Secluded coves, shy seals, and sandy beaches: Our favourite UK coastal walks

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Ruth Richardson

Sawday's Expert

5 min read

Nothing beats a local tip when you’re planning a coastal walk on holiday. A passionate recommendation can help you to attune your eyes to shy wildlife, discover coves revealed by the tides, and make sure there’s a refreshing glass of something cold at the end of your hike. We spoke to our community of owners about the seaside walks they love sharing with guests. Read on for our shortlist of the five best coastal walks in the UK.

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Waxham Beach, Norfolk, recommended by Simon owner of Shangri-la

Waxham and its beach are, above all, atmospheric with a true sense of remoteness and isolation. It’s a great place for a walk, regardless of season as there is so much to see and the beach is rarely, if ever, crowded. This walk will take you to see the seals, at the Horsey colony, but seals will invariably be seen from Waxham onwards.

Access to the beach is around the ancient barn, manor house and church (look for the church if you’re not sure where the start). Take the access path to the beach (passing Shangri-la which is within metres of the beach) and then turn right, walking along the beach. If the tide is in, take the paths that crisscross the dunes and enjoy the spectacular, expansive views. Depending on the season, you’ll sooner or later find groups of seals. Take care not to get too close and observe from a distance (dogs are permitted on Waxham beach all year round but must be on a lead near the seals). The walk can be as short or long as you like but for those with stamina, it’s possible to walk along the beach and then take the path inland across the marshes to the Nelson Head pub where you can enjoy a rest and some refreshments before heading back.

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Wonwell beach and village loop, Devon, recommended by Jeeva & Simon of Hooppells Torr

The village of Wonwell, only a mile from Hooppells Torr, sits right on the South West Coast Path. Jeeva and Simon tell all their guests to make the short walk to the beach itself, but also point out the circular that starts from the church and runs, very handily, past the 16th-century local pub.

If you resist the call of the bar and take on the 6-mile hike, you’ll climb up the cliffs and find yourself looking down on the tumbling coastline, with waves crashing into the many jagged inlets and surging up narrow channels in the rocks. There are small sandy beaches all along the route, but it would be brave to try and scramble down to them, so you’re best keeping off-trail diversions to the other side of the tracks. Here you’ll find grassland and woodlands that come alive in spring, with butterflies, bluebells and wild garlic. As you pass Beacon Point, you can drop down onto Wonwell beach again, but only when the tide is out, so make sure you check the timings. Whether you take the beach or the high road, you’ll find yourself back at the pub, and if  you can resist a pint this time round, we salute you!

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Fowey to Polkerris, Cornwall recommended by Jo owner of Salts Cottage

This beautiful coastal walk starts in Fowey, possibly with a hearty breakfast in one of the many cafés, and then takes you along to Ready Money Cove, where the path heads up through National Trust woodland to St Catherine’s Castle, with stunning views back up the estuary and across to Polruan. The walk continues along the coastline to my favourite beach at Polridmouth, a sheltered cove with two sandy beaches that join together at low tide and offer a perfect place to stop for a swim. The striking Gribbin Head Daymark can be seen in the distance and is the next stop before continuing onto Polkerris, a sheltered harbour with a sandy beach with a stone quay and different options for lunch.

One of the best things about this walk is you can make it a circular route (approximately 5 miles of coast from Fowey to Polkerris plus 2 miles back inland) which is perfect after enjoying a delicious lunch. The return section is across farmland along part of the Saints Way, an ancient long distance footpath. I have walked this route so many times in my life I’ve lost count, but it never fails to be a very enjoyable day out whatever the time of year and whatever the weather.

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Coral Beach, Isle of Skye recommended by Ian and Robbie owners of An Airigh

An Airigh enjoys an uninterrupted view over Loch Dunvegan and on the other side your eye is drawn to a sliver of shining white sand known as the Coral Beach. It is one of our favourite places on the Isle of Skye and you feel it’s where the Scottish Hebrides meets the Caribbean.

Starting your walk from the small crofting township of Claigan there is a gentle route along the shoreline (just over a mile) on track and grassy pastures. There are stunning views and plenty of wildlife to look out for including seals, dolphins and eagles above. Adding to the drama, the coral beach only becomes visible when you reach the top of a small rise in the track and a tropical scene welcomes you below. It’s a truly magical place whatever the weather and somewhere we go to recharge our batteries and refresh our souls.

The white sand is quite unique and is mainly tiny pieces of calcified maerl, a rare type of coral-like seaweed. It’s beautiful to walk bare foot on and fascinating to look at in detail. The small shallow lagoon in front of the coral beach has water of crystal clear aqua marine and is perfect for a wild swim or a refreshing dip. The inquisitive seals will not be too far away from you. During low tide you can walk over a causeway of broken shells to explore the tiny island of Lampay.

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Anderby Creek recommended by Emma owner of Beach Cottage

Lincolnshire’s Natural Coast offers miles of clean wide sandy beaches away from the bustle of the holiday resorts.

Head south (approximately 2.5 miles) along the beach towards Chapel Point and you will find the UK’s first purpose built marine observatory.  The North Sea Observatory is home to the popular Seascape Café, open every day, with the most amazing views along the beach and out to sea (binoculars are available in the café).  They are noted for being dog friendly and for their early morning and evening events.

Walking north (approximately 3.5 miles) along the coast from Anderby Creek you will soon discover The Vista at the Boatshed at Huttoft Terrace.  New for 2022, this dog friendly café is open daily (until 4pm).  Further north you will find National Trust Sandilands, a former Links golf course which is being developed into a nature reserve that will protect wildlife and create an all-year-round nature experience for everyone to enjoy.

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Recommended places to stay near the coast


Waxham, Norfolk

  • From £220 p/n
  • Self-catering
  • 3 rooms for 6

Salts Cottage

Polruan, Cornwall

  • From £75 p/n
  • Self-catering
  • 2 rooms for 4

An Airigh

Galtrigill, Isle of Skye

  • From £165 p/n
  • Self-catering
  • 1 room for 2

Find out more about our special places to stay by the coast here >

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Ruth Richardson

Sawday's Expert

Ruth loves a good story. Following a decade living in London and working in publishing, her ears are always pricked for a spicy plot twist or unforgettable character. She delights in meeting hosts and discovering the history that brought saffron to her spaghetti, the hiking detours that will lead to temple ruins, and why someone cares so passionately about their special corner of the world. She loves that as a marketer for Sawday’s she can share these stories with others too.
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