The UK

The UK's best coastlines

Laura 11 November 2021

The UK is packed full of some of the most beautiful coastlines in the world!

We’ve carefully combed through the data about our amazing shores to find the best coastlines to visit right here in the UK.

St Michael’s Mount

From quaint seaside fishing villages to colourful seaside towns, we’ve ranked the 10 best coastlines in the UK below. 

Each coastline was scored on several ranking factors, including how many awards it has received, the number of Instagram hashtags, how many national parks it has, and its coast path length.


Awards include: 

  • National parks
  • Coastline length (miles)
  • Blue Flag beaches
  • World Heritage Sites
  • Coast path length (miles)
  • Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)
  • National Nature Reserve (NNR)
  • Coastline and path Instagram hashtags
  • Biospheres
  • Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)
  • Ramsar Sites
  • Heritage coast

The UK’s best coastlines

Having reviewed all the coastlines across the UK, we can reveal that Devon tops the list as the best coastline, with Hampshire coming in at a close second, and our Cornwall coming third.


1. Devon

Devon is well known for its coastal resorts, dramatic cliffs and sandy beaches. 

Visit Devon’s medieval towns, walk the South West Coast Path and discover the amazing rock formations on the fossil-rich Jurassic Coast for a memorable coastal holiday. 

Devon’s world-famous English Riviera is also a designated UNESCO Global Geopark. Enjoy Torbay’s beautiful Blue Flag beaches, sub-tropical plants, mild climate, and picturesque waterfronts.


2. Hampshire

Visit the UK’s only waterfront shopping outlet destination for some retail therapy in Portsmouth, or discover the amazing waterfront of Southampton with its huge array of containers and cruise ships! 

Head inland to the beautiful New Forest with its native ponies, wonderful woodlands and open moors. Grab a bite to eat in one of the oh-so-pretty villages such as Beaulieu, or take a trip to historic Winchester with its medieval cathedral and Great Hall containing King Arthur’s Round Table.  


3. Cornwall

Follow in the footsteps of giants, wizards and kings! Walk across oceans to castles and relax in pretty harbours and fishing villages, watching the world go by on Cornwall's coast. 

Dine on fresh seafood in some of the best eateries in the UK, splash about on Cornwall’s beautiful sandy beaches and enjoy amazing coast path walks on the South West Coast Path. Surf the amazing beaches of the north coast or explore sheltered estuaries along the south. There are plenty of things to do in Cornwall for the ultimate coastal escape.


4. Highland

The diverse Highland coastline not only makes the top 5 best coastlines in the UK but tops the list of the UK's longest coastlines! If you fancy a coastal drive then why not try some or all of the North Coast 500 route with miles of spectacular coastal scenery, beautiful sandy beaches, majestic mountains and quaint fishing villages. 


5. Kent 

Home to the iconic White Cliffs of Dover, this stretch of UK coastline offers glorious sandy beaches, vibrant coastal towns and fantastic views across the Channel. Kent’s Heritage Coast has plenty of history, heritage and magnificent landscapes to discover. 


5. Pembrokeshire

Coming in at joint 5th is the wonderful Pembrokeshire coast. Home to the UK's only coastal national park, you'll find delightfully colourful seaside Tenby, historic St Davids and the most Blue Flag beaches in Wales! A walker's and sea lover's delight, explore the outstanding islands including Skomer with its perfectly pretty puffins.


6. Cumbria

Not just home to the oh-so-pretty Lake District National Park, the Cumbrian coast is also one of the most scenic coastlines in the UK. Outdoor lovers can enjoy exploring the great outdoors with plenty of lovely walks, views to last a lifetime and welcome pubs to refresh in.


7. Norfolk

There's plenty to enjoy along Norfolk's coastline from stunning sandy beaches to soaring cliffs, salt marshes and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Explore the many nature reserves and lovely seaside resorts with their fantastic family-friendly attractions and activities.


8. Sussex

This vast stretch of coastline is home to The Seven Sisters and Beachy Head beauty spot. The Sussex Heritage Coast offers miles of amazing walks including the golden stretch at Camber Sands. A trip to Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve is a must with its stunning coastal scenery in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. 


9. Dorset

Dorset's incredible Jurassic Coast is renowned for its fossil-flecked cliffs. This World Heritage Site is home to some outstanding geology and the iconic cliffs of West Bay. The pretty seaside resort of Lyme Regis is a fantastic spot for a seaside break with its beautiful golden sand, scenery and safe bathing waters. 


10. Gwynedd

This amazing coastline is home to the super scenic LlΕ·n Peninsula and the picturesque Snowdonia National Park. From land to sea, mountains to the coast, this magical region includes beautiful beaches and amazing sea views as well as rocky peaks, forests, plus one of the most spectacular stretches of the Wales Coast Path. 

With plenty to discover around the much loved UK coastline, we're sure your next new favourite coastal spot has made the list! Here's a handy round-up of the UK's top 10 coastlines to help you on your way: 

 Top 10 coastlines in the UK:

🌊 1st Devon
🌊 2nd Hampshire
🌊 3rd Cornwall
🌊 4th Highland
🌊 Joint 5th Kent & Pembrokeshire
🌊 6th Cumbria
🌊 7th Norfolk
🌊 8th Sussex
🌊 9th Dorset
🌊 10th Gwynedd

The UK’s longest coastlines

Having analysed and ranked all the coastlines around the UK, we can reveal that the Highlands in Scotland tops the list as the longest coastline, with Cornwall also making the top three. 

Neist Point

1. Highland

The length of this coastline, including islands at low water, is 3,048 miles. That’s 21% of Scotland’s overall coastline!

The Highlands is a diverse and vast area with dramatic seascapes and some of the tallest mountains in the British Isles including Ben Nevis.

A visit to one of the Highlands' many lochs is a must - especially looking for Nessy at Loch Ness, the largest body of water in the whole of the UK! It really is huge, holding more water than all the lakes in England and Wales together.

Castle Stalker

2. Argyll & Bute

Next on the list of the UK’s longest coastlines is another Scottish coastline: Argyll & Bute.

With over 20 inhabited islands and miles and miles of coastline with stunning views, Argyll & Bute is known as Scotland’s Adventure Coast. 

The idyllic islands offer something a little different and visitors can splash about at spectacular sandy beaches, marvel at the stunning scenery, conquer some castles, revel in the remoteness and watch some wonderful wildlife such as red deer, puffins, golden eagles and cute seals.  

Surfers Cornwall

3. Cornwall

Making the top three yet again is our Cornwall. 

Surrounded by the sea, Cornwall makes up one of the UK’s most popular coastal destinations, jutting out into the vast Atlantic ocean from England’s rugged southwestern tip. 

The peninsula is home to a fantastic array of sandy beaches, harbour villages, towering cliffs, surfing hotspots, and seaside resorts. You’ll also find the UK’s most south-westerly point, Land's End.

Top 10 longest coastlines in the UK:

πŸ“ 1st Highland
πŸ“ 2nd Argyll & Bute
πŸ“ 3rd Cornwall
πŸ“ 4th Essex
πŸ“ 5th Devon
πŸ“ 6th Kent
πŸ“ 7th Hampshire
πŸ“ 8th Dumfries & Galloway
πŸ“ 9th County Antrim
πŸ“ 10th Pembrokeshire

Giant's Causeway

The best of the rest

We couldn’t finish without mentioning these other amazing coastlines in the UK. 

  • North Yorkshire
  • County Antrim
  • Suffolk
  • Somerset
  • Northumberland
  • Essex
  • Ceredigion
  • Anglesey
  • County Londonderry
  • County Down


Stay in Cornwall

We’re delighted that Cornwall made the top 3 of the UK’s best coastlines.  

Whilst Kent, Pembrokeshire, Cumbria, and various other locations across the UK certainly offer beautiful coastlines to visit, Cornwall has proved itself to be up among the very best!

Are you feeling inspired to take your next seaside holiday in the UK? Why not take a look at one of our coastal holiday cottages in Cornwall to find the perfect seaside retreat? Plus, we’ve got more in-depth guides to Cornwall’s top beaches packed full of useful information to get you ready for your next coastal break.

Coastal cottages in Cornwall

*Data collected by Stay In Cornwall during autumn 2021.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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