As the heat of summer in New York City fully descends upon us, we’re standing on the subway platforms dreaming of National Trust beaches. Following up on the theme from Wednesday’s post here is a wonderful countdown list of best beaches straight from the National Trust. This post includes best beaches for family walks, and best beaches for swimming with children. Part II, coming Monday, will countdown best beaches for picnics, best beaches for rockpooling and best beaches for water sports.
Best beaches for family walks
This beautiful three mile stretch of coastline has plenty of things to see and do for all. If you want to stretch your legs, this walk around Morte Point will take you through an area filled with maritime history and tales of smugglers and shipwrecks. At the tip of Morte Point you can take 5 minutes to scramble up the spiky rock formation that looks like the back of a Stegosaurus. Bring some binoculars and you may see Atlantic grey seals near the shore: they pop up for air every 15 minutes so take a seat and keep an eye out.
More walks around Woolacombe
Pack a picnic, the children and the dog and set off for a day at St Helen’s Duver: a former Victorian golf course turned coastal haven. This sandy spit of land is rich in wildlife and history and the acres of grassy open land provide the perfect place for running amok. The four mile circular walk has easy access and takes in sandy beaches, dunes, rockpools and coastal woods. From busy Bembridge Harbour the walk ambles along the rocky seashore, before climbing up inland. You’ll return via the picturesque village of St Helens, where you’ll find a handy pub and restaurant for refreshments.
- Dunwich Heath and Beach, Suffolk
The peaceful, colourful heathland of the Dunwich Heath Nature Reserve, with its shingle and sand beach, is rich with wildlife and ideal for family walks. The Dunwich Heath Gorse Walk will take you round the perimeter of the heath, which is covered with a patchwork of purple and yellow heather throughout the summer months. The beach and heath provide the perfect habitat for species such as Dartford warblers, nightjars and woodlark, and if you pause for a while in the Sea Watch Hut you might be able to spot porpoises and seals. There are also plenty of activities to keep the kids entertained, from geocache trails and scavenger hunts to flying kites in the summer sunshine.
- Souter Lighthouse and the Leas, Tyne & Wear
Opened in 1871, Souter Lighthouse remains an iconic beacon midway between the river Tyne and the river Wear. This easy walk takes in part of the Leas; a two and a half mile stretch of limestone cliffs and coastal grassland that provide a home for nesting seabirds such as cormorants, kittiwakes and guillemots. It also skirts the edge of the Whitburn Coastal Park, a former colliery turned wildlife haven. After the walk you can cool off in the waves at Marsden Bay (not National Trust).
Starting at the small coastal village of Ravenscar, this gentle walk follows part of the Cleveland way along the spectacular clifftops of the North Yorkshire Coast. During the summer there are usually plenty of butterflies and birds to spot along the way, but remember to watch your step as adders can often be seen basking on sunny paths. As you return to Ravenscar at end of the walk you’ll be treated to spectacular views across Robin Hood’s Bay. Why not head down to the beach for a bit of a rest, or to see what you can discover in the rockpools?
This walk along the Llŷn Peninsula’s rugged coastline is a great chance to absorb some of the area’s history, and kids will love the ‘whistling sands’ of Porthor beach, so named because it squeaks underfoot in warm weather. Although small, this secluded sweep of golden sand and clear water is a great choice for families, with access to toilets and a café/shop during the summer months. If you’re lucky you might spot a seal, porpoise or even a dolphin swimming off the coast.
Rhossili’s three mile long beach has some of the most magnificent views on the Welsh coast. If you stand at Rhossili Down, you can see not only the peninsula, but the coasts of west Wales and north Devon just on the horizon. With its scenic clifftops and sprawling beach, it’s a perfect place to spend summer days walking, swimming, surfing and kite-flying. To stretch your legs, take the level walk along the cliff top to the Old Coastguard Lookout, where they would have kept watch for ships in trouble on the high seas. On the way back you can pick up a souvenir from the National Trust shop, and help contribute to the conservation of this beautiful landscape.
- Murlough National Nature Reserve, County Down
The view from Murlough Beach is one of an impressive shingle beach and four miles of magnificent strand set against the backdrop of the Mourne Mountains. For families with young children looking for a great place to explore, Murlough is a must. There’s a network of paths and boardwalks through the dunes, woodland and heath from where you will see lots of butterflies and wild flowers. You may even be lucky enough to spot seals bobbing among the waves.
Best beaches for swimming with little ones
- Studland Bay, Dorset
With gently shelving bathing waters, Studland’s sheltered beach is an ideal place for little ones to have their first go at swimming in the sea. They can also enjoy exploring the heathland just behind the beach, with its treasure trove of wildlife to discover. If you fancy making a day of it why not hire a National Trust beach hut and tick off some of those ‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’ activities with the kids. Be sure to take the buckets and spades, or if you forget you can always visit the café and shop at Knoll Beach to stock up on everything you need. What’s more, every penny will go towards helping the Trust care for this beautiful beach.
- Compton Bay, Isle of Wight
Just a 30 minute ferry ride away from the mainland, the Isle of Wight has plenty of beaches that are perfect for taking a dip. Compton Bay is a great spot for families: not too crowded, but with beautiful views towards Dorset and plenty of firm sand for building sandcastles. What’s more, the tide doesn’t go out too far so it’s a great place for little ones to try swimming in the sea. Afterwards you can try and follow in the steps of dinosaurs by hunting for their prehistoric footcasts in the sandstone rocks.