First opened in 1926, this is Wales’s most-otherworldly destination: a beach and 70 acres of subtropical woodland, augmented by a car-free village. While its cottages are open now, Hotel Portmeirion , on a stretch of golden sand with an outdoor swimming pool, opens on 3 August; its terrace is somewhere you want to linger with a glass of rosé and a late lunch – even if you’re not staying.
• Entry to Portmeirion costs £13 adults, £9 kids, under-5s free. Doubles at Hotel Portmeirion from £204 B&B, portmeirion.wales
The East Neuk of Fife includes a chain of fishing villages, reachable by train and bus from Edinburgh. With a mile of golden sand, Elie has the best beach with room for watersports, including SUP (stand-up paddling); rental is available from Elie Water Sports (eliewatersports.co.uk). In the centre of Elie beach is the Ship Inn, a 19th-century pub with rooms that achieves a fine balance between tourism and community hub. It has a beer garden and a new takeaway menu. Mains, including local spiced cauliflower or fish and chips, start at £12. It’s the only pub in the UK with a beach cricket team. There are matches throughout August.
• Doubles from £180 B&B, shipinn.scot
Morecambe may not quite be the new Margate, but there are art installations, including the Tern Project, a series of sculptures that celebrate the bird life of the Lancashire coast. The art deco masterpiece that is the Midland Hotel is up and running again. Its Sun Terrace restaurant lives up to its name, too. Anyone can drop in and enjoy its double-height windows overlooking the beach. It is open for afternoon teas and dinner, although pre-booking is required.
• Afternoon tea starts at £21 for adults, £13.50 for children, at dinner mains start at £17. Doubles from £196 B&B, englishlakes.co.uk/the-midland
Known as Cheshire-by-Sea, this village on the Llyn peninsula spreads on to beaches that range from the gently curving sheltered main beach to surfy Porth Neigwl (Hell’s Mouth), plus a small harbour, posh boutiques and surf shops. Just above Abersoch, the whitewashed, resolutely foodie Porth Tocyn Hotel is now in the fourth generation of family ownership. There’s a swimming pool and appropriately family-friendly feel. At the moment, lunch is al fresco on the terrace and open to non-guests, with mains starting at £12.
• Booking is essential. Doubles from £168 B&B, porthtocynhotel.co.uk
Alnmouth is Northumberland’s prettiest coastal village, ringed round with cafes, bistros and soft, powdery sand. Head north and there are two more beaches that ought to be better known. The first, Boulmer (pronounced Boomer) is a proper fishing village. Carry on, though, and you’ll reach Sugar Sands, where the crowds disappear. Back in Boulmer, the Fishing Boat Inn is the perfect pit stop – listen out for waves crashing on the rocks below.
• Doubles from £140 B&B, thefishingboatinnboulmer.co.uk
Studland Bay, Dorset
The National Trust-protected swathe of coast comes with minimal facilities (car parking, toilets and a limited menu at the café at Knoll beach), but there are four miles of perfect beach. On South Beach, with views to Old Harry’s Rocks, you’ll also find the Pig on the Beach. The produce of its extensive kitchen garden isn’t just the preserve of hotel guests; extended lunches allow visitors to head here, too. Mains start at £18 and all the food is sourced from within a 25-mile radius.
• Doubles from £269-room only, thepighotel.com
North Norfolk is home to dunes, marshland and uncrowded beaches. Brancaster’s beach may seem (relatively) pulsating with activity, but take a left and you’ll head into the glorious marshland of Titchwell RSPB nature reserve. Close by is Titchwell Manor, a Victorian farmhouse that has reopened with a restaurant. In Thornham, the next village along, you can click and collect fish, chips and halloumi arancini. A fish dinner starts at £10, with gluten-free options.
• Doubles from £140 B&B, titchwellmanor.com
Burton Bradstock, Dorset
Just inland from Chesil Beach, with red sandstone cliffs marking the start of the Jurassic coast, Burton Bradstock is one of those fossil-studded beaches locals like to keep to themselves. It’s over a mile long, with a great café, dipping down from the South West Coastal path en route to Lyme Regis. On Cliff Road, the Seaside Boarding House’s breezy New England-style weatherboarding is a definite draw. If you aren’t staying over, book a table for lunch and enjoy the new outside seating.
• Doubles from £220 a night B&B, theseasideboardinghouse.com
Watergate Bay, Cornwall
With its surfing and bodyboarding scene, Watergate Bay is where Cornwall comes closest to California. It is also riding this summer’s wave of foodiness exceptionally well. Watchful Mary is doing pizzas and cocktails to take away and there’s a pop-up restaurant from Emily Scott (emilyscottfood.com), with a three-course lunch for £32, including local crab. If you’re staying, Watergate Bay hotel is family-friendly, but very pricey – rooms start at £315 (watergatebay.co.uk). For a day trip head for the Beach Hut, which goes from breakfast to cocktails and dinner, from £18 for main courses.
Britain’s beach huts are candy-coloured centres of social-distancing excellence this year; in Suffolk, they are highly desirable real estate in their own right – rentable through agencies including Suffolk Secrets (suffolk-secrets.co.uk). Further along towards the harbour, it’s more egalitarian. The Sailloft pub is open from 9am to 9pm. It’s doing takeaways from noon each day with telephone ordering and there’s new outdoor seating. If you want to linger, the Sail Loft’s five rooms are charming and unfussy.
• Doubles from £180 B&B, sailloftsouthwold.uk
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010