Take a sandy stroll along these five beautiful beaches on your next England vacation.
Outside of the United Kingdom, England isn’t exactly known as a beach destination, but the British Isles offers up some terrific options for old and young sand lovers alike. Brighton Beach is arguably the most famous of them all—and you can read more about Brighton in our London Day Trips article—but here are five lesser known stretches of sand that are also worth a visit.
A short drive from Liverpool, Formby Beach has a gorgeous stretch of unspoiled coastline with dune grasses. As a bonus, the nearby pine woods feature a lively colony of endangered red squirrels and walking paths that are stroller-friendly. The National Trust, which owns Formby Beach, provides squirrel food for a small fee, as well as children’s programs and walks along the Sefton Coastal Footpath, where kids can search for 5,000-year-old red deer footprints on the beach. Formby itself is a charming village with a wide variety of restaurants and shops. www.nationaltrust.org.uk
By car: 15 miles north of Liverpool, 2 miles west of Formby, 2 miles off A565, 6 miles south of Southport. Follow brown signs from roundabout at north end of Formby bypass.
By train: Freshfield Station from Liverpool Lime Street
If you want a little art with your sand and surf, try Crosby Beach north of Liverpool. Though kids can run off steam on the promenade, enjoy ferry spotting and partake of some treats from the ice-cream vans, they and their parents can also have fun seeing artist Anthony Gormley’s Another Place, a series of 100 life-size iron figures of men that look out to sea. As the tide ebbs and flows, the sculptures, which are casts of Gormley’s own body, are revealed and submerged by the sea, and they offer great picture-taking opportunities. One intrepid soul has even dressed one of the statues in a swim cap, waders and swimming trunks, and art students at a nearby university dressed them in period costumes which they removed when the tide came in. www.sefton.gov.uk
By car: Arrive on either the M57 or M58 motorways which both end at the same point, Switch Island. Follow signs to ‘All Docks' on the A5036, then continue until you reach a roundabout under a overpass with signs to Crosby and the A565. Turn right and follow the signs to Crosby and A565. Once on A565, stay in the left hand lane. At the first set of traffic lights turn left into Cambridge Road, where you’ll see the sign ‘Antony Gormley's Another Place'. Drive straight along this road at the end of which there are two parking lots adjacent to the marine lake. The beach and statues are a 5 minute walk from the car park.
By train: Waterloo, Crosby, or Bludellsands MerseyRail stations
We usually don’t think about visiting a beach in the winter, but at Donna Nook National Nature Reserve in northeastern Lincolnshire, there is something very special that happens every year. In mid-October, approximately 3,500 gray seals swim ashore to pup; the babies usually arrive in early November. The mothers, called cows, and their pups stay in Donna Nook until mid-December, making it one of the most accessible sites in the United Kingdom for seeing the furry white seal pups, which are always popular with children. Last year, the seal colony had its best breeding season on record with nearly 1,200 pups born, a great Christmas present for all. The reserve covers more than 6.25 miles of coastline between Grainthorpe Haven in the north and Saltfleet in the south, where it borders the Saltfleetby-Theddlethorpe Reserve. www.linctrust.org.uk
By car: Donna Nook is a short distance from Louth near the village of North Somercotes. Take the B1200 road to the A1031 coastal road. There are several access points off the main A1031 coastal road.
This is one of the most visually stunning golden sand beaches in Britain, and it comes complete with romantic views of Bamburgh Castle. Older children will also appreciate the Armstrong Museum in the Castle, which describes the life of the first Baron Armstrong and his engineering inventions, such as the first hydraulic crane. Lots of model ships and engines populate the castle, along with the collection of Bamburgh Castle’s Aviation Artefact Museum. If you have extra time, the nearby Alnwick Gardens are also worth a visit—it features a restaurant in a tree house for children, a garden dedicated to poisonous plants and pedal tractors for the kids to operate.
Bamburgh Castle is 42 miles north of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and 20 miles south of Berwick-upon-Tweed. It is 6 miles east of Belford by the B1342 from the A1. There is parking for 100 cars.
A World Heritage Site, the beach at Lyme Regis is one of the best places in the world for fossil hunting and dinosaur-enamored children. Part of the Jurassic Coast, the sands offer a wealth of ammonites, belemites and other fossilized sea creatures at low tide. The best time to collect fossils is after there’s been a storm because the cliffs have been eroded by the waves. Best yet, you and your kids can take your fossil finds home with you. Recently, hunters found a near complete 3-meter skeleton of the dinosaur Scelidosaurus, a species unique to Lyme Regis and Charmouth. Maybe you’ll also strike dinosaur gold. Lyme Regis itself is also a bustling sea resort. www.lymeregistourism.co.uk
By car: Lyme Regis is in the centre of Lyme Bay on the Devon and Dorset border between Exmouth and Weymouth. Just to the East of Lyme Regis is Charmouth, just to the West is Seaton.
By train: Main services from London Waterloo Station to Exeter stop at Axminster for Lyme Regis (X31 bus is timetabled to depart shortly after trains arrive, and is about a 15 or 20 minute journey).