British people love a good beach holiday. It’s impossible to blame them. After all, is there anything more relaxing than lounging on a sunbed, listening to the ocean with a cocktail in your hand? I’m getting a tan just thinking about it.
Sadly, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed travel for the foreseeable future. It has caused many Britons to cancel their overseas holiday, with no concrete answer as to when they can venture abroad again.
But what if we told you, you didn’t have to leave Britain to lounge on a gorgeous sandy beach? Believe it or not, the UK is home to a number of beaches that can rival anything you’ll find in Spain or Lanzarote.
Many of these beaches are located in the British counties of Devon and Cornwall. They boast the perfect environment for a spot of Meditarrean relaxation, complemented by easy access to the traditional British food and drink that we all love.
Below, you’ll find a comprehensive list of the 10 best beaches in Devon and Cornwall. Each is guaranteed to make you forget all about your sun holiday that never was.
Let’s get started!
Woolacombe Beach (Devon) – OUR PICK * The Best Beaches in Devon and Cornwall *
If you’re visiting Devon with the kids in tow, Woolacombe Beach is the place to be. This is one of the most popular child-friendly beaches in the county and it isn’t hard to see why.
Its three miles of shoreline offer plenty of room for little ones to run and play. Meanwhile, swimming lessons are offered during the summer months, so your kids can return from their vacation as bonafide expert swimmers.
But Woolacombe Beach isn’t just for families. The beach is characterized by its spacious beach huts. These huts provide the perfect spot for couples to enjoy each other’s company without threat of interruption from younger beachgoers.
Praa Sands Beach (Cornwall)
Cornwall’s Praa Sands Beach is a little on the small side. For some, this would make it not worth visiting. It is our opinion, however, that Praa Sands Beach’s size – or lack thereof – is its greatest charm.
Because the beach is so small, most people assume they’ll have a hard time finding a spot to themselves and so don’t bother visiting the beach.
With most people making the same assumption, the beach lies largely empty, even during the summer months. This means you’ll have its golden sands almost entirely to yourself and can enjoy your sunbathing and swimming in total serenity.
The waters at Praa Sands Beach are a lot calmer than they are in other parts of Cornwall. This makes it one of the best beaches in Devon and Cornwall to learn how to swim or surf. It is also not uncommon to see scuba divers at the beach, with some more experienced divers even offering lessons to holidaymakers!
Exmouth Beach (Devon)
Exmouth Beach in Devon is, in many ways, the antithesis of Praa Sands Beach. With miles of shoreline, it is one of the more sizable beaches in Devon. In fact, you’ll have a hard time finding a beach anywhere else in the UK that can trump it in terms of size. This means you’ll have ample space to relax, even when the beach is at its busiest.
As its name suggests, Exmouth Beach is located in the town of Exeter. Exeter is a quaint seaside town that encapsulates everything we love about the Britain of old.
You can stroll down the promenade with a stick of rock; you can enjoy a cup of tea while gazing out at the ocean; and at dinner you can gorge on some of the finest fish and chips in the country.
The only negative thing one could say about Exmouth Beach is that it’s not fit for a day trip. If you are to truly enjoy the beach, Exeter, and everything they have to offer, you’ll have to stay in the seaside town for at least a weekend. That’s not a bad problem to have!
Kynance Cove (Cornwall)
© Matt Freeman / Kynance Cove – July / CC BY-SA 2.0
Cornwall may have a little bit of trouble competing with Devon when it comes to the size of its beaches. However, it can more than hold its own in the realm of scenery. Exhibit A: Kynance Cove.
Kynance Cove is one of the UK’s most photographed beaches. Its shining waters are framed by rocks and caves that look as though they were carefully placed into position one by one.
Although it doesn’t offer much in the way of sunbathing spots, the sand it does have is of the most magnificent white and reflects the light of the sun to create a splendid visual effect.
Kynance Cove isn’t as central as many of the other beaches on this list. It’s about half an hour removed from the closest town. This is a pain in the neck, sure, but the journey is more than worth the wondrous sights that await you when you arrive.
Budleigh Salterton Beach (Devon)
© Baz Richardson
Sandy beaches are great, but they can sometimes be a challenge to walk on. If you’re searching for a beach that you can take that mythical long walk on, a stoney beach is always better. Enter Budleigh Salterton Beach in Devon.
Budleigh Salterton Beach is made up not of sand, but of millions of tiny pebbles. This makes it markedly easier to walk on than a sandy beach, while also giving it a picturesque appearance that can rival even Cornwall’s Kynance Cove.
Along with its pebble shoreline, Budleigh Salterton Beach is known for its pristine seawater. Because this beach isn’t particularly popular among tourists, its waters are virtually untouched. The conscientious visitor can swim here without fear of pollution, toxins, or litter.
Perranporth Beach (Cornwall)
© Matt Prosser
Cornwall is littered with quaint seaside villages. Perranporth is not one of them. While it does rest on the sea, offering spectacular views of the ocean, it is markedly more lively than many of the other towns in Cornwall. With cafes, nightclubs, and pubs aplenty, Perranporth will give a party to anybody looking for one.
If you find yourself waking up with a hangover during your time in the village, there’s no better way to nurse yourself back to health than by a trip to the village beach.
Perranporth Beach boasts two miles of coastline to welcome the cool ocean air. During the summer, it provides ample sunbathing space to accommodate the many holidaymakers who visit its shore.
One of Cornwall’s most popular beaches, Perranporth Beach can get a little crowded in peak periods. However, it features two designated swimming areas, so you won’t have to worry about overcrowding when you go for a swim or a surf.
Bantham Beach (Devon)
Bantham Beach is located, surprise surprise, in the Devon town of Bantham. What makes Bantham Beach so special is its blending of the traditional English countryside with its sandy shore. Just as the ocean meets the beach’s shore, its shore meets fresh green fields that wouldn’t seem out of place on a farm. This makes it the ideal beach to visit with your dog in tow.
Bantham Beach is extremely popular among families. Normally, the frequent presence of young children would result in a beach showing signs of litter and wear. However, there is a concentrated effort to keep Bantham Beach appearing as untouched as possible.
Locals regularly clean the beach, so you can be certain it will be in pristine condition for your visit.
Harlyn Bay (Cornwall)
© Mari Buckley / Onjohn Cove from Harlyn Bay, near Padstow / CC BY-SA 2.0
If you’re inclined towards watersports, Cornwall’s Harlyn Bay should be high on your list of beaches to visit. It’s waters provide the perfect environment for surfing, kayaking, and similar activities. Keep in mind that the waves can get pretty powerful at certain times, so you should stay close to the shore when swimming.
Harlyn Bay’s lengthy shoreline leads into hills that frame the beach. This makes it perfect for a hike, especially if you want to bring your pooch along. If you’d rather relax and take in the sun, the thick sand will allow you to lie back on a beach towel with no need for a sunbed.
Jacob’s Ladder Beach (Devon)
© Mari Buckley / Onjohn Cove from Harlyn Bay, near Padstow / CC BY-SA 2.0
Jacob’s Ladder Beach is located near the Devon town of Sidmouth. It can be a little tricky to get to, but we highly suggest making some time to visit if you’re holidaying in the area.
The beach is famous for the steps which lead from the surrounding Connaught Gardens down to its stoney shores. It is from these steps that the name Jacob’s Ladder was derived.
Once you reach the bottom of the “ladder”, you can indulge in the beach’s unblemished waters and take in the sun on a sunbed. Alternatively, you can continue walking and cross the shoreline into the nearby scenic hillside.
What rests at the top of Jacob’s Ladder is almost as interesting as the beach below. Cafes and restaurants operate here, serving beachgoers as they prepare to make their way down to the stoney paradise below.
Godrevy Beach (Cornwall)
© Andy F / Porthgwidden beach with Godrevy lighthouse on the skyline / CC BY-SA 2.0
Ending this list of the best beaches in Devon and Cornwall is the gritty but beautiful Godrevy Beach is the place to go. This is one of the most exposed beaches in the UK, so it takes a bit of a battering from the Atlantic winds. This makes it a great spot for surfing and kayaking. It can also make for a nice walk on a winter’s day.
During the summer months, Godrevy Beach is just as warm and as relaxing as any other beach in Cornwall. It boasts ample sunbathing space and its waters become calm enough for long afternoos of swimming in the sea.
Its three-mile shoreline ensures there is plenty of room for everybody who visits. Meanwhile, a nearby coffee shop makes a delicious cappuccino that’s a great way to top off your journey!