The Handbook
The Handbook

One thing’s for sure, eventually they will lift this lockdown. And when they do we’ll be grabbing buckets, spades and deck chairs and heading straight to the seaside.

Were you planning a late summer getaway to Mauritus? How about Margate? In fact expect to trade the Bermuda St Regis for a B&B in Bognor Regis and St Kitts & St Lucia for St Ives. After the inevitable unlockdowning of the UK, don’t think we’re going to be jumping on a plane to anywhere this holiday season, and that means the holiday’s coming home. This summer is likely to be the biggest for the great British seaside resort since the dawn of low-cost air travel, so here are some seaside towns that should be on your visiting list!

Hastings – Sussex

Hastings is coming up in the world. Famous as a bucket-and-spade destination since Victorian times, the East Sussex hideaway has been reclaimed by the arty set, and it’s booming like never before. Stroll around the Old Town (visit time-capsule hipster homeware store AG Hendy & Co) before taking in Hastings Contemporary. As well as the obligatory castle, the True Crime Museum the town puts the fun in funicular railway because it’s got two. Feeling peckish then dine at Farmyard or Half Man Half Burger.

Bustling with galleries, excellent restaurants and the buzz of a place on the up, Hastings is a must-visit this summer. Stay at the Old Rectory with its gorgeous rooms, spa treatments and ideal location on the edge of the old town (and close to the Crown great food, drink and locals!).

Distance from London: 1hr 30m (60 miles)
Stay: The Old Rectory
Beach: Mainly pebbles

More info: www.visit1066country.com

Distance from London: 4hrs 30m (244 miles)
Stay: St Moritz Hotel
Beach: Sandy

More info: www.visitcornwall.com

Polzeath – Cornwall

It’s where Sam Cam and Dav Cam went when they were trying to look vaguely in touch with the people (nowadays the former PM just hangs out in a shepherd’s hut, grumbling about Boris and Brexit). But for a certain kind of middle class family Polzeath is the centre of the universe come August, and it’s pretty clear why.

Sandcastles, like the houses in these parts, come with million pound price tags but the beach is also ideal for the hobby-surfer or bodyboarder. For everyone else there’s the Oyster Catcher (we tested it out in December and the new chef was surprisingly good) or the delights of relatively nearby Padstow, and all the Michelin stars that entails.

Stay at the St Moritz Hotel. The art deco building on the Trebetherick headland brings with it a great restaurant and the Mini Moritz kids club (a godsend) plus a Cowshed Spa and as well as an outdoor pool, there’s also the all-important indoor one, which means the British weather can’t outwit you like it normally does…

Portmeirion – Gwynedd

Remember how Prince Charles made that toy town down in Dorset? Well Portmeirion is like that, but pound for Poundbury about a hundred times better. Another ‘created’ village, Portmerion on the Welsh coast, could well be the Amalfi Coast were it not for the weather and the accents. The brainchild of architect Clough Williams-Ellis, it was built between 1925 and 1976 and is a work of art.

It’s also worth staying over, and Williams-Ellis intended guests to reside over at Portmeirion Hotel. The 14-bedroom hotel has been re-styled by design guru Sir Terrence Conran but if you can’t grab a room here try the nearby Castell Deudraeth, also within the complex and offering a further 11 grand rooms.

Distance from London: 4hrs 5m (241 miles)
Stay: Portmeirion Hotel
Beach: Sandy

More info: www.portmeirion.wales

Distance from London: 3hrs including a boat (90 miles)
Stay: Seaview Hotel
Beach: Pebbles and sand

More info: www.visitisleofwight.co.uk

Seaview – Isle of Wight

On an island where nearly every town or village is confronted at most angles by the ocean, the naming committee at Seaview shouldn’t be allowed to show their faces. But the village is one of the most enjoyable the Isle of Wight. Summer brings with it the Seaview Regatta, one of the largest gatherings of red trousers and/or knobbly knees in Britain.

The island is jam packed with treats like the Garlic Farm (I know, but just try it), steam railway and some brilliant restaurants including The Little Gloster in Gurnard and the George Hotel in Yarmouth.

If you’re after accommodation then the Seaview Hotel will see you right. In the heart of Seaview the location is nearly as good as the accommodation and modern British restaurant.

Margate – Kent

Dubbed ‘Shoreditch-on-Sea’, Margate is the place trendy Londoners come when they want to be trendy Margate-rs. A tourist destination for well over a century, the seaside town fell into dilapidation after the war as tourists shunned the British Costa del Rain in favour of the Spanish Costa del Sol.

But things started to change, or at least improvement accelerated significantly when the Turner Contemporary Gallery landed in 2011 and since then it’s continued to go from strength-to-strength.

As well as the gallery, check out Dreamland, a sort of 1920s prototype for Disneyland that still hits the mark and grab chips at Peter’s Fish Factory or fish of the non-battered variety at Angela’s, an unfussy yet uncompromising seafood restaurant.

And where better to stay than The Reading Rooms? The boutique B&B has only three rooms, each occupying a floor of a Georgian townhouse. Five minutes from the beach, The Reading Rooms is a fairly described as a work of art itself.

Distance from London: 1hr 45m (76 miles)
Stay: The Reading Rooms
Beach: Sandy

More info: www.visitthanet.co.uk

Distance from London: 2hrs 30m (119 miles)
Stay: Sutherland Hotel
Beach: Pebbles and sand

More info: www.thesuffolkcoast.co.uk

Southwold – Suffolk

With fewer baby beds than the Cotswolds and far less bufoonery than Wayne’s World, Southwold has been an upmarket Suffolk getaway since Victorian times. Teeming with tearooms and gentlefolk visiting their second or third homes, the town is an ideal seaside spot.

Visit the lighthouse or grab a pint and a tour at the brewery or just retire early after a day digging sandcastles to your room at smart boutique Sutherland Hotel.

Salcombe – Devon

Salcombe, the smart destination for all the middle class families who aren’t Polzeath people. Taking its sailing seriously, Salcombe still offers plenty to the determined land lubber from boutique shops to restaurants.

The Jetty at the Salcombe Harbour Hotel is the place to head for dinner, and hopefully it shouldn’t be a huge trek because it’s set in the hotel you should be staying in, the harbour-front Salcombe Harbour Hotel. The sweet seasidey aesthetic is nevertheless cool and highly sophisticated. It’s got a turntable for cars in the courtyard, a space-saving device but a very nifty one nevertheless!

Distance from London: 4hrs (216 miles)
Stay: Salcombe Harbour Hotel
Beach: Sandy

More info: www.salcombeinformation.co.uk

Distance from London: 4hrs 45m (260 miles)
Stay: The Bay Hotel
Beach: Pebbles and sand

More info: www.robin-hoods-bay.co.uk

Robin Hood’s Bay – Yorkshire

It’s unclear whether there’s any link between Robin Hood’s Bay and the actual, fictional, Robin Hood character. Sadly locals are keen to dampen expectations, claiming that it’s just coincidence. Perhaps they don’t want to share their beautiful town with hordes of American tourists, which is fine by us because the picturesque old fishing village on the Heritage Coast of the North York Moors is a jewel.

Bob around the town, taking in the shops or visit the museum or the old coastguard station or wait for night to fall and take a ghost walk.

For somewhere to stay, be right in the centre of things at the waterfront pub b&b, The Bay Hotel.

 

Sandbanks – Dorset

Sandbanks takes the dubious crown of being one of the most expensive places to live in the entire country. There must be a reason why the rich and famous want to flock to this Dorset sandy spit. And there is…

The stunning views and soft sand are practically Caribbean. There’s crazy golf or take a bite at Rick Stein Sandbanks (you know a place is smart when Rick turns up with a chequebook to set up another restaurant ).

If you’re willing to cheat a little and not stay in Sandbanks itself (surely anyone who’s anyone is meant to have their own place here?) then Chewton Glen, a short drive away, is a Handbook favourite. Otherwise a dead cert is Sandbanks Hotel. Not much of a looker from the outside, a 1930s boxy affair, the rooms are great and the long terrace a treat.

Distance from London: 2hrs 15m (111 miles)
Stay: Sandbanks Hotel (or nearby Chewton Glen!)
Beach: Sandy (durr!)

More info: www.visit-dorset.com

Distance from London: 10hrs 30m (592 miles)
Stay: The Plockton Hotel
Beach: Mainly pebbles

More info: www.visitplockton.com

Plockton – Highlands

Scotland isn’t necessary most people’s first thought when it comes to heading to the seaside (unless you’re Scottish, in which case it obviously is!), but Plockton in the Highlands is worth the ten hour drive from London, it really is.

Sitting in a sheltered bay overlooking Loch Carron and once a centre of fishing and crofting, Plockton is a draw to guests from near and far. The village plays host to a fortnight’s sailing regatta every year and throughout the season is a tourist magnet. Do some outdoorsy fun like kayaking or a seal spotting trip. Or stay warm eating freshly caught local fish at the Plockton Inn.

The Plockton Hotel is the only waterfront lodging, with stunning views across the loch.

Brighton – Sussex

Brighton has up-and-come to the point that it’s now basically an enclave of South London, with house prices to show for it. Which, along with the incredible transport links, explains the steady flow of DFLs (‘Down From London’ers – see, they even have an acronym for us!).

But it’s abundantly obvious why. Brighton is beautiful, has a plethora of great places to eat and drink (try Isaac At) and it’s liberal anything-goes attitude is refreshing and enticing. Despite hosting annual political conference seasons, this is a place that’s cool and easy in its own skin, it’s easy to see the attraction.

And it’s equally easy to see the attraction of Artist Residence. It really is the ideal boutique hotel. Located on the stunning Regency Square the Georgian townhouse is endlessly quirky, artsy and classy simultaneously with a why-plaster-and-paper-a-brick-wall policy and enough unique art works to launch a Dalston gallery. Make sure you dine at the in-house restaurant, The Set, even if you can’t get a room.

Distance from London: 2hrs (65 miles)
Stay: Artist Residence
Beach: Maily pebbles

More info: www.visitbrighton.com

Photo: Paul Watts/Visit Cornwall

Distance from London: 4hrs (257 miles)
Stay: Fistral Beach Hotel
Beach: Sandy

More Info: www.visitnewquay.org

Newquay – Cornwall

The Malibu of England, Newquay is the place to head with your surfboard underarm and those wetsuit booty things.

You can actually fly there as it comes with its own airport, direct to Heathrow and ‘London’ Southend. Try Australian cottage kangaroo pie at Bush Pepper, learn to surf at the Quiksilver Surf School Newquay and take dinner at The Dune Restaurant and Bay Bar.

The Fistral Beach Hotel and Spa lands you right in the centre of things, overlooking Newquay’s famous sands and the hotel boasts its own spa with an impressive indoor pool if you’re not such a fan of the English seawater temperatures!