A post-lockdown rush for the seaside has seen a rise in house prices – but there are still affordable places to move to. Here’s our pick of a dozen towns where the coast won’t cost you a fortune

Words Lesley Gillian

Llandudno, Conwy

In a fabulous location close to the Snowdonia National Park, ‘the Queen of Welsh resorts’ is an elegant confection of Regency and Victorian Gothic architecture, a necklace of Marine Drive terraces wrapped around a crescent of North Shore beach and the longest pier in Wales. A vintage tramway trundles up to the Great Orme, the mountainous headland which looms over the town, providing a natural playground and views to die for. Llandudno boasts a railway station and Venue Cymru, the biggest theatre in North Wales. Yet property prices are temptingly low: an eight-bed Victorian semi at £269,950; a former miner’s cottage, £235,000.
Average house price: £229,661

Ayr, Ayrshire

This pretty resort on the west coast of Scotland comes up as one the cheapest seaside towns in the UK, yet it would be hard to better the location. In the heart of Burns country (the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum is one of its attractions), the medieval harbour town straddles the River Ayr on the shores of the Firth of Clyde. The area is famous for its fertile farmland, its golf courses (Troon and Turnberry among others), romantic castles and long, sandy beaches. Home to the Scottish Grand National, it offers leafy streets of sandstone villas and, as Ayrshire’s county town, good local shops and amenities (a hospital, for example). With a station on ScotRail’s Stranraer line, it has good transport links too: the airport at Prestwick is just 15 minutes’ away while Glasgow is 40 minutes by road or rail.
Average house price: £188,429

Morecambe, Lancashire

Scenes from ITV police drama The Bay provoked a surge of interest in the Lancashire town where much of the series was shot. In one week, Rightmove reported a 70% rise in Morecambe home searches – nowhere else in the country saw quite as much activity. Morecambe is set to attract more attention as the setting for Eden Project North – due to open on the seafront in 2023. The town already offers stunning views across Morecambe Bay towards the Lake District, the iconic Midland Hotel and, for the time being, one of the lowest seaside housing markets in the country.
Average house price: £173,458

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Weymouth, Dorset

The Dorset coast is not cheap; in fact, Sandbanks – the celebrity beach hang-out between Bournemouth and Poole – claims the most expensive properties in the UK with an average house price of just over £1m. Weymouth is a bargain by comparison – and it has a lot going for it, too: a combination of ultra-traditional seaside resort (think donkeys, deck chairs, beach huts and sandcastle sculptures), elegant Georgian esplanade and salty fishing harbour with a glorious beach and easy access to the sailing waters of Portland harbour and the beautiful Jurassic Coast – a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are some swish houses in the town, but generally it’s good value. Step inland a few blocks and you’ll find three-bedroom period houses for around £325,000 (in Sandbanks, a three-bedroom apartment can cost as much as £3m).
Average house price: £292,289

Whitehaven, Cumbria

On the threshold of the Lake District, the so-called ‘Georgian Gem of the North’ boasts 250 listed buildings on a grid of streets that run inland from the town’s marina. But prices are among the country’s lowest: roomy, listed townhouses on handsome terraces sell for between £110,000 and £250,000. A £25m regeneration scheme planned for the waterfront will bring new housing, a technology hub, restaurants, artisan shops and added value. At the western gateway to England’s Coast to Coast cycle route, the town is also within easy reach of beaches, nature reserves and heritage coastline.
Average house price: £145,928

Sandown, Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight’s popular south-coast resort doesn’t have the cache of sailing hotspots like Cowes or Seaview on the Solent side of the island. Those who like a bucket-and-spade retro vibe, however, might make a beeline for Sandown. The sunny south-coast town (the sunniest in the UK, by all accounts) is all golden sands, palm trees, fossils and sub-tropical gardens – and it’s cheaper than neighbouring Ventnor (where prices went a bit crazy when the down-from-London crowd starting heading this way). There are a lot of pensioners in Sandown; ditto coach parties, but the beach is a peach, the town is joined at the hip with pretty Shanklin Village, there’s a zoo, a dinosaur museum and a local stop on the Island Line which travels to Ryde in a repurposed London Underground tube train. £300,000 buys a four-bed 1930s semi or a swish, new sea-front apartment on Culver Parade.
Average house price: £265,078

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Saltburn-by-the-Sea, Yorkshire

On a stretch of the coast usually associated with industrial landscapes, this little charmer was the vision of Victorian entrepreneur Henry Pease, local MP and former director of the Stockton and Darlington railway (still in use, connecting Saltburn with Middlesbrough, among other places). His 19th-century new-town, circa 1860, consists of tight-knit streets and terraces – some named after jewels (Ruby, Diamond, Emerald) – an old-fashioned high street, a Blue Flag beach, a North Sea pier and the oldest, working water-balance cliff lift in the UK. The town was recently listed in The Sunday Times’ Best Places to Live report (thanks to a combination of good schools, transport links and ‘posh’ Victoriana). And although there are pricier houses, two- or three-bedroom terraces go for under £200,000.
Average house price: £163,657

Felixstowe, Suffolk

In Old Felixstowe, a long shingle beach is overlooked by the Grade II-listed Seafront Gardens that have earned the town a reputation as ‘the Garden Resort of East Anglia’. Add pretty terraces of Edwardian redbrick, mock Tudor, rows of beach huts, a branch-line railway (change at Ipswich), walks along the River Deben and seafood shacks at Felixstowe Ferry. Head down to the docks where you can tuck into an all-day breakfast at the View Point café and enjoy the comings and goings of large vessels and quayside cranes. House prices are a shade above the national average but more than half of those in Suffolk hotspots like Aldeburgh (less than 40 minutes away).
Average house price: £286,734

Southend-on-Sea, Essex

As the closest beach resort to London (just over an hour by train), Southend looks like a no-brainer for city commuters, yet it’s often overlooked in favour of, say, Brighton or Whitstable – where prices are at least 25% higher. The Thames Estuary resort is one of the cheapest coastal towns in the Home Counties, and if you think it’s all funfairs, panto and stag nights then check out the housing stock: here you’ll find everything from Regency and Victorian terraces to Edwardian villas and 1930s semis (with a bit of Art Deco). There are good schools, too (to use the Ofsted vernacular, some are ‘outstanding’). Expect to pay around £300,000-£350,000 for a three-bedroom family home within walking distance of the seafront, the pier and one of the town’s three stations. Even des res areas like Thorpe Bay, Westcliff or the Clifftown Conservation Area offer affordable options.
Average house price: £351,993

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Banff, Aberdeenshire

On the east coast of Scotland, an hour north of Aberdeen, Banff is described as ‘a miniature Edinburgh’ – one of Scotland’s best-preserved historic towns, famed for its salmon fishing, fine beaches and Georgian architecture (including some gorgeous period houses). There’s lots to do here, too: sailing out of the harbour marina, hiking in the Cairngorms National Park, or surfing the waves at beautiful Inverboyndie beach – yet prices here are more than £100,000 below the national average. A six-bedroom, Grade B listed townhouse with sea views is on the market at £295,000 (roughly the cost of a one-bed flat in central Edinburgh). On the other side of the Deveron Estuary’s seven-arch bridge, the fishing port of Macduff is even cheaper.
Average house price: £157,766

Paignton, Devon

If you fancy South Devon, but can’t quite run to the likes of Dartmouth or Salcombe, this is a safe option (indeed, a recent MoneySuperMarket survey reckoned that Paignton was the safest place to live in the UK). At the heart of the ‘English Riviera’, the jaunty seaside town sits mid-way between Torquay and Brixham on a long sandy beach that sweeps south to cute Fairy Cove and a harbour marina. Family attractions include an adventure park, the zoo, the pier, cycle trails, the Dartmouth Steam Railway (which starts in Paignton), the seafront’s Global Geopark playground (designed to reflect Torbay’s geological history) and a busy calendar of summer events features a Children’s Festival in August. The local schools are good, too. The city of Exeter is less than an hour by train via the scenic Riviera Line. Expect to pay around £110,000 for a two-bedroom cottage; around £275,000 for a four-bedroom terrace.
Average house price: £267,118

Weston-super-Mare, Somerset

Once a classic Victorian resort, Weston is currently on a mission to become a new cultural destination on a par with Margate. A disused quarry (which once provided stone for the town’s finer houses) is to become an arts hub; there are plans to redevelop the seafront’s 1930s Tropicana lido as an entertainment venue; and a new wave of opera pop-ups, vegan cafés and cool street art is already on the go. Make a home in one of a collection of suburban villages (Uphill, Worle, Hillside, Kewstoke) – all different but all a handy distance from the town’s three miles of Bristol Channel beach, three stations (45 minutes into Bristol or Bath and just over two hours to London) and good schools. House prices? Roomy Victorians (four or five bedrooms) at just over £350,000.
Average house price: £259,970

For more property stories, head to our Property section, or pick up a copy of Coast magazine.

For more property stories, head to our Property section, or pick up a copy of Coast magazine.