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Best places for rockpooling

16 August 2016

For a fun, inexpensive and educational day out take your grandchildren on a rockpooling adventure. Read our guide to the best rockpooling spots in the UK – and find out what wildlife you might see.

Boy with shore crabs
Find sea creatures such as these shore crabs in rockpools around the UK. Photograph by Matt Slater

Summer is simply not complete without a trip to the seaside, but why not try something a bit different with your intrepid little explorers this year? Rockpooling is fun, free and you don’t need any equipment beyond a curious mind. Here’s our guide to the best places to rockpool in the UK – and a taster of what you might spot.

An ID guide is always a handy companion to a rockpooling adventure, but better still, why not join an organised rockpool ramble to learn more fun facts about our amazing marine creatures? You can find an event near you at

Rockpooling is best done on the outward (ebbing) tide – but always keep an eye on the tide when out on the rocks. Take care to return all creatures back to their homes - be it under rocks or in pools - and don’t scrape creatures off rocks or seaweeds.

Get more suggestions for fun educational days out for children

South Landing, Flamborough Head, Yorkshire

At this gem of the east coast, white chalk boulders create a rockpooling paradise; with anemones, periwinkles and piddocks aplenty. At the lowest tides, a mysterious kelp forest is exposed – home to beautiful blue rayed limpets and even tiny sea slugs. 

Take yourselves out across the beach or join a Seashore Safari with the experts from Yorkshire Wildlife Trust's Living Seas Centre – just a short stroll away. And on rainy days, why not take the grandchildren in for crafts and games? Activities run all year round, depending on the weather conditions.

Where is it? Take the B1255 north from Bridlington to Flamborough. Head down South Sea road from Flamborough to South Landing.

Killiedraught Bay, St Abbs, Scotland

Killiedraught Bay is found within the St Abbs and Eyemouth Voluntary Marine Reserve and is one of the finest rockpooling sites in Scotland. At low tide you’ll find colourful critters, like the breadcrumb sponge, bootlace worm and slippery butterfish, hiding in the rocky crevices. 

Amongst the bladderwrack and kelp, keep an eye out for periwinkles and the white coiled shell of the spirorbis worm. The cliffs at St Abbs Head, a short way up the coast, are home to 50,000 seabirds in spring and summer, including guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes and shags.

Where is it? A 20 minute drive north of Berwick-upon-Tweed, to get to Eyemouth. The bay is a 15-minute walk from the centre.

Hermit crab

Hermit crab photographed by Paul Naylor

Bembridge Ledges, Isle of Wight

The shallow ledges at Bembridge are a wonderful place to take the grandkids for their first introduction to life beneath the waves. Look out for the dark red, jellylike blobs – these are beadlet anemones - and tiny brittlestars waving their delicate arms. 

Bembridge has been recommended as a Marine Conservation Zone because many rare species are found here including seahorses, stalked jellyfish and peacock’s tail seaweed. Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust runs regular 'rockpool rummages' here, as well as Shoresearch surveys for those wishing to improve their marine ID skills.

Where is it? Seven miles from Ryde on the Isle of Wight. There is a car park at the end of Lane End Road (PO35 5TD) next to the RNLI shop.

Wembury Beach, Devon

Home to Wembury Marine Centre and a Voluntary Marine Conservation Area, this wildlife hotspot is the ideal place to spend a happy day exploring rockpools. Spot common blennies, colourful cushion stars and a huge collection of crabs. If you’re very lucky you might even spot a wrasse nest! 

Did you know that some fish make nests? Why not join Devon Wildlife Trust staff on a rockpool ramble to learn more fun facts – or just pop into Wembury Marine Centre to learn all about the surrounding area and its wildlife through interactive displays.

Where is it? Wembury is seven miles south-east of Plymouth. For the beach and Marine Centre continue through the village of Wembury following signs for Beach. National Trust car park (charge for non-NT members).

St. Agnes Beach, Cornwall

Like many other north Cornwall sites, Trevaunance Cove just outside St Agnes is a rockpool heaven! Delve in to spot topshells, winkles and star seasquirts. It’s great for fish too: see if you can find blennies, rocklings and even sea scorpions.

Where is it? Travelling south-west from Newquay, St Agnes is ten miles away and takes approximately 25 minutes by car.

Rockpooling children

Porth y Pwll, Anglesey

Porth y Pwll is perfect for intrepid little explorers! Peer into crevices or under boulders, rummage through the seaweed and watch the pools themselves for the dart of common shrimps. Look out for squat lobsters, cushion stars and stunning sea hares, a kind of sea slug. 

The team from North Wales Wildlife Trust run regular events and rockpool rambles along the North Wales coast in both English and Welsh.

Where is it? Head east from the village of Trearddur Bay, along Lon Isallt road towards Holyhead.

Allonby Bay, Cumbria

Designated as a Marine Conservation Zone earlier this year, Allonby Bay is a quirky spot to explore. It is one of the best places in the UK to see honeycomb worm reefs – a type of ‘biogenic’ reef that is built entirely by worms using bits of sand or shell! 

Look closely and you’ll see that these funny rock-like reefs actually look like honeycomb. Other delights here include baked bean sea squirts and huge blue mussel beds that are themselves home to lots of interesting creatures. Cumbria Wildlife Trust holds regular beach walks here.

Where is it? The town of Maryport is only a 20 minute drive from Cockermouth. Head along the coastal road north of the town centre to the bay just five minutes away.

Find more rockpooling ideas from The Wildlife Trusts at:

Find out about the best child-friendly beaches in the UK

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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