Coast with the most

With the ambitious England Coast Path project almost completed, here are some of the country’s best escapes by the sea


Stretching for thousands of miles, the English coast has always been a holiday favourite — from traditional seaside resorts to unspoiled sweeps of rugged cliffs and gentle golden beaches. And away from the busier tourist destinations, there are quiet corners galore to discover.

There’s never been a better time to seek them out for yourself either: ideal not only if you prefer to avoid overseas travel or are looking for a socially distanced break, but also because the ambitious project to create the England Coast Path has opened up even more stretches of coastline.

Running for 2,700 miles, it will be the longest coastal walking route in the world when it’s completed. While the final sections to open, plus some planned events and exhibitions, have been postponed until next year, you can still benefit from new access, improved routes and better signposts as part of the scheme.

It’s not limited to long-distance walkers either: some of the newest additions include easy circular trails, walks aimed at families and easy ambles. And as most people in England live within an hour of the coast, you’ll never be too far from a walk by the waves.

Undiscovered Kent

Kent’s north coast is always tempting, from stylish Whitstable to quirky Margate, but there are quieter wilder sections to explore along the Saxon Shore Way, which extends for 160 miles from Gravesend into East Sussex.

On the Sandwich Peninsula, discover the bird life which lives on the mudflats, or head further south to follow the England coast path running from Folkestone past Dungeness.

The shingle flora here holds a third of all the plants in the UK, while you can also look into the shingle garden at Prospect Cottage, which belonged to filmmaker Derek Jarman, discover an early form of radar in the form of the Listening Ears at Lade, and discover the country’s largest and best-preserved collection of ancient bones in Hythe.

Make a note to return next year to discover the England’s Creative Coast project in spring 2021, with seven works of art placed along the coastline here, Essex and East Sussex.

Historic Norfolk

This slice of East Anglia is already known for the Norfolk Coast path linking Hunstanton to Hopton-on-Sea, one of 15 National Trails in England, but there’s a new reason to visit this year following the launch of the Deep History Coast.

Celebrating the area’s ancient heritage — archaeologists have found footsteps dating back almost a million years here, the earliest evidence of humans in Britain — the route between Weybourne and Cart Gap brings this to life with a series of 11 new Discover Points.

Linked to a free app, there are virtual tours, guides, games and even augmented reality bonuses at the 11 stops, not to mention learning more about the UK’s biggest mammoth skeleton found at West Runton.

Venture a little further around the coast and you can spot seals at Blakeney Point as well as Horsey during the winter months. And don’t miss a short detour inland to Norwich, with its own long Jewish history and current community, including two synagogues.

Wild Lincolnshire

The famously flat landscape of Lincolnshire makes it easy to look out as far as the eye can see, with the chance to discover wildlife, art and even do some cloud-spotting as you explore the coast.

A 16-mile stretch of coast path between Skegness and Mablethorpe includes a new boardwalk which links the promenades by the North Sea Observatory at Chapel Point, with regular exhibitions as well as information on coastal wildlife.

Or head to Anderby Creek Cloud Bar in the Coastal Country Park, the world’s first official cloud spotting area and a haven for bird life.

If the weather is good, there are also beaches to discover, including the Blue Flag beach of Sutton-on-Sea and the wild open dunes of Moggs Eye.

Only around an hour inland, it’s easy to visit the city of Lincoln as well, which boasts its own long Jewish history and current community: follow the Jewish heritage trail to discover historic Jewish buildings, as well as more at The Collection Art & Archaeology Museum once it reopens.

County Durham wildlife

For decades, the Durham coastline was best known for its mining and industry, but today you can find rare nature in this scenic spot.

Known as the Durham Heritage Coast, some of the best views are from Noses Point: along with the chance to see Whitby on a clear day, you can also spot the Northern Brown Argus butterfly among the rockroses and rare grassland.

For a longer outing, walk from the dunes at Crimdon, where terns summer after their migration from Africa, up to Seaham.

A great place to find sea glass, thanks to the bottleworks and glass-making factories which once dominated the town, you can also spot the sculpture of a First World War soldier looking out to the waves.

Eleven ‘O’ One, better known simply as Tommy, was set here in 2014, representing a soldier in the first moments after the armistice: a time capsule has also been buried underneath the sculpture’s base.

For a more ambitious walking challenge, the number of open stretches of England Coast Path in the north east mean you could continue north all the way to Amble in Northumberland, or head south along the North Yorkshire coast to Filey.

Cumbria’s Hidden Coast

One of the most enticingly named sections of England’s Coast path, Cumbria’s Hidden Coast hopes to encourage some of the millions who flock to the Lake District to explore the less visited shores of the county.

To combine the two, you could start in Ravenglass, the only coastal village in the Lake District National Park, before setting out along the rest of the 40-mile trail linking Whitehaven and Millom, passing salt marshes and the Duddon Estuary, plus the red sandstone cliffs of St Bees and an RSPB nature reserve.

Or discover the nature reserves on the circular stretch of coast path around Walney Island. The eighth largest island in England is home to seals and birdlife, as well as protected natterjack toads. At low tide, you can stroll to Piel Island just offshore, with the chance to see porpoises in the waters around the coast.

South West coast path

England’s best-known coastal trail is almost certainly the South West Coast Path — and while the first stretch to open was in Dorset, some of the newest walks are in Devon.

A total of 19 new trails have been designed for 2020 to encourage walkers to explore South Devon between Wembury and Berry Head.

A set of 34 signs are dotted along the different routes to give walkers more information, with seals to be seen here as well.

And while the details of the official England Coast Path are still being finalised for this part of the country, it seems likely that it will follow the vast majority of the 630-mile South West Coast Path, which also runs through Cornwall and Somerset.

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