is zoned to keep bathers separate from water sport enthusiasts. A long esplanade runs alongside part of the beach, and the South West Coast Path passes over the nearby cliffs. Behind the beach is a large grassy area, great for games & picnics and Loadmoor Nature Reserve is on the other side of the coastal road.

Weymouth

A long, wide, sandy beach is backed by a seafront of small hotels, boarding houses, some dating from Georgian times, and a mass of seaside amusements.

George III began to visit Weymouth for his health in 1789 and established it as a fashionable resort. The town has a long association with the sea dating back to the Middle Ages. In 1310 it was mentioned as a licenced wool port. Cross-channel ferries used to operate from here but these have now ceased. Stone Pier sticks out into the bay. It was built as a breakwater to protect the entrance to the harbour. The harbour side of the pier, and the two smaller ones that stretch out from the main pier, are excellent spots for a bit of fishing by locals & visitors alike.

Portland Bill

Commerce and maritime industries have taken the place of the old naval base. The cliffs around the island are pitted with quarries, many still producing stone once used in the construction of St Paul’s Cathedral and Buckingham Palace.

Steps lead down from the heights to small coves of rough stone & rocky beaches lined with fishermen’s huts.

Fortuneswell

Fortuneswell guards the approach to the Isle of Purbeck at the head of Portland Beach Road where Chesil Beach connects the island to the mainland. It occupies the steepest land above sea level. The strategic significance of Portland was first realised by King Henry VIII, who built two castles to protect the approaches. It became a naval base in 1845 with the construction of Portland Harbour’s Breakwaters. Workers were needed and housing was required on the island as a whole and Fortuneswell in particular. A large number of terraces were built across the village area and crammed into any open space.

Chesil Beach

 

The beach is a geological phenomenon made up of billions of pebbles which are now The pebbles on Chesil Beach are graded in size from potato-sized near Portland to pea-sized at Bridport and are made up of mainly flint and chert. It is believed that smugglers landing on the beach at night could judge their position along the coast by the size of the shingle.

Part of the beach rises to a height of 14 metres and this protects a lagoon called The Fleet which forms a nature reserve. This can be reached from either end but there is no pedestrian access along the beach between May and August to prevent the disturbance of breeding birds. Abbotsbury Swannery is on the lagoon, a sanctuary for 600 mute swans on the site of an 11th century monastery.

West Bexington

A single road through the village ends by a steeply shelving shingle beach backed by a a line of quite large, mostly white-washed beach huts and a car park used mostly by anglers.

Burton Bradstock

The village overlooks a fine shingle and sand beach. It is known locally as Hive Beach. From the car park there is a grassy picnic area and a track leading to the beach and eroded cliffs.

West Bay

West Bay is Bridport’s former harbour where ships were built until 1879. The man-made harbour is not a natural feature. It was required to export locally made ropes and nets. It has a long history of being silted up, blocked by shingle and damaged by storms. Today the town has a mixed economy of fishing and tourism, a resort, popular with families and sailors.

A UK Coastal Trip – Swanage

Studland

Studland lies across from Sandbank. A long sandy beach and sand dunes line the bay that runs southwards from the ferry across the entrance to Poole harbour. The beach and the dunes are owned and managed by the National Trust.  A short stretch of beach, just down from the chain link ferry, is reserved as a naturist beach. Behind the dunes is Studland Heath National Nature Reserve, an area of heath, woods, mudflats and open water with two waymarked trails.

The village of Studland is further south, set back a few hundred metres from the coast. Many of the houses are holiday homes, second homes, guest houses or hotels and the village’s population varies depending upon the season.

 

Swanage

Up to the early 19th Century, Swanage was a small fishing port. It developed as a seaside resort with the arrival of the railway. Sheltered within its wide bay, with a sandy beach and colourful public gardens, it is a popular holiday destination. Behind the Town Hall is a tiny lock-up, built in 1802, inscribed ‘For the Prevention of Vice and Immorality by the Friends of Religion and Good Order’.

The first pier was built in 1859/60, primarily for use by the local stone quarrying industry. It included a tramway which ran the length of the pier. A second pier was built in 1895/6 for use by passenger steamers. Today all that remains of the old pier are a line of timber piles.

Worth Matravers

This picturesque village is situated on the cliffs to the west of Swanage. It comprises limestone cottages and farm houses and is built around a pond.

Kimmeridge

Kimmeridge is a picture-perfect village as is its beach, with a natural waterfall and amazing views. However, the bay is only accessible via a £5 toll road, which includes parking.

Lulworth Cove

The small settlement at Lulworth Cove consists of a few buildings geared up for catering for the tens of thousands of visitors it receives each year. As well as visit this attractive cove they also use it as a starting point for the cliff walk, especially westwards to the famous rock formation known as Durdle Door.

Osmington Mills

The hamlet of Osmington Mills sits on the cliff top. A rough path leads down to a wild, rocky beach. The Smugglers Inn services visitors and the camp sites & caravan park.

A UK Coastal Trip – Bournemouth

Boscombe

This is to prove that this really is me, and yes, I have travelled from Berwick-upon-Tweed around the coast to Boscombe (and further) capturing images of every coastal settlements, from the beach or of the beach.

Originally a sparsely inhabited area of heathland, from around 1865 Boscombe developed rapidly from a small village into a seaside resort alongside Bournemouth. The first pier opened in 1889.

The promenade has been transformed from a sleepy 1950s style seafront into the 21st century home to numerous beach activities. Either side of Boscombe Pier, there is everything from sports courts and water sports to bouldering and slack lining. The land train runs along the promenade from the pier to its sister pier in the centre of Bournemouth. In town the Royal Arcade is a beautiful throwback to the Victorian era with a range of shops.

Bournemouth

Until the early 19th century, the area around Bournemouth was also just heathland where cattle grazed. In 1810, Lewis Tregonwell visited the beach with his wife. He purchased land and built a house with cottages for his butler and gardener. In 1836 a seaside resort was created, with villas to hire during the summer. The resort has been a popular destination since Victorian times with classic seaside amusements, grand hotels, glorious public gardens and a long, long promenade bordering a popular sandy beach. The iron pier, built to replace a previous wooden structure, opened in 1880, followed by extensions in 1894 and 1905.

Pine-clad valleys called ‘Chines’, used by smugglers, cut through the cliffs to the shore.

Sandbanks

The beach here is one of the best on the south coast. Sandbanks itself is a small peninsula, which contains some of the most expensive houses and land in the country. Some of the most exclusive houses boast direct access onto the beach.

The Sandbanks Chain Ferry first shuttled across the mouth of Poole harbour to Studland in 1923.

A UK Coastal Trip – Mudeford Quay

Friars Cliff

Along the coast from Barton-on-Sea is Highcliffe Castle. As its name suggests, the mansion and gardens are perched high up on the cliff. There is a clifftop walk through the Steamer Point Nature Reserve and the village of Friars Cliff. The beach is long and sandy with patches of shingle, reached by sloping tarmac paths at either end. It is backed by a promenade featuring some well-maintained beach huts where locals and visitors can while away a sunny hour or two.

Mudeford Quay

Mudeford Quay is the centre of the local fishing industry. Piles of lobster and crab pots, nets and buoys are littered at the end of the large car park. Salmon are still caught in nets using methods that have little changed in the last 200 years. A few old fishermen’s cottages remain along with the original Haven House Inn, the site of a battle between smugglers and the Royal Navy in the 17th century. In the summer a passenger ferry crosses the narrow stretch of water, called the Run, which separates the Quay from the beach at the tip of Hengistbury Head.

Hengistbury Head is a narrow, finger of land comprising two miles of heath, woods, marsh and meadow that juts out into the English Channel. On its northern tip a strip of sand dunes reaches out across the entrance to Chicester Harbour to Mudeford Quay. The spit is home to over 300 privately-owned beach huts, which are amongst the UK’s most expensive. The beach can be reached by the ferry from the quay.  A small mock train used to run from Double Dykes, two defensive ditches that were built in Viking times, but this was stopped in 2018 following an accident with a cyclist.

Southbourne

Further up this long, soft-sandy beach, backed by grassed cliffs, is the charming village of Southbourne with its promenade and, in places, beach huts. It is a bustling and thriving coastal suburb of Bournemouth, with a whole range of eateries, buzzing bars & exciting retail opportunities. Fisherman’s Walk Nature Trail is a stunning walk along the cliff top through a narrow strip of wooded land and a nature trail with woodland flowers and shrubs and plenty of wildlife. There is a lovely walk down the zig zag path to the beach or you can take the cliff lift. Built in 1935, Fisherman’s Walk Cliff Lift operates every day between Easter and October. Two passenger cars move up and down, tied to the opposite ends of a single cable on this funicular railway.

A UK Coastal Trip – Milford-on-Sea

Calshot

The pebbly beach with its lining of beach huts stretches out into the mouth of Southampton Water, a great place for ship, liner & ferry watching. Behind, there is a long open area for parking, picnics and games.

At the end of this exposed spit of land is Calshot Castle, an artillery fort built by Henry VIII in 1539 to defend the sea passage into Southampton. Three giant hangers and a conning tower, all still in use in either the aviation or shipping industry, are what remains of an important, wartime seaplane station.

Lepe

Lepe Country Park is on the coast proper. The Watch House was a boathouse. It is sited directly on the beach beneath the row of Coastguard Cottages. Looking older and hiding amongst its own personal clump of pines, the nearby lighthouse, built in 2000, peers out across The Solent to the Isle of Wight.

Keyhaven

Keyhaven is home to many yachts & sailing boats. Summer ferries leave here for Hurst Castle, another of Henry VIII’s defensive forts built at the end of a lonely spit on this marshy coastline.

Milford-on-Sea

The village has an extensive beach front, sandy at low tide. Nestled just behind its border of well-maintained beach huts are some wonderful cliff walks and a nature reserve.

Barton-on-Sea

It is situated in a scenic stretch of coastline with magnificent cliff walks, sweeping coastal views and a pebbly beach, sandy at low tide, stretching all the way to Hurst Castle.

A UK Coastal Trip – Hythe

Fort Blockhouse

Opposite Old Portsmouth at the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour is Fort Blockhouse. It was built in the 1850/60s to protect the city, the harbour and the naval base against a French invasion. It is open to the public and is largely unaltered with the parade ground, gun ramps, moated keep, washrooms and armoury clearly seen.

Fort Monckton

A short distance along The Solent is Fort Monckton, an abandoned military fort built at the end of the 18th century.

Gosport

Gosport, on the west side of Portsmouth Harbour, was a major town associated with the defence and supply of the naval base opposite. Many of the old military installations have been closed and re-opened to the public as tourism & heritage sites. The town’s seafront is across country on The Solent at Alverstoke, facing the Isle of Wight. It has a long, open promenade with some very basic beach huts.

Lee-on-the-Solent

Lee is the next settlement along The Solent. A wide promenade runs along the shingle beach, protecting the car park, the road, and the blocks of 1980/90s’ apartments and guest houses from the weather and the sea.

Hill End

The village of Hill Head lies at the end of the beach

Hamble-le-Rice

Where the River Hamble enters Southampton Water is the quaint, picturesque village of Hamble-le-Rice, with stunning views, period cottages, pretty walks and a fine selection of local pubs and restaurants. A ferry crosses the river to Warsash.

Netley

In the Royal Victoria Country Park, further up the coast, are the remains of the UK’s first, purpose-built military hospital, opened in 1856. Southampton’s port buildings can be seen in the distance through the haze.

 

Ocean Village, Southampton

Much of the Southampton’s historical waterfront stretching back 1000s of years, has been redeveloped into glitzy tower blocks, residential apartments, recreational centres, offices, business centres and marinas. Ocean Village is a marina, residential, business and leisure development on the site of Southampton’s first working docks which originally opened in 1842. It was redeveloped in 1986 with a cinema, cafes, wine bars and restaurants. At the top of Southampton Sound, and before the bridge over the River Itchen, lies the Ocean Cruise Terminal and the Red Ferry Terminal for ferries to the Isle of Wight. The passenger ferry to and from Hythe also berths here.

The west bank is a mixture of industry and commerce, yacht clubs and marina berths for some very fine yachts and sailing boats and a mixture of residential developments. The water is a constant buzz of vessels of all descriptions.

Totton and Eling

Totton and Eling is a town on the west bank, where Bartley Water enters the main channel of the River Test, on the edge of a commercial/ industrial area of Southampton.

Hythe

On the western bank of Southampton Water, through the city, down through the industrial parks, the commercial areas, the warehouses and the dock yards, is the town of Hythe. A ferry has operated from here since the Middle Ages. Hythe’s pier opened in 1881 to carry passengers to the ferry that operated from the far end. A narrow-gauge railway was built in 1909 to replace the trucks that carried the luggage along the 640 metres to where the ferry pulls up. It was electrified in 1922. It is the oldest, continuously operating, public pier train in the world. Today the ferry carries bicycles and passengers and the crossing takes about 10 minutes.

The town has medieval and Georgian and a long seafront promenade from Victorian times. The 11th century church of St Leonard is up on the hill. The chancel covers an ossuary, a bone store, lined with 2,000 skulls and 8,000 thigh bones. They date from the mediaeval period, probably having been stored after removal, to make way for new graves. From the centre, alleys lead up to the steeper parts of town. The pebble beach and promenade provide opportunities for long walks, flying kites and fishing. There are plenty of fish & chip shops and cafes.

A UK Coastal Trip – Hayling Island

Hayling Island

A long loop around Chichester Harbour gives vehicular access to Hayling Island, linked to the mainland by a single bridge at Langstone Quay. The islanders originally made a living from fishing, farming and salt production.

The marshes and wetlands of the Kench Nature Reserve are excellent spots for watching birdlife. Oyster beds were established here by the Romans and farmed extensively until the 1970s. They were restored in 1996, helping to turn the area into a wildlife haven. A railway to the island over the reclaimed mudflats, opened in 1867. Steam locomotives pulled carriages along the 8 km Hayling Line. Despite its popularity, the line was closed due to the prohibitive cost of repairing Langstone Bridge, eventually demolished in 1966. Now the Hayling Billy Leisure Trail is a three-mile walk/ride through the marshes and past the oyster beds along the route of the former railway line.

South Hayling

The natural coastline at South Hayling is predominantly sandy, but in recent years it has been mechanically topped with shingle dredged from the bed of the Solent in an effort to reduce beach erosion and reduce the potential of flooding to low-lying land. Since the 1930s it has become a popular seaside destination with its amusement park and holiday centres, as well as its miles of unspoilt beaches. Hayling Golf Club is situated on the western corner of the island, along the appropriately named Ferry Road. There are three yacht clubs along this southern edge with its easy access to the open sea.

Southsea

A part of the City of Portsmouth, Southsea maintains its own character as that of a traditional seaside resort. It has a long shingle beach with patches of sand exposed at low tide, two piers, one in a much better state than the other, a string of seaside attractions including a fairground, a D-Day Museum and a leisure centre. South Parade Pier marks the start of a wide, open esplanade backed by the Rose Gardens and a boating lake.

Southsea Castle was built by Henry VIII around 1544 to defend the Royal Dockyard at Portsmouth. Clarence Pier is very different in character. Looking rather tired, it is clustered on land near the entrance of Portsmouth Harbour with the hovercraft pad and terminal right beside it.

Portsmouth

A fortress town since the 15th century, Portsmouth is the home of the Royal Dockyard, founded by Henry VIII in 1540. England’s most important naval base, it is also home to the Henry’s Mary Rose, Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory and HMS Warrior, all open to the public.

The 170 metre Spinnaker Tower soars over Gunwharf Quays with spectacular views from the top. It is still a working dockyard and home to many vessels in the modern navy. The Continental Ferry Port, Wightlink ferry & catamaran terminal and the hovercraft pads are all staging points for the many ferries that cross to Spain & France and to the Isle of Wight. Vessels chug past Old Portsmouth and Southsea to reach the sea.

 

A UK Coastal Trip – Bognor Regis

Middleton-on-Sea

The village was mainly developed between the wars. Houses back directly onto the seafront. Access to the pebbles of the beach, sand is exposed at low-tide, is possible along several footpaths that run through the residential areas. There are a range of coastal defences along the shore such as offshore breakwaters, groynes on shingle beaches and rock walls to protect the properties from the risk of flooding & erosion.

Bognor Regis

One of the most popular resorts on the south coast, the town has sandy beaches at low tide, funfairs, amusements arcades, cafes, seaside stalls and a nightclub. Bognor was a small fishing village until the late 18th century when it was developed as a resort by Sir Richard Hotham. It grew only slowly until the railway arrived in 1864 and from then on it proved to be popular seaside town to visit.

A year later the pier opened. It consisted of a basic jetty which was some 300 metres in length with a kiosk at the shore end where, for the sum of 1d, visitors could enter and stroll down to the end. In 1900 the first pavilion was built at the seaward end and a landing stage then added to allow paddle steamers to dock. In 1964/5 severe storms caused the this end to collapse. Billy Butlin arrived in Bognor with an entertainment venue called the Recreation Shelter. This was followed by a zoo in 1933 and in 1960, a holiday camp.

Pagham

Pagham Harbour was made up of three working ports. They were overrun by the sea in the 13th century and the whole harbour, now set well back from the sea, eventually silted up and ceased to be navigable, except for small craft. Pagham Beach is an early 20th century development of chalets, residential properties and low apartment blocks.

Selsey

Selsey is situated at the end of the Manhood Peninsula which is bordered to its west by Chichester Harbour, to its east by Pagham Harbour. Its southern headland is known as Selsey Bill. Over the centuries, Selsey has derived an income from the sea, mainly fishing. In the eighteenth century, it was much more isolated than it is today and the sand spit extended farther out to sea. It was more of an island with only a causeway to connect it to the mainland, covered at high tide. This aided one of the other major enterprises – smuggling. The town is home to one of the few remaining fishing fleets on the south coast. Selsey crab & lobster are known as some of the best in the world. There is an ongoing and constant battle to protect the coastline and nature reserves from being taken by the sea.

Bracklesham, East Wittering and West Wittering

These villages lie on the coast of the Manhood Peninsula. Their main feature is the long beach, fringed with dunes at West Wittering. The village centres stand away from the sea and holiday homes and apartment fill the gap. Residential streets lead to the sea and there is a large car park and picnic area to the west. The sea is popular with wind and kite surfers and shallow lagoons are left at low tide for beach explorers.

A UK Coastal Trip – Worthing

Lancing

A narrow strip of rough grass stands between the coast road and a shingle beach trying unsuccessfully to fight off clumps of sedge. The land here was used for growing fruit or flowers but following WWII it was used for housing.

East Worthing

East Worthing has a vast area of grass for relaxing and playing games behind the stretch of beach huts that line its promenade.

Worthing

After 1798 the town of Worthing developed from a fishing hamlet into a fashionable resort when Princess Amelia, the delicate younger sister of the Prince Regent, visited for her health. The town boasts five miles of seafront, with a wide promenade, colourful public gardens and a traditional pier with amusement arcades, built in 1862. The beach is shingle with sand at low-tide.

Goring-by-Sea

 

There was not a lot here for quite a while. Intermittent residential development began in the 19th century. Much of old Goring was demolished until it became part of Worthing. Begun shortly before 1939, the Goring Hall estate was developed as a garden city, with concentric crescents near the seafront. Again, a wide expanse of open grass separates the residential area from the beach huts lining the long promenade.

Ferring

More a residential area than a resort, Ferring is an ordinary sort of place. The beach is easily accessible but the shingle and the clumps of rough grass are not conducive to relaxing by the sea. Close by are some weathered huts.

Rustington

Similarly, any part of the old village of Rustington, like its old flint-walled cottages or its medieval church of St Paul at Rustington, have been swamped and engulfed by relatively modern housing estates.

Littlehampton

Littlehampton started as a fishing port based around the River Arun, where it opens onto the English Channel. It expanded its port activities with the building of a wooden harbour in 1735 and a new river mouth was cut to alleviate the constant silting of the river. It then developed from a fishing community to a holiday destination. It still has a thriving harbour for thousands of leisure craft as well as a commercial port. The east side of the estuary has seaside activities with cafes and amusements and a small pier. On the other bank are the boatyards and wharves, the golf course and West Beach, backed by dunes.

A UK Coastal Trip – Brighton

From Newhaven the coast road trims the clifftop villages of Peacehaven and Saltdean. There is no access down to the beach along here, only a wonderful panorama of the coastline as its curves and slopes stretch into the distance.

Brighton

Some consider Brighton to be the queen of British seaside resorts. Its centre piece is the Royal Pavilion, created in the early 19th century by the Prince Regent, later George IV. Fashionable society followed and the town expanded, its elegant terraces and squares surrounding the old fishing village of Brighthelmstone. The narrow streets of the old village are pedestrianised and known as The Lanes, their many antique, clothes and jewellery shops popular amongst visitors & townsfolk alike.

The beach of smooth pebbles is lined with bars, cafes & restaurants, seaside paraphernalia, crafts, rides and spaces for basketball, beach volleyball and other sports activities. The British Airways i360 a 162-metre observation tower is a new addition, opened in 2016.  A wide path weaves its way around, linking them all up together. A series of steps lead up from here to a wide esplanade and a cycle path and crossings over the road into town.

Brighton has two piers. The Palace Pier, with its arcades and funfair at the far end, keeps company the skeleton of its poor relation. The old West Pier remains a wreck after it was destroyed by fire in 2003.

Volk’s Electric Railway, the first such railway in the UK, opened in 1883 and still rattles along the sea front.

Hove

Hove merges seamlessly into Western Lawns and Portslade-by-Sea. Brighton’s sister resort along the beach is more sedate with many elegant crescents and terraces.

Southwick

The road then moves away from the beach along a small inlet, the commercial part of Portslade with warehouses and timber yards, until it reaches Southwick. On the landward side residential homes keep an eye on the comings and goings on the water.

The River Adur flows downstream through the busy port and village of Shoreham. In the summer, a ferry takes passengers across the  estuary to reach the beach which has been built on a shingle bank between the river and the sea. The Adur enters the sea at Southwick and the modern lifeboat station.

 

A UK Coastal Trip – Eastbourne

Eastbourne

The golden domes of Eastbourne Pier glisten in the full glare of the sun. The pier stands tall and elegant out from the three miles of an attractive seafront of grand Victorian buildings. The palm-lined promenade and the colourful public gardens add a further dimension to this great seaside experience. The pier puffs out its chest to complement the seemingly freshly-sprayed pastel whitewash of its terraced neighbours and the subtle hues of pebbles and groynes that stretch along the beach in both directions.

Four small hamlets existed here before 1849 when the railway arrived. It grew as a fashionable resort largely thanks to prominent landowner, William Cavendish. In 1859, an entire new town was laid out – a resort built “for gentlemen by gentlemen”. And so a period of growth and development began. The centre of the town lies a short distance from the front. Museums are housed in a former Martello tower, a former Napoleonic fortress and a former lifeboat station.

 Beachy Head

Out of Eastbourne, the massive chalk headland of Beachy Head interrupts the progression of seaside towns and villages. From the edge of Eastbourne rises to 162 metres above the beach. Beachy Head Lighthouse, on a spur of rocks below, was built in 1902. After the Seven Sisters, a series of bright-white chalk cliffs that face out to sea, the road, and the paths on the South Downs, drop to sea level.

Seaford

The shingle beach bordering this quiet, mainly residential seaside town shelves steeply and at high tide swimmers should beware. It has a peaceful air with a terrace of well-maintained beach huts to give colour and refinement. A Martello tower still guards the town against foreign invaders, now a museum of local history.

Newhaven

This working port town has a charming side if you look for it. The Dunkirk to Dieppe channel ferry plies back and forth from the harbour on the eastern bank of the estuary of the River Ouse, with two sailings a day. The redeveloped West Quay is home to the fishing fleet that still unloads its daily catch here, with the subsequent presence of seafood eateries and stalls. There is a marina for yachts and pleasure craft and a shingle beach to the east of East Pier. West Beach, though, is privately owned. Due to safety concerns about the crumbling sea-defences and the harbour steps, a fence prevents access to the beach, the breakwater and the lighthouse.

A UK Coastal Trip – Hastings

Hastings

Although Hastings gives its name to the battle that took place in 1066, William, Duke of Normandy defeated King Harold and his Saxon Army at Battle, six miles further inland. He built a castle here of which only a ruin remains. In the grounds there is a daily audio-visual show which re-creates the battle. Hastings was a flourishing harbour town when William landed at Pevensey.

This close association with the sea is very apparent. Beside the small harbour arm, known as the Stade, fishermen winch their boats up onto the shingle. Close by tall, black-painted wooden sheds, known as ‘net shops’, were built for drying nets. Fish auctions still take place at the fish market. Weather boarded and half-timbered houses line the High Street and tiny lanes and stepped paths climb the two hillsides that dominate the town along with a funicular railway for each one. The traditional pier, built in 1872 stands a bit tired but very proud above the shingle beach where sand & rock pools are exposed at low tide.

Bexhill-on-Sea

Earl De La Warr decided to transform the small rural village of Bexhill into an exclusive seaside resort at the end of the 19th century. He organised the building of the first sea wall and of the Kursaal, a pavilion for ‘refined entertainment and relaxation’. Today this quiet, elegant resort is dominated by the low lines and the sweeps of glass of another De La Warr Pavilion, built in 1935 and restored in 2005 as an arts venue. Bexhill was the first place in Britain to allow mixed bathing in 1901. The old town is half a mile inland away from the beach resort.

Pevensey Bay

The road from Bexhill meanders lazily across the flat grazing land of the Pevensey Levels. No paths cross it, but from the road there are good views of the bird life all year round. William the Conqueror landed with his army somewhere near here in 1066 but it is not clear exactly where as the coastline has changed so much over the centuries. Today the shingle beach is fringed with holiday chalets and small houses. The old village of Pevensey is a mile inland. It is dominated by Pevensey Castle, whose outer walls were built by the Romans as a defence against Saxon raiders. Within are the remains of a castle dating from the Norman occupation.

A UK Coastal Trip – Dungeness

We are now approaching the peaceful countryside of Romney Marsh and the distinctive landscape of Dungeness National Nature Reserve.

Littlestone-on-Sea

This small coastal village was established, by the point of the lifeboat station, in the 1880s, as a resort for the gentry. It is a residential area with a few shops and holiday properties. The beach is predominantly shingle, with wooden groynes and backed with multi-coloured beach and fishermen’s huts.

Greatstone-on-Sea

The resort is part of a straggling stretch of seaside development. Low housing, mostly built after the war, and beach huts stare out over a rather scruffy beach, a mixture of tough grass and shingle.

Lydd-on-Sea

Lydd-on-Sea continues the same theme although the grass and beach is wider and more scruffy and there are no beach huts. The post war housing consists mostly of bungalows, built along the coastal road to Dungeness.

Lydd has memories for me as when I was a child, my parents would take my brother and I touring in France in our, I think – Austin 7 (or a maybe a Morris Minor, I can’t remember. What I can remember was that we took the car over in an aeroplane from Lydd Airport to Le Touquet. It was shaped like a tadpole. The belly would open up and there was room for a couple of cars and their passengers. Its two propellers had the power to raise the plane a few hundred feet into the air and, like a pigeon, it would then glide over the water to the other side. On one crossing my brother sat at an open door, exposed to the elements. Childhood memories.

 

Dungeness

Dungeness is unique. There are no boundaries here. It is a desolate landscape with wooden houses, power stations, lighthouses and expansive gravel pits. Yet it possesses a rich and diverse wildlife in one of the largest and best examples of a shingle beach in the world. The lighthouse stands tall amongst scattered shacks on this windswept promontory, each one unique in its construction and materials. Narrow rusty, rail tracks disappear across the shingle to tilting boats in the distance.

Camber Sands

The shingle beach gives way to a stretch of soft sand & high dunes at Camber Sands. Several Holiday Parks hide behind amongst the grass. The village of Camber & the ruin of one of Henry VIII’s castles lie further inland

Rye Harbour

The medieval hilltop town of Rye is a gem, with its narrow, cobbled streets & surrounded by water on three sides. Rye Harbour, further down the estuary, consists of a Martello tower, a cluster of cottages, a pub & a church.

A UK Coastal Trip – Folkestone

Dover

Dover has always been hugely significant as a naval town. The Romans made it the headquarters of their northern fleet. In medieval times it was one of the Cinque Ports. It was shelled and bombed from over the channel during both World Wars. The huge Dover Castle, first started in the 1180s, stands guard over the town.

Today, cross-Channel ferries, liners and cargo ships come and go relentlessly from its giant harbour. The old Cruise Terminal, an enclosed walkway used for boarding and disembarking cruise ships provides excellent views of all the activities of the harbour and access to the pier itself. The famous white cliffs can be seen in the distance in both  directions. On the quays of the Outer Harbour huge ferries wait, with mouths gaping wide, to swallow their cargoes of cars and lorries, ready to regurgitate them on the other side. The south side is more small scale with a line of ramshackle huts standing haphazardly at the top of the pebbly beach. There is little activity. A few individuals work on small craft.

The main human activity is on the pier itself. Two small doors at each end of the walkway give access and out in the full glare of the sun, up to 100 men, drivers(?) are busy fishing & chatting & snoozing.

Folkestone

The Leas, a superb clifftop promenade with wide lawns and colourful flowerbeds stretch for a mile or so. On the landward side are tall stucco Victorian houses and large hotels. On the seaward side steep cliffs overlook the Old High Street which slopes down to the harbour where small boats bob about in the water at high tide and languish in the mud when it is out. The arched viaduct over the  harbour provides memories of yesteryear when trains used to arrive from London for the boat-train. The carriages were loaded onto ferries for the journey across to France. This service stopped in 1980.

Sandgate

Old fishermen’s cottages and one of Henry VIII’s castles share the sea front of this charming village. Amongst the smart houses, cafes, pubs & small shops edge up wooded slopes.

Seabrook

Seabrook is a small village separated from the shingle beach by a raised embankment and the coast road. Modern apartment blocks & Victorian houses line the village streets.

Hythe

In medieval times Hythe was right on the coast. Today the centre of the old town is half a mile inland, separated from the Victorian resort area by the Royal Military Canal.

That’s a Martello Tower in the background, a series of defensive forts built across the UK from the time of the French Revolutionary Wars of the 19th century. They stand up to 12 m high with two floors and typically had a garrison of one officer and 15–25 men. Their round structure and thick walls of solid masonry made them resistant to cannon fire, while their height made them an ideal platform for a single heavy artillery piece, mounted on the flat roof and able to traverse, and hence fire, over a complete 360° circle.

Dymchurch

Dymchurch crouches behind a massive embankment, several metres below sea level. It is now full of amusement arcades and funfairs. For centuries the Romney Marsh drainage system was run from the Court Room in New Hall.

A UK Coastal Trip – Deal

Broadstairs

Broadstairs is full of character and history. In the 14th century, a small fishing community had grown up at the base of the cliffs and a set of steps, hence broad stairs, led up the cliffs to a shrine on the cliff top. The town also became prosperous as a centre of shipbuilding. Holidaymakers and the prosperous middle classes were attracted to the town in Victorian times and direct rail line was established in 1863. Access had previously relied on coach links to other stations in the region.

It is now a family-friendly resort with numerous sandy beaches. The main town beach is a crescent of soft sand, backed by beach huts and tall cliffs. Along the top narrow gardens and a clifftop road are lined by small shops. Botany Bay has photogenic chalk stacks and Joss Bay has a surf school. There are fishermen’s cottages, clifftop walks and independent shops lining unspoilt streets, smart restaurants, quaint cafés and even a 1950s ice cream parlour.

Ramsgate

Ramsgate has long been both a resort and a working ferry port. Graceful early 19th century terraces line the top roads that overlook the busy harbour. Known as the Royal Harbour after George IV embarked here in 1821, it holds not only the terminus of a ferry service to Ostend but it is also a crowded marina of yachts, sailing boats and pleasure craft. A coastal path follows the rolling white cliffs out of town. Slightly dated amusements and beach huts have spread to neighbouring coves. The main bathing beach is at Ramsgate Sands to the north. The UK’s largest complex of civilian wartime tunnels is here, as well as a row of smugglers’ caves is built into the cliffs of nearby Pegwell Bay.

Deal

Deal is a former fishing, mining and garrison town. It was a ‘limb port’ of the Cinque Ports in 1278 and grew into the busiest port in England. Today it is a quiet, seaside resort, its quaint streets and houses a reminder of its history along with many ancient buildings and monuments. Deal has a very attractive, rather elegant seafront with gleaming, pastel-painted buildings, held together with uniform clay-tiled roofs, which overlook the soft beiges and umbers of the pebbles in the beach and the dull blues/greens of the ocean. The current pier is the third to be built here. It is a simple structure, built in reinforced concrete, with little elaboration. It opened in 1957. Glazed wind shelters were built at intervals along its 300 metre length. In 2008 a new feature was added at the end – a glass-walled café/bar.

In the days of sail, naval fleets and merchant ships anchored in The Downs – the stretch of water between the town and the treacherous Goodwin Sands – waiting for favourable winds to help them on their journey. Deal Castle rests crab-like amongst the boats and fishing paraphernalia that litter the beach. Built by Henry VIII in the shape of a Tudor rose, it controls Deal against any foreign force.

Walmer

Walmer Castle was built by Henry VIII in 1540 when the sea came right up to its walls. The interior is panelled with portraits and relics of the Duke of Wellington who died here.

Kingsdown

A very narrow, winding lane takes the brave driver down to this hamlet of holiday homes and fishermen’s cottages and around a broad shingle beach dotted with boats and small huts.

 

A UK Coastal Trip – Whitstable

Whitstable

I like Whitstable. There is a strong flavour of the sea throughout the town, with its rows of weather-boarded fishermen’s cottages, black-tarred boat sheds and tarpaulin-covered sailing dinghies squashed in between grasping groynes. The harbour, once the port of Canterbury, is busy with an active fishing fleet and is lined with sheds from where fresh fish can be purchased. ‘Native Oysters’ have been collected from beds beyond the low water mark from Roman times. These can be clearly seen at low tide. Oysters are now having a revival and is celebrated at the annual Whitstable Oyster Festival, which takes place during the summer.


One of the earliest passenger railway services from Canterbury opened to Whitstable in 1830. A few years later the company built a harbour and extended the line to handle coal and other bulk cargos for the City of Canterbury. It is now out of use and has been converted into a cycle path. Behind the sailing club, pubs and bars spill out onto the beach. Converted bathing huts and sheds, furnished and decorated by local artisans, and oyster stalls overlook the winding promenade. Twisting little side streets, with quaint names like Squeeze Gut Alley, host a range of small independent shops.

Herne Bay


Before the first pier was built in 1831 the town scarcely existed with the exception of a few fishermen’s huts. It was laid out as a resort in the 1830s. The pier is the third one here, designed for landing passengers from steamers. Work began in 1896. When it was finished ran 1.147 km out to sea. A small railway was used to carry the passengers and their luggage ashore. The pier got quite a bashing from the elements. So much so that it was declared unsafe and closed in 1968. In 1978, the pier’s neck collapsed in another storm. It was dismantled in 1980, leaving a stub with a sports centre at the landward end, and part of the landing stage isolated out at sea. The Pier Trust focussed on promoting and developing the landward part of the pier. In 2103 a beach hut village was created on the pier with local businesses selling their wares. More traditional seaside rides and activities are sited at the far end to enhance the pier experience.

Reculver


On the site of a Roman fort stood the towers of an ancient church which was demolished when the sea threatened to undermine them. The towers were bought by Trinity House in 1809 and restored to act as an essential aid to navigation.

Westgate-on-Sea


Red-brick Victorian and Edwardian houses, green open spaces, landscaped gardens & two beaches, one with huts, give the town a sedate feel and make it a popular resort.

Margate


My visit to Margate coincided with the arrival of a sand cloud originating in Morocco (yes, really!) – hence the rather orange hue to everything. The sands here have attracted Londoners since 1753 when Benjamin Beale, a Margate glovemaker, invented the covered bathing machine. The railway arrived in 1846 but before that visitors came by sea in special boats called Margate hoys which docked at a curved jetty built for this purpose. The storm of 1978 destroyed most of it and what was left was demolished.


Margate feels a bit tired as a resort although there are huge efforts going on to turn it around. Despite the flaking paint, the boarded windows and the For Sale signs, the hotels & guest houses and the pubs & restaurants in the streets behind the front, offer the potential of good food and comfortable accommodation. Margate is reinventing itself as the next trendy place to buy a home. Behind the Harbour Arm stone pier, the bland faces of the Turner Contemporary art gallery look over the sands, concealing rotating exhibitions. A sculpture by Anthony Gormley, ‘Another Time’, has been erected on the rocks opposite the gallery and is fully exposed at low tide.

A UK Coastal Trip – The Isle of Sheppey

Over the wide estuary of the River Thames, we enter the large bulge that is Kent and begin to travel around the south east stretch of the English coastline. Cross country past Rochester and Chatham, both having historic associations with the navy and the sea, although both sited on the large inlet that forms the estuary of the River Medway, we retrace the route back to the coast. Only one road leads onto the Isle of Sheppey over the fourth bridge on the site, built in 2006. In the past there were several ‘isles’ but over the years these channels became silted up, forming one continuous island.

Sheerness

The town began as a fort in the 16th century to protect the River Medway from foreign invasion. The tip of the Isle of Sheppey is hidden behind the high wall of the dockyard, constructed in the time of Charles II. Today, much of the town consists of Victorian housing built for the dockyard workers. Backing onto the sand/shingle beach is a promenade with views across to the Essex coast. Barton’s Point to the east of town is a recreational & picnic area.

Warden

This small holiday village dates from the time of Edward I. Warden Point is a popular site for collecting fossils. The eroding cliffs provide opportunities to find specimens. However it’s generally more productive to spend time on the beach exploring the foreshore and the wave-washed tip of collapsed cliff sections. Fresh fossils are constantly discovered – turtles, lobsters and crabs to sharks’ teeth, snakes, crocodiles, molluscs and plant remains.

Leysdown-on-Sea

This is a traditional seaside resort with seaside shops and amusement arcades, boasting a wide promenade with ramps that lead onto a shallow, sandy beaches. Small bungalows, caravans and chalets hug the coast. At low tide the sea can be seen way off and beyond, the turbines of a wind farm wave in unison to anyone staring out to sea. Fingers of groynes grasp the sands to hold in place.

A UK Coastal Trip – Leigh-on-Sea

Moving down the flat, marshy coast, past the muddy mouth of the River Blackwater, the Dengie National Nature Reserve, the inlets and creeks of the River Crouch which have spread over Foulness Island, the Thames Estuary lies ahead. There are several towns on the north bank before reaching the first vehicle crossing point, Elizabeth II Bridge and the Dartford Tunnel. But are they river of coast? They have ‘sea’ in their names and so I have included them in our trip around coastal settlements, and they are on a tidal stretch of the river.

Shoeburyness


The town is right on the mouth of the estuary where the Thames meets the North Sea. It has two beaches. East Beach is a sandy/pebbly beach with a grassy area behind it. Shoebury Common Beach has beach huts on both the beach itself and along the promenade.

Thorpe Bay

Originally called Thorpe, when the railway arrived it changed its name to signify that it was a seaside destination. Mostly built in the 1920s, the streets are arranged in a grid pattern.

Southend-on-Sea

Originally a village at the ‘south end’ of Prittlewell Priory, Southend developed as a seaside resort in the early 19th century. It boomed in Victorian times and spread to embrace surrounding villages. Cliff gardens and a tree-lined esplanade with a Victorian grandstand overlook a sand/shingle beach which turns to mud at the low tide mark. On the seafront there are fairground rides, a water theme park and countless bars, ice-cream parlours and cafes.


The pièce de résistance for visitors to the resort is the pier. At over two kilometres in length, it is the world’s longest pleasure pier. The shore at Southend consists largely of mudflats, so the sea is never very deep even at full tide and recedes 1.6 km from the beach at low tide. Large boats were unable to stop near to the beach and none at all at low tide. In 1830 a wooden pier was opened. The railway reached Southend in the 1850s and brought with it a great influx of visitors from east London so the wooden pier was replaced by an iron structure in 1887. The first pier used a horse tramway to convey goods & visitors to the pier head. On the new iron pier an electric tramway was installed and by 1891, tracks ran along the pier and trains were in use.

Westcliff-on-Sea


Moving up the estuary, the Western Esplanade passes Westcliff, a distinct suburb and part of Southend.

Leigh-on-Sea

At Leigh use one of two bridges to cross the main railway line and find time for the old times. A narrow street of cottages, shops and pubs oozes history. The cockle boats unload their catch at the quayside. The original cockle sheds are located along Cockle Shed Row. The shell fish are processed here and a pint of cockles, winkles, whelks, oysters or brown shrimps can be purchased for immediate consumption.

A UK Coastal Trip – East & West Mersea

Clacton-on-Sea

This is a traditional seaside resort with a pier flanked by long, sandy beaches and well-tended flower gardens backing a wide promenade. Until the 1860s, Clacton consisted of two inland villages, Great Clacton and Little Clacton. It was only when the first pier, built in 1877 for goods and passengers, was rebuilt in the early 1890s, did the town flourish as a resort. Today the magnificent domed entrance pulls the visitor into a world of flashing neon, crashing coins, screaming rides & candy floss designed to help pass rainy days and grab coins out of your pockets.

Jaywick

Built in the 1930s as for Londoners, it provided low cost, affordable holiday homes for working-class families. Not designed for long-term residence many are in a state of disrepair.

Seawick


An endless seam of chalets and caravans shelter in the lee of the sturdy sea defences. Once over the road, up and over the steps or through the storm gates, the soft sands await. These merge into St Osyth Beach, a naturist beach, and then continue seamlessly to the small hamlet of Lee-over-Sands and up to Point Clear on Brightlingsea Creek.

Brightlingsea

The heart of the village is around the harbour. Sailing boats clutter the slipway outside the Royal Yorkshire Yacht Club. Another sailing club shares the quay with the harbour master’s shed and other marine engineering type businesses. They look out over Brightlingsea Creek, very gooey and muddy at low tide. Down on the water itself a pontoon allows punters to take a ferry across to Point Clear. Looking out from the angled boats, laid out like drunks in the mud, past the modern apartments around the marina, the distant beach huts disguise the flow of the River Colne and fail in their attempt to hide Bateman’s Tower. The tower was built beside the promenade in 1883 by John Bateman which he used as a folly for his daughter to recuperate from consumption. However it may have been intended as a lighthouse as part of a failed plan to expand the port.

Mersea Island

Mersea Island is quite unique. It is reached by a causeway from the mainland which is cut off at a high spring tide. It is a place with two quite different faces. Amongst the creeks, marshes and farmland of East Mersea house boats provide alternative ways of living. Contrast this with West Mersea, with its shops, guesthouses and restaurants. Smart residential properties back onto a sandy/shingle beach with well maintained beach huts in places.  The island is firmly oyster territory and has a growing reputation for excellent food and restaurants. It is also a popular boating centre served by two yacht clubs, boatyards, chandlers & sailmakers.

A UK Coastal Trip – Holland-on-Sea

Harwich

The old town just oozes maritime history dating back to 1340 when Edward III’s fleet assembled here at the start of the 100 Years War. Pleasure craft and small fishing boats share the quay with continental vehicle ferries.

On the far banks of the River Stour the large cranes of Felixstowe load and unload container ships which then head out to the open sea. Ha’penny Pier, named when its toll was a halfpenny, was the original departure point for steamers departing for Europe. Local ferries up & down the coast & river still operate from here.

Dovercourt


Dovercourt has a gently sloping sandy beach backed by a sea wall. A wide range of family activities are available along the promenade like a skate park, model yacht pond & boating lake. Two lines of beach huts stretch across the open grass. From 1863 a pair of lighthouses on stilts were used to guide vessels into the ports of Harwich and Felixstowe. They fell into disuse in 1917 and were renovated in the 1980s.

Walton-on-the-Naze

The town developed into a resort from around 1830. The present pier is the second on the site. A short pier was built in the 1870s. Due to problems of disembarking from vessels at low tide, it was rebuilt in 1898, re-opening almost 900m long with a single line electric tramway. Several renovations later there is now a large indoor amusement arcade, a ten-pin bowling alley, fairground rides and a rail-less train.

Frinton-on-Sea

Developed in the 1890s, this small town retains the air of a genteel Victorian resort. Redbrick houses flank wide, tree-lined roads that lead to a long esplanade and a broad stretch of clifftop grassland. Below the cliffs, a fine sandy beach runs the full length of the town. Beach huts line the promenade with steps & rails that lead down to the beach. At the end of town, the huts stand on stilts with their backs to the sea. Access to them is over narrow wooden bridges and access to the beach is down a series of concrete steps.


Holland-on-Sea


The presence of a row of beach huts and a well surfaced promenade is slightly deceptive as this is all that indicates that there is a sizable settlement close by, although it is not at all apparent.

A UK Coastal Trip – Aldeburgh

Dunwich

The village flourished as a port until, in 1286, a huge storm threw sand/shingle across the harbour diverting the river and destroying trade. By 1677 the sea had reached the market place and Dunwich had become an estate village.

Sizewell

Sizewell itself is a small fishing village and a few small boats still operate from the beach. Two nuclear power stations have been built outside the village. Sizewell A is in the process of being decommissioned and Sizewell B is still in production. There are plans to build a third on the site, to start producing electricity in 2031. Offshore there are two platforms. These are no longer in use but were there to service the intake and discharge tunnels used to run sea water through the cooling system. The cold water inlet was the farthest platform and the hot water outlet was the nearest platform.

Thorpeness

This unique holiday village is centred on a shallow man-made lake. Built in the early 1900s houses vary in style, including Tudor, Jacobean & traditional 18th century East Anglian weatherboard. Shingle beaches stretch north and south.

Aldeburgh

A main street of Georgian houses and older cottages provides a historic backdrop to a wide shingle beach where fishing boats rest up in a long line and numerous fisherman’s huts sell the daily catch of fish and shellfish. By 1600 the town was a prosperous port and fishing centre and in the 19th century it became a popular resort. But things have changed over the years. The half-timbered Tudor Moot Hall, the Town Hall, is now almost on the shore and the three roads that originally separated it from the sea have been washed away over time.

Felixstowe

A sedate Edwardian resort stretches around a long, gently curving bay, rubbing shoulders with one of Europe’s busiest container ports.

In the resort part of town a paved promenade is backed by well-tended gardens. Beyond the Spa Pavilion beach huts take the place of the gardens and follow the sand and shingle shore. The pleasure pier opened in 1905, 800 metres in length, making it, at one time, the longest in the UK. It had its own station and steamers operated from the seaward end which was demolished after WWII. The shore end was rebuilt and re-opened in 2017.