Britain’s top 10 coastal retreats

Chesil Cottage, Dorset

In good weather, you can see 20 miles in either direction: to the left, the white stone of Portland; to the right, Golden Cap and the distant slopes of Devon. Running between them is Chesil Beach, the setting made famous by Ian McEwan’s novel-turned film. The National Trust has restored this peaceful stone cottage overlooking the sea. There’s a spacious master bedroom on the first floor and another double in the attic. The sitting room has a charming inglenook fireplace.

The comfortable cottage works in all weathers: if there’s a storm brewing, it provides the perfect place to watch the sea changing colour, or curl up on a window seat with a book. If it’s fine, there’s a pretty garden and a lovely stroll down to the beach.

Once dreaded by sailing ships as a notorious site for wrecks, Chesil (from the old English for gravel) stretches 18 miles from Portland to West Bay. For much of that distance, it creates a barrier between the sea and the precious Fleet Lagoon, home to rare flora and fauna.

Off-season, the beach is deserted and you can gather driftwood, gulls’ feathers, shells and rashers of sunbaked seaweed as you crunch for a mile or so from the cottage to the Clubhouse at West Bexington for lunch.
From £391 for two nights, sleeps 4, nationaltrust.org.uk

The Victoria Inn, Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk

Walkers in search of wind, sky and expanses of sandy beach have a rare treat in store at Holkham Bay and there is nowhere better to stay than the Victoria Inn, right on the doorstep. Set off on your rambles after a hearty breakfast at the relaxed inn, which is part of the Holkham Estate. No car is needed as you nip across the main road and walk down Lady Anne’s Drive to the dunes of Holkham beach, an absolute wonder and one of the most popular in the UK.

Pick up refreshments in the award-winning, sustainability-driven Lookout Café and visitor centre adjacent to the wetlands and walk through the pine woods to Wells or take a Thermos and watch the sunset from one of the secluded benches overlooking the dunes. If your timing is right, you might see riders galloping across the bay. You can pick up the Norfolk Coast Path from here, but there is much to see in the salt marshes and grazing marshes of the Holkham National Nature Reserve, England’s largest. A birdwatcher’s dream, this special reserve is also home to rare butterflies and orchid valleys.

Back at the Victoria, some of the smart heritage decor bedrooms have views out to sea, as does the orangery dining room that serves hearty portions of locally sourced dishes, including lobster and crab. The Victoria is dog friendly – your pooch can accompany you for walks in Holkham Hall’s 3,000-acre estate or sit fireside with you as you enjoy complimentary night caps in the snug residents’ drawing room.
From £130 B&B, holkham.co.uk

Lower Polnish, Argyll

This renovated blackhouse is hidden on the private 3,500-acre Ardnish peninsula. You have to leave your car and hike 300 metres down a steep valley and across a stream via a rope bridge to get to it, provisions in hand. There’s a wood burner and the living room’s glazed conservatory has a view across Loch Ailort. Look out for red deer, shags and sea eagles, or go shell hunting on the foreshore outside your front door.
From £500 a week, sleeps 2, coolplaces.co.uk

Pitts Deep Cottage, Hampshire

Tucked away at the end of a track, Pitts Deep Cottage is on a shingle beach four miles from Lymington in the New Forest. A former smuggling inn that made the most of high tides that cut off coastal access, the “Deep” was a small lake nearby where contraband brandy was landed from France. It’s a stylish, high-end house with beach views from the bedrooms, a cook’s kitchen, a woodburner in the living room and a large deck with views to the Needles, Hurst Castle and the Isle of Wight. There’s also your own dock for crabbing.
From £330 a night, sleeps 6 + babies, newforestescapes.com

Belle Tout Lighthouse, East Sussex

A room with a view is yours for the picking in this 19th-century lighthouse on the chalky cliffs of Beachy Head. Decommissioned in 1902, the lighthouse is now a six-bedroom B&B and has featured in the Bond movie The Living Daylights and The Life and Loves of a She-Devil. Walk the South Downs Way, then come back and cosy up by the fire in the Round Room lounge, or stargaze in the Lamp Room with its 360-degree view, then climb up a ladder to kip in the old keeper’s bunk.
From £160 B&B, belletout.co.uk

Fort House, St Mawes, Cornwall

In the grounds of St Mawes Castle, one of Henry VIII’s coastal artillery fortresses, Fort House sits on the remote Roseland peninsula, with Falmouth just across the bay. Wrap up and drink your morning coffee on the small terrace that overlooks the Fal estuary, then after walking a stretch of this rugged Cornish coastline, snuggle up by the woodburner of this simply furnished, single-storey cottage. The picture-perfect port town of St Mawes, a short walk away, has an impressive roster of pubs, beaches and, for a spot of culinary indulgence, Olga Polizzi’s super-chic Tresanton Hotel.
From £370 for four nights, sleeps 4 + cot, english-heritage.org.uk

The Shieling, Northumberland

The Shieling in Bamburgh is a bright, spacious house with seemingly endless sofas, shuttered windows and a games room. It’s spectacularly positioned on the edge of the dunes and presided over by Bamburgh Castle. It’s a good spot for piling in friends and family, there is a wood burner in the living room that, like the breakfast room and three of the five bedrooms, has sea views, while the study’s panoramic views has a telescope for stargazing.
From £2,500 a week, sleeps 10, crabtreeandcrabtree.com

Driftwood Beach House, Whitstable, Kent

This quirky B&B looks out on the beach in Seasalter, just outside Whitstable, so you can take a coastal walk from the front door and then, if you want to connect with the elements or do some stargazing, lie in one of the hot tubs waiting for you in each of the three bedrooms. The Maroc Spa Room has its own conservatory and the small garden’s eco hot tub overlooks the RSPB nature reserve at Seasalter Levels.
From £100 B&B, coolplaces.co.uk

Bath Tower, Caernarfon, Gwynedd

Protect yourself from sea breezes and revel in spectacular views across the Menai Strait in Caernarfon’s Bath Tower, one of eight on the city wall built by Edward I to protect the Gwynedd capital. Recently restored by the Landmark Trust, the Tower became part of a public bath house in the 19th century, hence its name. You can make like a garrison soldier and step from the promenade into the semi-circular living room, which has a log fire and huge windows, then retreat up to the top-floor bedroom and people-watch from your turret balcony.
From £299 for 4 nights, sleeps 5, landmarktrust.org.uk

Isle of Skye Retreat

A romantic hideaway for nature lovers and walkers, the Isle of Skye Retreat is an old crofter’s cottage 10 minutes’ drive from Portree, the Island’s capital. A neutral palette and a Scandi aesthetic have transformed the former blackhouse into a boutique bolthole. It’s a stone’s throw from Camustianavaig Bay on the Sound of Raasay, so take your binoculars and look out for otters and seals, herons and oystercatchers. After a hike up Ben Tianavaig, just behind the cottage, a warm bed with a wood burner at the foot of it awaits.
From £100 a night, plus membership fee (starts at £1.99), sleeps 2, kiphideaways.com

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