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Best UK beaches for children

Lorna Cowan / 12 July 2016

It’s summer, so tell the grandchildren to grab their buckets and spades, pack the beach towels and start heading for the seaside. Here are our favourite family-friendly UK beaches.

Saltburn-by-the-Sea's funicular lift
Saltburn-by-the-Sea's funicular lift

Saltburn-by-the-Sea, North Yorkshire, for a cliff railway ride

It’s fun going to the beach at Saltburn-by-the-Sea, approximately 13 miles east of Middlesbrough, as you need to take a ride in a funicular lift which travels up and down a 36-metre high cliff. The lift has taken visitors to the sand and shingle beach since 1884 and is the oldest water-balanced cliff lift in the UK. Today, children will love crabbing off the side of the pier – the last remaining one in Yorkshire. The formal gardens and woodland trails at Saltburn Valley Gardens are also worth a look.

Best for: beach bums with no fear of heights.
Also good for: surfers – book a lesson with a local surf school, or simply watch the professionals ride the waves.
For more details: Visit England

Plymouth, Devon, for a sea water lido

If a child in the family loves playing in water but is not so confident swimming in the sea, then head to the salt water Tinside Lido in the city of Plymouth. Overlooking the sea at the tip of Plymouth Hoe, the semi-circular lido has been beautifully restored and has lots of its original Art Deco features - including a fountain at its centre. Although only open from May to September, the pool is fully accessible with lifts and a pool hoist, so welcomes everyone. It’s also perfect if you like sunbathing without getting sand everywhere.

Best for: paddlers who prefer pools.
Also good for: Sir Francis Drake admirers – a statue of the vice admiral stands on Plymouth Hoe, where he reputedly played bowls.
For more details: Visit Plymouth

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Mablethorpe's Sand Train

Mablethorpe's Sand Train

Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire, for a traditional seaside resort

If the younger members of your family love nothing better than building sandcastles and splashing in the sea, then the beach at Mablethorpe, an hour’s drive from Lincoln, will keep them entertained for hours. The traditional seaside resort has clean golden sand, safe swimming water and lifeguards on patrol during the summer months. A highlight of any day trip will be a fun ride on the sand train to the north end of the beach – the friendly drivers often take their passengers on a slight detour!

Best for: the bucket and spade brigade.
Also good for: budding zoo keepers – the nearby seal sanctuary cares for poorly sea creatures before returning them to the wild. It’s also home to meerkats and birds of prey.
For more details: Mablethorpe

Durgan, Cornwall, for a stone skimming beach

Admit it, most of us can’t resist indulging in a spot of stone skimming at the beach. And the one at Durgan, near Falmouth, is perfect for a family competition. Not only are there plenty of pebbles to pick up, the water is often still, so you can easily count the bounces. Situated in a charming bay at the bottom of Glendurgan Garden, green-fingered grandparents will love the exotic flowers and plants on display. And the cherry laurel maze, with a little thatched summer house in the middle, is sure to delight everyone.

Best for: skillful stone skimmers.
Also good for: cheeky monkeys – children will love hanging from a rotating rope swing in the gardens.
For more details: The National Trust

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Botany Bay beach

Botany Bay, Broadstairs

Botany Bay, Kent, for crab-filled rock pools

Crabs, cuttlefish and starfish love hanging out in the rock pools at Botany Bay, and all the family will enjoy a day here too. The beautiful beach, near Broadstairs, boasts a clear blue sea, golden sand and astonishing tall chalk stacks, which you are able to stand next to when the tide is out. The cove is said to be named after Australia’s Botany Bay, as smugglers who hid there were sometimes deported to the other side of the globe. The beach can get busy at times, so if grandchildren are not yet at school, visit during the week to avoid the crowds.

Best for: little nippers.
Also good for: snap-happy photographers – the picturesque bay provides plenty of opportunities for dramatic seaside shots.
For more details: Visit Thanet

Tenby, Pembrokeshire, for a boat trip

Found your sea legs? Then take a 20-minute boat trip from Castle Beach in Tenby, west Wales, across the water to Caldey Island, a holy island home to Cisterian monks. Of if the tide is out, walk to St Catherine’s Island with its fort, now open to the public – just don’t get stranded! Castle Beach itself has been awarded a Blue Flag, so it gets the thumbs up for cleanliness and facilities. The seaside town of Tenby is rather quaint too, and has another three beaches for you to explore.

Best for: island hoppers.
Also good for: walkers – Tenby is situated on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, which lies almost entirely within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.
For more details: Visit Tenby

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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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