The 9 Best UK Coastal Towns
The UK's weather may be a frequent subject of jokes globally, but make no mistake, its coastal towns are some of the best in the world.
They might not be blessed with the whitest sand or the clearest blue oceans, nor are there many days of the year when you sunbathe on the beach. There's no denying though, that the UK's coastal towns have a certain charm that attracts tourists from across the planet.
So which are the best coastal towns in the UK?
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Brighton has established itself as one of the most popular seaside towns in recent years. The pretty resort attracts a young crowd who have been priced out of London, so you're certain to find plenty of city commuters dotted between the picturesque beach huts. However despite being popular with the city folk, Brighton has still clung onto its unique vibe. Britain's LGBTQ capital has kept onto its boho atmosphere, boasting some of the best independent shops for all tastes and interests, as well as high-end boutiques and of course chain stores in the centre.
The kaleidoscopic Brighton Pier, the lively Royal Pavilion and the warren-like Lanes are the town’s most famous ports of call and attract tourists in their thousands in the summer. Regular investment in the town means there’s always something new popping up in the area, with the most famous being the towering i360 observation tower which opened in 2016. However with continued development, prices are starting to catch up to the capital. House prices have increased tenfold recently, with detached houses currently standing at an average of £564,907.
On a bright, sunny day, you could be forgiven for thinking you were somewhere in the Mediterranean. Bournemouth may not have the same pull as Brighton does with younger people, but it is stunning in its own right. The coast is made up of long, wide stretches of golden sand. This relic of the traditional Victorian beach break still hints at its past with historic buildings and large, open spaces nestled between modern sculptures and fountains.
A typical seaside town awash with fish and chip shops, arcades and an impressive pier, Bournemouth does have more to offer than its traditional roots hint at. Investment in accommodation, including a brand new Hilton hotel, provide an upmarket atmosphere for residents to bask in. A number of shops ensure everyone is catered for. Those wishing to spend a little could visit such places as Coastal Creatives, a boutique gallery where you can buy art and jewellery made by local artists. Furthermore, the nearby area of Boscombe boasts an exciting yet laid-back vibe thanks to charming beachfront cafés and even a surf school.
As with any seaside town, it does get busy in the summer, while the student population ensure there’s never a dull moment during term time.
Located right at the bottom of the UK, Exeter is a charming little historic city. Benefitting from numerous Norman, Georgian and Roman buildings and ruins, the city attracts tourists from both within the UK and abroad. Quirky and effortlessly unique, there’s hardly a flat road in sight, with the city’s areas spread out over rolling hills and narrow roads. Despite being a city, it retains a rather community-like feel, with friendly locals and stunning communal areas ideal for sitting when the sun makes an appearance.
The university makes sure there’s always something happening in the otherwise relaxed city, all while guaranteeing that the student population is well catered for. There are plenty of museums and galleries, such as the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery, which depict Exeter’s heritage in full bloom, while the beach makes certain those looking for a beachy getaway do not leave disappointed.
Up-and-coming Torquay has cemented itself on the UK seaside hall of fame in recent years, growing from a small, touristy town to a real showstopper. A very traditional seaside town, it is set in the heart of the English Riviera on the South Devon Coast. Most famous for its white sandy beaches, family attractions and ‘olde-worlde’ appearance, Torquay is also ideally located for exploring the nearby attractions.
Despite being a traditional town, it does host some of the most impressive events throughout the year which bring hordes of visitors to the area – particularly throughout the summer months. Air displays and countless other cultural events cater for people of all ages and interests, while those looking to get the blood pumping can also take part in watersports which make the most of the stunning sea.
Despite the fun attractions, the town does have a sophisticated edge, with fine dining restaurants and bars popping up all over the town, but of course these are dotted in between traditional fish and chip shops. The Torquay council has spent time and effort creating a great place to live without taking away its natural charm. As a result, there’s businesses popping up left, right and centre as more companies take notice of this south west town and the opportunities being located in that part of the UK bring.
Portsmouth describes itself as a ‘dynamic and vibrant waterfront city’ – and we couldn’t have put it better ourselves. The town has a strong naval and maritime heritage which echos in the town from dusk ‘til dawn. The world-class visitor attractions, miles of stunning waterfront, and the Southsea Common – a 100-acre open space right on the seafront means there’s more than enough to keep everyone entertained.
As the UK’s only island city, Portsmouth is known for being ideal for a short break by the sea, but it’s also a great place to live! There are lots of things to do in the area with cultural hangouts aplenty, live music venues, two cathedrals, an unrivalled nightlife, exciting festivals and a myriad of other events throughout the year. All of this does result in a number of weeks and weekends where the town is descended on by tourists, so it can be difficult to get around. But if you don’t mind a bit of hustle and bustle and want to live in a waterfront city, then Portsmouth could be a faultless match.
Even though Portsmouth is a modern city now, it does still celebrate its roots. The birthplace of Charles Dickens and the home of Arthur Conan Doyle and Rudyard Kipling, it revels in its past with interesting museums and art centres.
Often forgotten about, Margate’s Old Town has been the focus of regeneration over recent years. Its twee streets are lined with independent shops and boutiques, while the pier, souvenir shops, candyfloss stalls and echoing sound of the waves make sure you can never forget you’re on the coast.
Margate is home to much more affordable housing than neighbouring London, making it the go-to place for young hipsters in recent years. The average property price comes in around £289,00, around £200,00 cheaper than the average London property, making it the obvious choice for a creative fed up with Shoreditch.
Now boasting a number of chic eateries, galleries, vintage shops and chilled-out cafés, Margate has started to attract those who want to escape cities but don’t quite want to run off to the country yet.
The regenerated Harbour Arm is now home to a gallery and stylish spots that attract both visitors and residents, while the Turner Contemporary shines on the seafront and hints at the town’s new arty roots.
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Ramsgate comes complete with a hip cosmopolitan air thanks to a bustling harbour border and a yacht-packed marina. But despite its ‘happening’ vibe, it does have a somewhat continental, historic charm.
As England's only Royal Harbour, it has a long history, and even boasts its very own Meridian Line. A total of five minutes and 41 seconds ahead of GMT, you'll find it in the Maritime Museum, which has artefacts that evoke the town's heritage of fishing, shipbuilding and shipwrecks.
Ramsgate's exciting past includes Anglo-Saxon, Roman and Saint landings, while it is also part of the historic Confederation of Cinque Ports. Its rich history is detailed in the town’s fine architecture that adorns the town such as sophisticated Georgian terraces and imposing Regency villas.
Founded in the early 12th century when the Normans conquered the area, today Swansea is a sweeping waterfront bay and is one of the jewels in Wales’ crown. Now a vibrant seaside village, there are more than 120 shops, restaurants and pubs that draw those looking for a slower pace of life than Cardiff has to offer.
A great source of seafood, much of the local produce ends up in some of the finest establishments of London and Paris, so if you’re a seafood aficionado, Swansea is the place to be!
The town itself is a vibrant centre for art and the creatives. The Glynn Vivian Art Gallery widely recognised as the city’s premier venue for art exhibitions, and a £6 million redevelopment – which is currently underway – means it will soon be one of the go-to places for art and culture. There’s plenty in Swansea for families too, with activity centres, pools, cinemas and parks which draw those looking to settle down, but don’t want to compromise on atmosphere.
Aberdeen is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. A city that feels like a town, its famous granite buildings make the centre feel very cosmopolitan, but eternally pretty.
Rolling hills and open farmland lie below towering mountains and ensure country bumpkins don’t feel too out of their comfort zone. The sweeping beaches, coastal cliffs and panoramic skies that line the other side of the city provide a magical escape from the metropolis.
Aberdeen attracts people of all ages who want to have it all. The city has great shops, bars and eateries, as well as all the hidden gems you’d expect from a major city. But thanks to its unique location, the air is clearer, the ground is cleaner and the atmosphere is warm – even if the weather isn’t.
Most people in Aberdeen work in the oil industry, so the city is expensive for a non-capital, but there are some places that offer great value – mainly due to the university and its student population.
Have any of these piqued your interest? Which is your favourite UK seaside town?