Monday, 27 April 2015

Bank Holiday Beaches

A long weekend is upon us and with the weather hopefully fixed to stable (let's perhaps be realistic and not hold out too much hope for wall-to-wall sun on a bank holiday Monday) your thoughts may be turning to places to go to make the most of your precious leisure time.  For desk-bound adults and school-weary kids, there's nothing like a dose of fresh sea air to get some colour in those cheeks and let off some pent-up energy. But the one thing you perhaps don't want to be doing is joining a choked-up motorway or meandering along an endless B road - not a good start to a family day out. 

Thankfully there are some rather nice beaches within a 2 hour drive of Bristol which can realistically be attempted within a day - here are three places you might like to consider...

Southerndown, South Wales

About an hour and half from Bristol, to the south west of Bridgend, Southerndown is a gorgeous spot, utterly unspoilt and devoid of tacky commercialisation. Its sweeping sandy bay is dotted with rock pools, perfect for exploring with fishing nets and buckets (don't worry if your forget yours - the little beach shack sells these, as well as other beach toys, teas, snacks and ice creams.) With plenty of space to stretch out on, it's a perfect spot for setting up a deckchair and windbreak and simply admiring the dramatic coastal scenery, or playing a game of Frisbee, cricket or footy.  Sheltered by lofty cliff faces, Southerndown's inspiring scenery has been used as a backdrop for a variety of TV programmes, including Dr Who and Merlin.

If you're feeling energetic, you may like to combine sunbathing with a walk along the coastal path, offering spectacular views across the Bristol Channel. But do be careful with little ones and dogs in tow who you'll need to keep well away from those plunging cliff edges. Also be aware that the beach is completely inaccessible at high tide, so be sure to check tide times before you leave home.

Find out more about Southerdown here.

Beer, East Devon

Tranquil, pretty Beer offers a slice of Devonian charm without too painful a slog down the M5. Backed by glittering white chalk cliffs, the beach here is sheltered and sunny, with clear waters perfect for paddling in. Beer is a 'working' beach, and its picturesque setting is enhanced with clusters of colourful fishing boats lining the shore. If you're lucky you may stumble upon the day's catch being unloaded. You can even take to the water yourself, on organised mackerel fishing trips, which run from May to October. 

For something a little more sedate, take part in a stone skimming competition (the beach is pebbly so there are plenty of skimmers to be had) or take in the views from the beach-side cafe, a real sun-trap where you can enjoy fresh crab sandwiches, ice cream or the quintessential Devon cream tea. If you fancy a wander to work up an appetite for lunch, head into Beer's pretty village centre where you'll find a couple of pubs and fish and chip shops. 

Find out more about Beer here.

Lyme Regis, Dorset

Our go-to place for reliable beachside fun. The right side of bustling (though it can get crowded in the summer), Lyme Regis makes just a small concession to seaside tackiness (in the amusement arcade on the promenade) and has buckets of charm. Lined with pastel-coloured beach huts, there's an expanse of pebble beach and a smaller sandy beach too choose from, with safe, shallow waters and an iconic harbour, the 'Cobb', which became famous after providing the atmospheric backdrop to the film adaptation of John Fowles' novel 'The French Lieutenant's Woman'.

Meander along the promenade to find plenty of places for an ice-cream or a pot of tea and slice of cake - there's a particularly cute cafe (the name escapes me) set up with pink chairs and umbrellas where you can enjoy a great cup of tea, homemade cakes and artisan ice cream. You'll find an interesting antique shop on the promenade, too, packed to the rafters with retro curios and bric a brac - a great place for a rifle. Head into town and there are more interesting shops and cafes to explore - we like the Town Mill Bakery, an organic cafe and bakery where you can feast on artisan breads, delicious cakes or enjoy a traditional Dorset cream tea. For something a little more chi-chi, esteemed chef Mark Hix has an outpost here at the Hix Oyster and Fish House, smart restaurant overlooking the harbour.

There always seems to be something happening at Lyme Regis. On our most recent visit here was a bath tub race going on and on previous visits we've seen air displays and lifeboat launches - exciting viewing to keep kids entertained without spending a penny.


  1. Beer was and is a special place for us especially when my kids were little....They still love to go back there taking girlfriends /boyfriends now for them to fall in love with its charms....But oh those pebbles on the toes!! Xx

  2. Beer was and is a special place for us especially when my kids were little....They still love to go back there taking girlfriends /boyfriends now for them to fall in love with its charms....But oh those pebbles on the toes!! Xx

  3. Thanks,Net-A-Dresser! I usually prefer a sandy beach but Beer is so charming I don't mind putting up with sore toes :)


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