Porthcurno, Cornwall With dramatic rock formations on either side, white sand, turquoise sea and exotic plant life, this narrow strip of land couldn’t be more striking. There is a car park just beyond the sands, and on the cliff tops above is the Minack Theatre, which is well worth a visit.
Crackington Haven, Cornwall This ideal spot for families has a gently shelving beach in an enclosed bay; the upper beach is mainly pebble, with rock pools along the western fringe. Only the road separates the sea from beach shops, a charming café and a pub with an excellent restaurant. Public toilets are adjacent to the beach.
Blackpool Sands, Devon This award-winning beach is one of Devon’s most popular attractions. It is in an unspoilt, sheltered bay and surrounded by wooded cliffs. There’s a safe swimming area for children, as well as sandpits and kayaks for hire.
West Wittering, Sussex There are no crazy golf courses or amusement arcades here – just a wide, sloping beach, shallow tidal pools and clean, calm water.
Holkham Beach, Norfolk With pine woodlands, long runs of sand dunes and rock pools galore, this beach is brilliant; it’s also ideal for a bit of kite flying, sandcastle building and wildlife spotting.
Silecroft, Cumbria With five miles of sand and shingle, there is plenty of room for exploring on this beach. There’s also watersports, fishing, canoeing and waterskiing all available. It’s claimed that on a clear day Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man and 14 counties of England can be seen from the summit of nearby Black Coombe.
Bamburgh, Northumberland This award-winning beach on the Northumberland Coast has a vast expanse of golden sand that is ideal for games and picnics. There is also the vision of Bamburgh’s imposing castle in the distance, which can be seen for miles around.
Barafundle Beach, Pembrokeshire Barafundle has been ranked among the best beaches in the world. Scattered with sand dunes and a host of rock pools and hidden caves, Barafundle also has the UK’s highest award for water quality, so children can happily brave the chilly water for a paddle once you’ve packed the picnic away.
SeaCliff, East Lothian Perfect for a day trip from Edinburgh, this beach is a low-key, laid-back kind of place that’s ideal for building sandcastles or playing a spot of beach tennis. There are lovely little rock pools and Tantallon Castle is a romantic sight just along the coastline.
Portstewart Strand, Northern Ireland The magnificent two-mile beach and extensive white dunes of Portstewart Strand are home to rare birds, insects, butterflies and exotic orchids. There are herb-rich grassland verges behind the beach and excellent family facilities, including a children’s play area, a nature trail and a designated watersports zone.
Bournemouth, Dorset The resort has seven miles of busy sandy beaches and was the first to introduce this sensible scheme, which is now credited with reducing by around half the number of cases of lost children. The scheme works by colour-coding the beach into zones and offering free colour-matched wristbands to families, which will link children to a particular 200m stretch of sand. The wristbands make it much easier for lifeguards to find the parents of ‘escapee’ tots as well as older children who have lost their parents.
West Sands, St Andrews, Scotland This is a popular beach in the university town of St Andrews. It offers clean bathing water and an expanse of sandy beach. With a reliable sea breeze, it’s the perfect place for the little ones to try their hand at flying a kite for the first time. But be warned, you’re likely to tire of re-launching the kite long before the kids have had enough! The beach has a car park, toilets and shop close by.
Porthmeor and Porthminster, St Ives, Cornwall An idyllic seaside town with lovely small beaches. Porthmeor is ideal for kids ready to brave staying on their feet in the waves. There’s also St Ives, a bustling town with lots to keep everyone happy. The harbour area is ideal for a buggy promenade, with sights and sounds to mesmerise babies. Porthminster is very safe for bathing, and sheltered from most winds.
Charmouth, Dorset The Jurassic Coast stretches for 95 miles from East Devon through Dorset, and lives up to its name by offering a treasure trove of special rocks for inquisitive young fossil hunters. Charmouth beach is one of the best places for discovering fossils – all you need is good eyesight.
Weymouth, Dorset A grand sandcastle complete with moat is an accomplishment for any child, and helping to build one is sure to prove irresistible to the whole family. The added bonus here is that Weymouth beach is said to have some of the best sand in Britain for sandcastle construction. Its reputation is such that the resort has attracted a resident sand sculptor whose work can be seen on the beach. The beach also has lifeguards and a ‘lost child’ and first-aid point.