From white-sand beaches to traditional seaside resorts, take your pick from the coast team’s top British Isles beaches for sport. Words: Caroline Wheater
FOR LAND SPORTS
1 Camber Sands, near Rye, East Sussex
This ribbon of golden sands and dunes stretches for seven miles along the coast. Channel winds are strong here, making it perfect for kite-buggying and land-yachting on the beach and kite-surfing on the sea. Try Rye Watersports (01797 225238, ryewatersports.co.uk) for lessons – you can also learn sailing, windsurfing and stand-up paddle boarding (visit1066country.com).
2 Balevullin Beach, Isle of Tiree, Southern Hebrides
This fabulous crescent of white-sand beach lures windsurfers and surfers, especially at mid to low tide when conditions are best. Tiree is one of the sunniest, windiest places in Britain and has nine windsurfing beaches to suit all standards. The Tiree Wave Classic professional windsurfing competition is held here each autumn (isleoftiree.com).
FOR RIDING BIG WAVES
3 Lahinch Beach, Liscannor Bay, County Clare
The west coast of Ireland is renowned for big Atlantic waves and the beach at Lahinch attracts surfers and canoeists from all over the world. Just seven miles away is another famous tow-in surf spot, Aileen’s (Aill na Searrach), the first headland of the awe-inspiring Cliffs of Moher on the Wild Atlantic Way (cliffsofmoher.ie; clare.ie; clare-tour.com).
FOR SURFERS' PARADISE
4 Llangennith Beach, Gower Peninsula
This wide, long, sandy beach is edged by huge dunes and has glorious views across to Carmarthen Bay. It’s a surfer’s paradise, suitable for all abilities; take lessons with the Welsh Surfing Federation Surf School (01792 386426, surfschool.wsf.wales). Another favourite with coast readers, Rhossili Beach, is adjacent and great for beginners’ waves and swimming (visitswanseabay.com).
FOR THE CLEANEST WATERS
5 Vazon Bay, Guernsey
Voted one of the cleanest beaches in the British Isles, Vazon Bay is also one of the best surfing beaches on the Channel Islands. It offers great places to eat, too, such as Crabby Jacks and Visitas Beach Cafe. Stay at La Grande Mare Hotel, and try out the stunning golf course (lagrandemare.com; visitguernsey.com).
FOR BOARDS AND SAILS
6 Perranporth, near St Agnes, North Cornwall
This exposed three-mile sandy beach is a consistently good spot for surfing, body-boarding, snorkelling and sailing. More plus points include the tidal bathing pool at Chapel Rock, and The Watering Hole beach bar, which runs a surf school (07522 287781, thewateringhole.co.uk). And for walkers, the mighty South West Coast Path meanders across the sands (visitcornwall.com).
FOR WILD ADVENTURES
7 Porth Neigwyl or Hell’s Mouth, Pwllheli, Gwynedd
This southwest-facing stretch of the Llyn Peninsula actually has the Atlantic to thank for its range of waves. Surf can be good for beginners, or get a little wilder if the swell comes from the south. It’s a quiet spot, accessed through sand dunes. Further west, Aberdaron Beach has more facilities and is good for beginners’ surfing and wakeboarding (visitsnowdonia.info/beaches).
FOR A NEW SURF SPOT
8 Saltburn-by-the-Sea Beach, near Redcar, North Yorkshire
This traditional seaside resort has a buzzy surf scene, thanks to the bigger-than-average North Sea swell pounding its shores. Good breaks occur on both sides of the pier, suitable for beginners and intermediate surfers – take lessons with Saltburn Surf (07961 714993, saltburn-surf.co.uk). Non-sportif onlookers will enjoy pottering along the promenade and riding on the cliffside funicular tram (saltburnbysea.com).
FOR GREAT VARIETY
9 West Sands Beach, St Andrews, Fife
Next to the famous golf course, the dune-flanked beach has two miles of sand to savour. Swim, walk, run or save your legs for more exciting options. Blown Away Experiences offers lessons in land-yachting – zip along West Sands on a low tricycle-lookalike with sail – plus kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding (07784 121125; blownaway.co.uk). Fear not, though, families who just want to play on the Blue Flag sands have their own zone (visitscotland.com).
FOR A FIRM FAVOURITE
10 Woolacombe Beach, North Devon
Voted TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice UK beach of the year in 2015 and 2016, Woolacombe’s three-mile stretch of sand backs onto unspoilt coastal countryside, much of it owned by the National Trust. The beach is known for its consistent surf and clean waters, and watched over by lifeguards in summer. Contact Woolacombe Surf School for lessons (01271 872383, woolacombesurf.com; woolacombetourism.co.uk; northdevon.com).