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Top 10 Britain's Best Beaches

Sandcastle on Beach

You don't have to leave the country to enjoy sandy beaches, water sports, coastal wildlife and seaside fun this summer, just see Essential Travel's pick of Britain's top ten beaches...

Young Families... Blackpool Sands, South Devon

Far from the hubbub of Blackpool's arcades, this privately owned beach in the West Country is a haven for young families. Though the beach is made up of fine pebbles, a large sand area has been added for toddles wielding a bucket and spade. There's also a beach cafe, a seaside shop (that also hires boogie boards, wetsuits, snorkels etc), lifeguards in peak season and a fresh water paddling pool.

Blackpool SandsBlackpool Sands

Waterside Walkers... Purbeck Beaches, Dorset

The Purbeck Beaches - stretching from Studland Bay (north of Swanage) to Osmington in Weymouth - make up just a section of the 630 mile long South West Coast Path. Dip in and walk along the cliffy paths that overlook stunning coastal features from Old Harry Rocks and Anvil Point to Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove.

Durdle Door, DorsetDurdle Door

Sporting Surfers... Fistral Beach, Newquay, Cornwall

The list of surfing events that take place at Fistral Beach are proof enough that the swell is good. Rip Curl Boardmasters, Quicksilver Skins, the UK Pro Surf Tour, and the BUSA Championships all stop off throughout the year making this something of a mecca for surfers. Head to the beach for surf hire, lessons, or just to hit the waves.

Fistral BeachFistral Beach

Romantic Sand Seekers... Scarista, Western Isles

This stunning, white sand beach on the Isle of Harris off Scotland's west coast is an idyllic paradise. Let your love keep you warm in this cool climate and explore an often deserted beach, play golf against a backdrop of rolling hills or go for a kite surfing adrenaline rush. If warm weather and a decent supply of pubs and boutiques are important to you, skip Scotland and head down to Kent's ever popular Whistable for a romantic day by the sea.

Scarista BeachScarista Beach

Beach With A View... Rhossili Beach, South Wales

Found on the southwest tip on the Gower Peninsula, Rhossili Beach is a rugged, dramatic stretch of coastline constantly battered by the Atlantic Sea (much to surfers' delight). Head up to the Rhossili Downs for the best panoramic views of the bay, the Bristol Channel and across Pembrokeshire. Alternatively, stroll along the sandy beach and try to spy the 19th century ship wreck peaking out of the sea at low tide.

 Rhossili Beach Rhossili Beach

Traditional Seaside... Blackpool, Lancashire

Long recognised as the ultimate traditional British seaside, Blackpool continues to serve up stripy deck chairs, penny-drop games, rollercoasters, arcades, long sandy beaches for castle making, candy floss, hot dogs and all the rock you could ever eat. You'll be hard pushed to beat Blackpool for family entertainment.

Blackpool BeachBlackpool Beach

Sand And Sandcastles... Barafundle Bay, Pembrokeshire

If your beach has to come with enough sand to bury yourself in, Barafundle is the one for you. The stretch of glorious sand is sheltered by limestone cliffs and flanked by a gorgeous, sweeping bay. There are no facilities on this remote beach, so make sure you've packed everything you need for the day unless you're willing to tackle the cliffs more than once.

 Barafundle BayBarafundle Bay

Water Bound Wildlife... New Quay, Wales

The UK is teeming with beaches for birdwatchers, but it's not often you find dolphins bobbing around off the coast of Britain. Chances are you'll catch site of groups of bottle nose dolphins at New Quay off Cardigan Bay in Wales. The Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre organises boat trips.

New Quay, WalesNew Quay, Wales

Teenagers In Tow... Brighton, Sussex

Brighton's famous pebble and rock beach may not satisfy any cravings for sand between your toes, but it should keep teenagers from getting too stroppy. The trick is, plenty to do. From shopping and nightlife to kite surfing and arts festivals. There are galleries galore, tea rooms, arcades, summer festivals and vintage markets. The accommodation can be pretty trendy too. Other great teenager-friendly beaches include Newquay or Rock in Cornwall.

Brighton BeachBrighton Beach

Culture Vultures... St Ives, Cornwall

If you like your sand with a side serving of culture, St Ives is the place. Head into town to visit Tate St Ives and explore the gallery's collection of modern and contemporary art (largely with associations to the West Country) or wander around the beautiful Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden. Theatre lovers, meanwhile, only need drive 30 minutes to Porthcurno to visit open air amphitheatre Minack.

St IvesSt Ives