1. 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. Visit www.cornwall-beaches.co.uk
2. 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. Visit www.cornwall-online.co.uk
3. 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. Visit www.blackpoolsands.co.uk
4. 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. Visit www.westwitteringbeach.co.uk
5. 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. Visit www.norfolkcoastaonb.org.uk
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6. 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. Visit www.wordsworthcountry.com
7. Bamburgh, Northumberland
This award-winning beach on the Northumberland Coast (pictured above) 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. Visit www.bamburghcastle.com
8. 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. Visit www.goodbeachguide.co.uk
9. 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. Visit www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk
10. 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 fragrant 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. Visit www.discovernorthernireland.com
& Five things to find at the seaside... when they're bored of building sandcastles, there are lots of other things to do by the sea
Look at the pebbles on the beach and see if you can match them to the rocks in the nearby cliffs. Large pebbles are great for making beach art or even just for spelling out a child’s name. Collect large smooth pebbles to make paperweights when you get home. Paint them different colours to make a really personal gift.
You can have lots of fun looking for crabs in rocky pools or around harbour walls. All you need is a piece of string, bait, like a piece of bacon, and a weight to keep the bait down.
If you find empty mussel shells or other shells of the same size, collect enough to make a necklace or bracelet. Just make a small hole through the top of the shell and carefully threadle them on to a piece of ribbon.
Finding fossils that are millions of years old is really exciting for children and adults alike. The most likely places to find them is amongst the shingle that’s been washed out from cliffs but it’s also worth looking under rocks or boulders.
5 Sand and seaweed
Make a sand sculpture and decorate it with seaweed and pebbles. When you’ve finished take a photograph so you can use the shot to make your own postcards.