A tiny village in Northumberland has retained the title of Britain’s best seaside destination in Which?’s annual survey based on the experiences of thousands of holidaymakers.
Bamburgh, with a population a little over 400, topped the charts with an overall destination score of 87 per cent.
The survey asked more than 4,300 visitors to rate coastal resorts they have visited across a range of categories including quality of beaches, seafront, tourist attractions, food and drink, scenery, peace and quiet and value for money. Ranked number one in 2021, Bamburgh proved unbeatable once again for its sheer beauty, with its sweeping sandy beach overlooked by a clifftop castle described as “spectacular” and “imposing” by respondents.
Wales has three of the top six seaside towns, with budget-friendly Llandudno claiming second spot overall with a score of 86 per cent. The town’s biggest draw is the Great Orme, a limestone headland which rises to nearly 700ft and boasts “incomparable” views. Active visitors enjoyed lacing up their walking boots and hiking to the summit, while others opted to take the tram or open-sided cable car. Llandudno has twin West and North Shore beaches and reasonably priced hotels – £95 a night on average, proving that for popular locations there’s no need to break the bank.
Third-placed St Andrews is the highest-ranked Scottish seaside destination with an 84 per cent score. The city heaves with history, hosting Scotland’s oldest university, a world-famous golf course and a network of medieval streets to explore. It’s one of three places that scored five stars for food and drink (alongside Padstow and Lytham St Annes) thanks to its variety of cafés and food shops. Visitors said St Andrews “oozes golf” while praising the university city’s “youthful vibe”, quaint streets and historical sites, testament to its winning blend of sport, culture, sand and sea.
Dartmouth in Devon shows it doesn’t need a sprawling beach to attract visitors to the water: it scored five stars in the seafront category. This propelled it to a destination score of 83 per cent and joint fourth place in the overall table along with Tenby. The town in Pembrokeshire, west Wales, has a parade of pastel-coloured Georgian houses and a selection of five-star beaches, from the golden sweep of North Beach, peppered with rock pools and windbreaks, to Castle Beach tucked into a cove, or the smaller Harbour Beach.
The results shine a spotlight on the sheer quality of Britain’s coastline: 51 destinations scored an impressive 70 per cent overall or higher. This included Folkestone in Kent which was the cheapest seaside destination at £63 per night. Its destination score of 72 per cent makes it an appealing choice for travellers whose holiday budgets are tighter than usual this year due to the cost of living crisis.
Further down the table, Skegness, Bognor Regis, Southend-on-Sea, Great Yarmouth and Burnham-on-Sea made up the bottom five, with destination scores no better than 51 per cent.
Despite its low ranking, holidaymakers did have highlights to share from their trips to Skegness. Many recommended the Natureland seal sanctuary, with one visitor calling it “the sort of thing you expect to see on a David Attenborough programme”. Gibraltar Point nature reserve and a “very welcoming population”, nostalgic attractions and amusement rides for children made Skegness a “proper” British seaside resort in the eyes of some respondents.
Visitors to Bognor Regis found a “charming” town with the best climate on the south coast. Holidaymakers tipped the peaceful Pagham Harbour nature reserve and Hotham Park – a “little gem” – while the flat promenade was praised for being accommodating to visitors with limited mobility.
Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, said:
“The British seaside hasn’t boomed like this since the 1960s. Holidaymakers had such a fantastic time in their caravans, tents and beach lodges over the past two years that a coastal break on home shores is on the cards for many, even with restrictions on overseas travel lifted.
“Prices for a UK stay have increased, but there’s no need to pay over the odds. For a holiday on a budget it’s best to aim for an off-season trip. Head to one of the many well priced resorts with your bucket and spade, an empty stomach for the candyfloss and a pile of 2p coins and go make your fortune on the slots.”
Notes to editors
The results are based on a survey of 4,303 Which? Connect members carried out in January 2022.
We only reported on the towns that achieved a minimum sample size. Unfortunately, that meant no destinations from Northern Ireland were included.
In defence of Great Yarmouth and Weston Super Mare, by Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel:
Both sit near the bottom of our table, alongside a string of other seaside resort towns like Bognor and Skegness. Many of my childhood holidays were spent hunting for the sea across the mudflats of Weston or misspent in the arcades of Great Yarmouth. I loved them for all the reasons many people, myself included, still love them now. It’s a seaside break on a budget with cheap accommodation, and penny slots and candyfloss providing entertainment for pocket change.
But that’s not to ignore their problems. It’s no secret that big seaside resort towns have struggled with the decline of tourism. I know from my own recent visits that some feel rundown, a reflection of the lack of money and investment they’ve had for so long. While the one-star rating some towns received for peace and quiet and the comments some of you sent in reflects that the all-day drinking culture that’s boisterous to some, feels unsafe to many. This is reflected in their poor ratings in our survey.
There is hope. I have been to Clacton, Southend and Weston in recent years and things are on the up. A lick of new paint here, a renovated grand hotel there and the confidence that comes with an influx of new visitors during the pandemic.
The basics are certainly in place. Many resorts have some of the best stretches of beach in the country as well as theatres, arcades and mini funfairs for kids.
If you haven’t been to a British seaside resort in a while, it might be worth revisiting – pack your bucket and spade, an empty stomach for the candyfloss and a pile of 2p coins to make your fortune on the slots.
Five budget-friendly seaside destinations with hotels £100 or cheaper:
Filey, North Yorkshire
Overall rating: 81%
Average hotel price per night: £98
Overall rating: 80%
Average hotel price per night: £100
Overall score 75%
Average hotel price per night: £88
Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear
Overall score 73%
Average hotel price per night: £78
Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Overall score: 71%
Average hotel price per night: £85
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