The Christmas jingle bells are a jingling and the first hint of frost, or even snow may be upon us. So, it’s the perfect time of year for the beach, right? For most people, the thought of colder and more temperamental weather might not seem an obvious reason to visit your local coastline, but often, it’s when the sunseekers are cosily tucked inside their homes, that it’s the best time to head to your local beach if it’s nearby. During this frosty season fewer visitors tend to travel to the coast, so you have even more chance of being able to grab your own space and safely social distance than in the summer months. Clearly COVID-19 restrictions are still in force, preventing many people from heading to the coast in certain areas. However hopefully, in the none too distant future, there will be plenty of opportunity to catch the beautiful UK coastline at its winter best.
The coastline of Great Britain and its many islands stretches over 31 000 kilometres, according to the Ordnance Survey, with over 539 kilometres of coastline in Northern Ireland. This means that there are plenty of quieter beaches which are perfect for social distancing. What’s more, we live in an island country and as no one lives too far from the many beaches along our coastline, there’s plenty of choice for everyone too. In fact, according to “The Beach Guide” there are at least 1500 beaches in the UK. We all have our favourites, but rather than going to the most popular, why not try some less obvious coastal areas in the UK?
How about trying some of these in the future? – when it is safe to do so of course…
(Please see the latest COVID-19 restrictions for the most up to date travel advice across Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England)
Machrihanish Beach, Scotland
- Mull of Kintyre Peninsular
The beach extends to over 3 miles of soft, clean sand and most of it is backed by low, grassy dunes. It’s an ideal destination for those looking for a quiet, wild escape with lovely views. Come here for long, solitary walks and admire the wide open sky whilst listening to the waves crashing against the shore. There is plenty of wildlife here too. As well as birds, there is a possibility of spotting seals and even the occasional otter. It’s the wildlife who are more likely to hear you humming the melody of that famous Paul McCartney song rather than humans. Go on, you know you want to…..
” Mull of Kintyre, oh mist rolling in from the sea
My desire is always to be here
Oh, Mull of Kintyre “
Murlough Beach, Northern Ireland
- County Down
Murlough is a huge, five-mile-long sand beach, nestling under the beautiful Mourne Mountains of Northern Ireland. It’s a popular place for surfing, kite surfing and windsurfing but its size means that there is plenty of space for anyone who visits, particularly in winter. The area is fantastic for walking along the beautiful sandy beach, or amongst the sand dunes. Behind the beach, Murlough Nature Reserve, a 6000-year-old system of dunes is home to plenty of wildlife such as badgers, stoats and 23 species of butterfly. It became Ireland’s first nature reserve, after the National Trust took ownership in 1967.
Chesil Beach, England
The 18-mile-long stretch of Chesil Beach offers plenty of opportunity for stretching two legs or even four! It’s a perfect spot to relax and find your own space whilst enjoying the magnificent Jurassic coastline. The beach is made up of pebbles and shingle forming the largest tombolo in England. It’s the perfect beach for dog walkers, wildlife watchers or those who like to avoid the usual beach crowds. For a great day out, park for free at Abbotsbury Swannery, a short walk away from Chesil Beach. After grabbing a bite to eat and drink there, soak up the views along Chesil Beach and finish off the day at Abbotsbury Subtropical gardens less than a mile away.
Loch Linnhe beaches, Scotland
- Onich and Barcaldine and Tralee beach, Argyll,
I have grouped these beaches together because there are so many marvellous bays and stretches of beach along the shores of Loch Linnhe in Argyll. This area holds a special place in my heart as it is where my husband and I got married, at Barcaldine Castle. We have also spent many holidays in this region as well as several wonderfully quiet, beach moments along this coast. The views along this stretch are stunning. On top of that, there is the cycle path, (the Caledonian Way), which runs all the way up to Loch Ness, (if you’re feeling adventurous) and down towards Oban. There are plenty of beautiful mountain and forest walks along this stretch too. This means that you are less likely to bump into fellow walkers and can enjoy the peace and tranquillity which this delightful area of the country brings.
The beaches here, are a mixture of pebbles, shingle and sand, depending on which one you pick. If you fancy the breathtaking silver sands of Morar, about a 90-minute ride further up the coast, you’ll be treated to some of the whitest sand you might ever have seen in the UK.
Holkham Beach, England
Famous for the last scene in the film ‘Shakespeare in Love’ when Gwyneth Paltrow walked across Holkham sand at low tide, and for the video accompanying the All Saints track “The Beach”, Holkham does not disappoint in terms of its ability to allow visitors to spread out and find their own piece of beach heaven. Although it is popular during warmer weather, it is quieter during the colder months. Once you have arrived on the beach itself, it is easy to socially distance. There are also plenty of walks in the nature reserve behind the sand, which was designated a National Nature Reserve in 1967. This area of dunes and freshwater grazing has become a haven for wildlife and in particular, ground-nesting and over-wintering wildfowl and waders. So, it’s perfect for nature lovers too.
This beach is becoming recognised as one of the premier beaches in the UK for extreme kite activities, with zones set aside for kite buggy and kitesurfing taking place on the sea. It has been awarded the International Blue Flag on a number of occasions too. The vast beach stretches for several miles between Southport to the north and Formby to the south. There are lots of dunes to explore behind the beach and the walks here are well signposted. This National Nature Reserve hosts over 450 wild plant species, and wildlife such as sand lizards, great crested newts and natterjack toads.
This week a £350,000 investment has also been announced by Sefton Council to provide new facilities for visitors such as ‘off-beach’ car parking arrangements, new toilets and new safety and accessibility facilities, as well as providing vital protection to the natural environment. It is popular in the summer months but much less busy during the winter and once parked up, you can socially distance very easily as the beach is huge!
Druidston Haven Beach, Wales
- Pembrokeshire (just south of Nolton Haven)
We chanced upon this quiet beach this summer on our holiday to Pembrokeshire. Keen to be away from crowds, we followed the coastal path south from Nolton Haven and after about 30 minutes, found a long stretch of sand with virtually no one on it. It really felt like paradise after the sadness and difficulties of Covid-19 in the spring. The lack of road access to this beach, meant that this enormous sandy beach gave us plenty of space to chill out. It seemed that the handful of other visitors, including horse riders, felt the same. It was also great for Cherry to stretch her legs and have a paddle. It’s a great beach if you’re happy to walk a bit to it.
Sugar Sands, England
This secluded beach full of light white sand, can be found to the south of Craster. It is a bit of a walk to get to it from either Howick or Boulmer but as a result, it’s much quieter. The Northumberland Coast has some lovely wide sandy beaches which tend to be less busy than many others in the UK, meaning you are more likely to enjoy space and freedom, especially during the cooler months.
Although the beaches above may give you some ideas for the future, they are by no means an exhaustive list! There are plenty of other amazing beaches along the UK coastline. Which beach would you recommend for a socially distanced winter visit?
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