The sandy beach stretches endlessly towards the distant blue horizon, wavelets lap gently on the shore. Above, the cry of seagulls pierce the still winter air and steep cliffs tower skywards casting dark shadows on the unbroken shore.
Of course this being Britain in winter it could easily be blowing a hooley, with seagulls flying backwards and the waves thundering onto the shore churning up sand, seaweed and general flotsam and jetsam. But when the weather is fair and the wind no more than brisk there’s nothing better than a spot of beach-combing and bird-spotting.
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to wild beaches in Cornish Cornwall. Talland Bay, halfway between Looe and Polperro is best known for smugglers and shipwrecks. The crashing waves on the rocks at Tintagel are spectacular while the sheltered sands of Mawgan Porth north of Newquay are a calm oasis. The most beautiful and haunting in winter has to be Kynance Cove with its brilliant white sand, turquoise waters, tiny islands and secret caves. Not the most accessible of beaches but worth the effort.
Cumbria is considered one of the most beautiful regions of the UK including the Lake District, North Pennines and part of the Yorkshire Dales. It has some pretty wild coastline too. St Bees is its best known beach with a long stretch of sand, popular with holidaymakers in the summer. The RSPB nature reserve on the headland, accessible only by foot, is home to a huge variety of gulls, guillemots and puffins. In autumn many of migrate but over the winter months you can see grebes, divers and sea ducks busily seeking food in the offshore waters.
Another beach to enjoy out of season is Silecroft on the Furness Peninsular. Mainly shingle but at low tide an expanse of smooth sand appears, perfect for dog walking, kite-flying and horse-riding. Dramatic Black Coombe Fell behind gives the skyline a rough beauty and on a clear day you can see the Isle of Man
Norfolk boasts some of the best deserted beaches in the country. Remember that scene in Shakespeare In Love when Gwyneth Paltrow emerges from the waves onto a vast sandy expanse? That’s Holkham. Blakeney’s amazing for seals and birds, Brancaster for sand castles and kite-flying. Cromer for crabs and the end of the pier show.
Our favourite is the lesser known Walcott Beach or Gap. Not many facilities and the grey concrete defence wall is a reminder of how the power of the sea threatens this whole coastline. It’s quiet and unassuming but great for blowing away the cobwebs and there’s a very good chip shop.
Wherever you are on the North Norfolk coast keep your eyes peeled for Old Shuck, the ghostly black dog said to roam the highways, byways and coastal paths.
Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight’s experiencing a resurgence thanks to Victoria and Abdul with a special film trail you can follow. The Literary Heroes Trail, new in 2017, takes you to a variety of word-smiths’ favourite places. You can see Enid Blyton’s Seaview, Dickens’ beloved Ventnor and Tennyson’s newly restored Gothic house Farringford.
Ryde is where famous film director Anthony Minghella lives. While you’re strolling along the beach don’t miss the little folly which stands at the entrance to the now demolished Appley Towers. This cute mock turret overlooks the bay – very picturesque.
Lunan Bay’s been an attraction for centuries. The Vikings first invaded in the 10th century and it’s welcomed hordes of holidaymakers ever since. It stretches for around two miles on the east coast south of Aberdeen, from Boddin Point in the north to southerly Ethie Haven. Backed by sand dunes and low cliffs it’s dominated by the 12th century ruins of Red Castle. It’s popular with surfers,horse riders and beachcombers who might be lucky enough after a storm to find agates and other semi-precious gem stones.
Another dramatic storm-swept beach in winter is Yellowcraig, just north of Edinburgh, which has stunning views of the lighthouse on Fidra island, the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. There’s a nearby nature trail and a network of sheltered footpaths if the seascape becomes a little too storm-tossed.
The coastal path of the beautiful island of Anglesey is perfect for winter walks. Much of its 125 miles is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the cliff paths and bays are simply stunning. Autumn brings seal pups to the bays and beaches and winter means the arrival of dozens of different bird species.
If that’s too much of a hiking challenge for you (and the weather can be very unpredictable) head further south for the more sheltered waters of St Bride’s Bay in Pembrokeshire and Little Haven beach. A mix of rock pools and sandy stretches means there’s something here for everyone but check the tide times so you don’t get cut off.
The Llyn Peninsular is packed with wonderful beaches too and you can get great views back inland towards Snowdonia. Dinas Dinlle beach is sandy at low tide with a long promenade perfect for strolls if it’s too soggy below.
Of course there are hundreds more and the above are just a few highlights of what the UK has to offer. Do you have a favourite beach in winter, when the crowds have all gone? If you don’t mind sharing your secret, drop us a note in the comments.
More information about winter beaches