Exploring Britain's coastline on foot can be combined with a range of cultural, nature, geological and historical links. Here are some ideas to get you started.
- The Jurassic Coast was designated a World Heritage Site because of its importance as a 'geological walk through time', spanning 185 million years of the Earth’s history. It covers 95 miles from East Devon to Dorset, including the London 2012 sailing venue of Weymouth/Portland and the town of Lyme Regis, famous for its fossils and The Cobb, which featured in the film 'The French Lieutenant’s Woman'.
- The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park in south-west Wales is the only national park in the UK which is predominantly coastal. It includes spectacular scenery, diverse wildlife and internationally important nature reserves and geology. There are great walks (and views) along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, a national trail set in the National Park. For the more adventurous, there is the chance to jump off the cliff, on a coasteering course, described as “a wild combination of scrambling, climbing, traversing, cliff jumping and swimming that was first developed in Pembrokeshire in the 80s and 90s and has now taken off all over the world.”
St. Andrews/Fife coast: situated on the coast north-east of Edinburgh, St Andrews was famous for its golf, before it was placed firmly on the map by a Royal romance. It is a city packed with history with the castle, and cathedral, and world famous golf course, but it is well worth taking the longer, coastal route from Edinburgh, offering the chance to explore the picturesque fishing villages of the Fife coast, such as Crail, Anstruther, St Monans and Pittenweem and the walking opportunities.
Whitby on the North Yorkshire coast is infamous for one particular visitor – Dracula. Bram Stoker’s classic novel had the evil Count arriving by ship, during a frightful storm. Today’s visitors should be sure to check out the Abbey, towering above the town’s cobbled streets, and the beach and working harbour, while many experts rate the Magpie Café as one of the best places in the country for fish and chips. And if time allows explore along the coast to Robin Hood’s Bay on the Cleveland Way.
Dunwich: visit before it disappears! Dunwich on the Suffolk coast was once a Roman fort, capital of a Saxon kingdom and, in the 11th century, one of the greatest ports on the East coast of England. But most of it has now been lost to the sea – you can learn all about it in the town’s museum.
Antony Gormley’s Another Place comprises 100 cast iron, life-size figures, each weighing 650 kilos, spread along three kilometres of the foreshore at Crosby Beach, just north of Liverpool, and stretching almost one kilometre out to sea. The figures are made from casts of the artist's own body and are shown at different stages of rising out of the sand, all of them looking out to sea.
Northumberland’s coast is studded with castles. Heading north from Newcastle, take in Dunstanburgh, Bamburgh, Warkworth and Lindisfarne - taking care not to be cut off by the sea on Holy Island. Inland, you will find the country towns of Alnwick, Rothbury and Wooler - great bases for walking holidays. If you are really in the mood for history, you can always explore the Hadrian’s Wall National Trail from coast to coast.
- If you enjoy the White Cliffs of Dover (the place, not the song), why not check out the impressive chalk cliffs of The Needles on the Isle of Wight?
- When it comes to coastline, Cornwall has more than most, per square mile. A long, narrow county, surrounded on three sides by sea, the north coast is lined with sandy beaches, and great for surfing, the south and south-west has more sheltered inlets and estuaries. But with just a short drive between two coasts, why not visit both?
- It’s an even harder choice to decide which Scottish island has the best coastline. The easy choice is how to get there – by ferry with Caledonian MacBrayne, who serve the best-known islands such as Skye, and Mull, but also the smaller islands like Iona, with the Abbey there being one of Scotland’s most sacred and historic sites. With seven distilleries, on an island just 25 miles long, surely the Scottish island of Islay won’t fail to leave one smiling at the views of sandy beaches and towering cliffs.
With thanks to Bods for the image.