In praise of the British coast

Apparently visits to the British coast have declined by 20% across ten years, from 62% of people visiting the coast at least once in year in 2005, down to just 42% now. I find this really depressing.

The coast of this country contains many of my favourite places, some of which I’ve featured here, some I haven’t. Plus a whole range of places I have yet to visit. It’s a wonderfully diverse place.


Bempton Cliffs

My heart lies on the Yorkshire coast, in both its traditional seaside towns like Scarborough and Bridlington, and the more remote and wild sections of clifftop. I love the little towns and villages that exist purely for small fishing communities. I love the geology, and the botany, and the zoology and entomology. I love the microcosm of the rockpool. I’ve loved it since I was a child, and I imagine I will always love it.



My recent trip to the coast of Northumberland was eye-opening, reminding me of another place I love, and why. Big open seas and skies, wind-swept and interesting.

I love the more remote and barren feel of the West Coast of Scotland, a place where you can watch actual eagles soaring overhead. It has a range of wildlife you don’t currently see anywhere else in the UK. It also has some of the best seafood in the world, and it has the best whisky distilleries too!

Calgary Bay, Mull

Calgary Bay, Mull

I love the Cumbrian coastline too. It’s often seen as a place of poverty and deprivation, home only to nuclear power stations. But actually there are expanses of sand dune and tidal lagoons.

Then there is Morecambe Bay. As a Yorkshireman, I am unwilling to admit missing much of Lancashire, but the stretch of land from Kent’s Bank round to Carnforth is glorious. Open tidal flats and salt marshes, with reserves like Leighton Moss tucked just inland.

Bridlington from Dane's Dyke

Bridlington from Dane’s Dyke

Across the sea we find Ireland, and across Ireland to a coastline open to the Atlantic Ocean. Connemarra is a place I visited once, but still feel a pull to visit again.

I’ve spent plenty of time in Wales too, and have a nostalgic attachment to Barmouth that only fading memory could ever take away. I spent time further South along the Pembrokeshire coastline too, both on holiday as a boy, and on fieldwork with university. It was the first place I ever saw dolphins and porpoises.

We took multiple holidays along the coast of Somerset, Cornwall, Devon and Dorset too. The fishing and mining villages are places I adore. The railway line from Exeter to Penzance is a journey everyone should try take at least once. Not a ‘role model’ memory to share, but being allowed cider outside a Cornish pub made me feel like a grown-up!


Seal off Scotland

It’s also a short hop across to the Scilly Isles from Penzance, by plane or boat. These are some of the most beautifully empty places I’ve ever been, and a visit at the height of bird migration is guaranteed to throw up a few curiosities.

Sadly the South-East is an unknown to me, though I will put the right one day. From Portsmouth all the way round East Anglia and up to Skegness, these are areas I don’t know. But I know the fossils of places like Hunstanton and Cromer and would dearly love to visit myself.


Spurn Point

Finally we come up through Lincolnshire and Humberside back to where we started. We pass places like Blacktoft Sands and Spurn Point, and anyone who has followed this blog awhile knows I make time for Spurn each year.

If you are in the 58% that haven’t visited the coast even once this year, you still have four-and-a-half months to put that right. The coast isn’t just a high summer thing, a shoreline in the deep of winter as late sun hits snowy rocks can be astoundingly beautiful. I was once working in a remote bay near Swanage in January. Watching the sunrise across glistening rocks, a fox walked down to the edge of the sea. It stood there looking out across the water a minute, then looked at me. We stared at each other for what seemed like days, then he turned and trotted off, looking for sleep at the point I was just waking up.

Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, all bring their own form of beauty to our coastline.

An Uamh Bhin, Staffa (Fingal's Cave if you must)

An Uamh Bhin, Staffa
(Fingal’s Cave if you must)

It would be good ten years from now to see that 42% climb not only back to 62%, but ideally past it towards 100%. While it may be cheaper for a lengthy vacation to go abroad, just one day out is achievable for all. Even if you live in Coton-in-the-Elms, according the Ordnance Survey the farthest place from the coast in the British Isles, you can still reach the sea in two hours. That’s more than quick enough for a day out.

Our local coast provides great scenery, good exercise, lovely food and drink, and wonderful wildlife. So plan a trip.

Any personal favourite places or stories from the British coast? Do you like the big resorts or the tiny villages? Or do you seek obscure and remote bays away from all prying eyes?


This entry was posted in About the blog, Birds, Botany, England, Fossils, Geology, Green exercise, Invertebrates, Lancashire, Mammals, Media, Phenology, Plants, Scotland, Why watch wildlife?, Wildlife stories and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to In praise of the British coast

  1. Emily Scott says:

    There’s something special about the seaside. I love paddling in the sea and the rhythmic noise of the waves hitting the beach. Also I adore peering in rock pools to try and spot their inhabitants. And chips and ice-cream!

  2. I loved Bempton Cliffs last year. Gower Peninsular. Stud land bay Dorset. So much variety on the British Coast.

I welcome thoughts, comments and questions, so please feel free to share anything at all. Thanks, David

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