Coastal gems from every corner of the UK feature in the top five of Which?’s biggest ever annual survey of the nation’s favourite seaside destinations.
The consumer champion surveyed over 3,000 visitors, asking them to rate their experiences of visiting seaside towns in the last year. Criteria included quality of the beaches, food and drink offerings, tourist attractions and value for money.
Topping the charts for the third consecutive year, Northumberland’s Bamburgh secured an impressive destination score of 88 per cent. A location steeped in history, Bamburgh is renowned for its stunning sandy shoreline, backed by the imposing ruins of its ancient castle. Unsurprisingly given its unique setting, visitors awarded it a full five stars for scenery, as well as for the quality of its beach and seafront.
It also secured five stars for peace and quiet, meaning day trippers never have to jostle for a spot. One beachgoer commented that there is ‘super-soft sand that stretches as far as the eye can see, and there is plenty of space, so the beach never feels crowded.’
Hot on Bamburgh’s heels with a score of 85 per cent is Dartmouth, Devon. It too secured a perfect five-star rating for scenery and accommodation, and was awarded four stars for shopping, its seafront, food and drink options and tourist attractions. It also earned a respectable three stars for value for money and peace and quiet. Proving that hustle and bustle can be more than welcome however, one respondent praised Dartmouth’s ‘atmosphere and vibrance’ which they noted is ‘not found in many coastal towns’.
Making an impressive survey debut with third place is Portstewart, Derry/Londonderry. Featuring broad sandy beaches and an attractive harbour and promenade, the town has a wealth of tourist attractions on offer, including a championship golf course, and achieved an overall score of 84 per cent. Visitors praised the ‘fantastic beach’ as well as the selection of cafes ‘selling home-style baking’.
Tying in fourth place with a score of 83 per cent are Portmeirion in Gwynedd, St Andrews in Fife, and Tynemouth, Tyne & Wear. With its colourful array of Italianate buildings, visitors noted Portmeirion’s ‘quirky’ appeal and described enjoying a ‘magical’ experience in the town, which was constructed over 50 years between 1925 and 1975. St Andrews meanwhile drew praise for its ‘expansive’ beach and ‘characterful’ buildings, as well as its renowned golf course, a highlight that contributed to its five-star score for tourist attractions. Visitors also enthused over the ‘beautiful’ beaches in Tynemouth and the wide range of sites to explore, from the priory, to the lighthouse.
At the other end of the table, Clacton-on-Sea and Skegness tied in last place with a score of 48 per cent, closely followed by Burnham-on-Sea and Bangor with scores of 49 per cent.
Despite lower scores than some of their competitors, travellers nonetheless found plenty to recommend in these classic seaside resorts. Multiple respondents commented on Clacton’s ‘lovely’ seafront gardens and praised its ‘fantastic’ annual airshow. Skegness also drew praise for its ‘old fashioned’ charm, with plenty of entertainment for children, from donkey rides on the beach to an aquarium and arcades.
Visitors to Burnham-on-Sea found a ‘gentle’ resort, with beautiful walks on offer as well as ample opportunity to enjoy a traditional chippy tea. In Bangor, holidaymakers praised ‘fabulous views’ on offer from the pier, as well as its ‘wonderful’ Cathedral.
Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, said:
“Few countries can be home to such a diversity of brilliant seaside breaks as Britain. Whether you want world class beaches and utter wilderness or the bright lights and bucket and spade atmosphere of a resort, the UK has a seaside break made for you.”
“What our survey shows is that it’s rarely the most famous destinations that visitors enjoy most. Try somewhere new this year and our survey shows you should find fewer crowds and better value.”
Notes to editors:
Which? surveyed 3,007 members of its online panel between 12th and 24th January 2022.
In previous years, no towns in Northern Ireland have met the minimum sample size for inclusion in the survey.
In defence of Southend, Clacton and Skegness by Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel:
Where was my last UK seaside break? Southend on Sea. This small city on the Essex coast finished an unhappy fourth from bottom in our survey. Now I’m not going to try and convince you it deserves to be up the other end of the table. Is it as nice as Bamburgh, or Dartmouth? No. But for that holiday where you want to have some fun and not spend a lot of money, it’s fantastic.
In Southend me and my kids won (and lost) a fortune on the penny slot machines, took a spin on the carousel aboard a pair of pink elephants and ate £9 fish and chips with our toes in the miles of sandy beach. It was not a warts free holiday. Rubbish blew around our feet while we walked along the promenade and many buildings looked run down, a reflection of the struggles Southend and many other traditional seaside resorts have in raising enough revenue to regenerate their town centres.
Not for the first time we also had to cross the road away from boozed up and shouty day drinkers. This is a perpetual problem in some seaside resort towns. Clacton, Skegness and Southend all received one star from visitors for the lack of peace and quiet, and some visitors complain that the boisterous atmosphere can tip into feeling unsafe.
That’s a shame, because what Clacton, Skegness and Southend offer is exactly the sort of seaside break many of us want. Big beaches, big entertainment and small prices. More should be done to help them level up and become first class holiday resorts.
Full table of results:
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