Britain's best and worst seaside destinations named

Britain’s best and worst seaside destinations revealed in Which? league table, with St Mawes in Cornwall No1 and Skegness at the bottom

  • Thousands of holidaymakers rated their most recent visits to UK seaside spots as part of a Which? survey
  • The destinations were ranked using factors including food and drink, value for money and quality of seafront
  • Highly ranked were Dartmouth in Devon, Southwold, Aldeburgh and Bamburgh in Northumberland
  • Seaside destinations near the bottom of the ranking included Great Yarmouth, Clacton-on-Sea and Blackpool 

A Cornish village with a population of less than 1,000 has triumphed over some of the nation’s most famous seaside resorts in Which?’s annual ranking of the UK’s best coastal destinations.

The consumer champion asked thousands of holidaymakers to rate their recent visits to over 100 UK seaside resorts across a range of factors including food and drink, seafront, beach, value for money and peace and quiet.

St Mawes, in Cornwall, came top ahead of better-known beach destinations like Salcombe or St Ives – earning a full five stars for its scenery, seafront and peace and quiet – and a glowing overall customer score of 85 per cent. At the bottom of the ranking was Skegness, which earned an overall score of 44 per cent. 

St Mawes, pictured, has triumphed over some of the nation’s most famous seaside resorts in Which?’s annual ranking of the UK’s best coastal destinations

A table by Which? showing the full ranking of the UK seaside destinations. It was based on factors including food and drink, seafront, beach, value for money and peace and quiet

Those who visited St Mawes recommended eating crab baguettes at Mr Scorse’s deli and spotting dolphins on the ferry to Falmouth, but admitted to Which? that avoiding peak season was the best way to dodge the crowds.

Dartmouth, arguably one of the most famous destinations in the top 10, and home of Agatha Christie, scored 84 per cent and came joint second.

Which? says those who visited drew attention to steam trains and delicious seafood, but advised using the park and ride service as finding a parking spot in town is ‘near impossible’.

For those seeking to avoid already oversubscribed hotspots, particularly those in Devon and Cornwall, Which? says there are plenty of beautiful and tranquil spots to pick, such as Southwold in joint second (84 per cent) and Aldeburgh in joint fourth (83 per cent). They both scored top marks for scenery and peace and quiet.

Which? says holidaymakers highlighted the great food and drink on offer in Southwold – earning five stars in this category – as well as the deliberate lack of ‘kiss-me-quick’ gimmickry.

Aldeburgh was praised for its tranquillity, with one person telling Which?: ‘It’s not got the usual seaside entertainments.’ Another described it as ‘far from the madding crowd of South East England’.

Bamburgh in Northumberland (83 per cent), which topped last year’s rankings, has not fallen out of favour with visitors this year. It was rated a full five stars in almost every category.

One person summed up Bamburgh to Which? as ‘one of the UK’s top-secret locations’, adding that ‘Northumberland is outstandingly unspoilt and a UK treasure’.

Dartmouth, pictured, came joint second with those who visited telling Which? that they were impressed by the steam trains and delicious seafood

The Suffolk seaside resort of Southwold, pictured, came joint second in the ranking. It was praised for its food and drink offering

St Andrews (81 per cent), home of Scotland’s oldest university, also made it into the top 10, with a full five stars for food and drink, beautiful views and its attractions, including the world-renowned golf course.

The consumer champion says those who visited praised the West Sands beach, which extends for almost two miles and was made famous by the opening scene of the film Chariots of Fire.

Visitors looking for peace and quiet were advised to check term times before travel, as the town is much livelier when the students are around.

For a more easy-going Scottish seaside destination, Oban (74 per cent) could be a better option, says Which?

It is best known as the ‘Gateway to the Isles’, thanks to its role as a hub for tourists departing to the islands of the Inner and Outer Hebrides, but the consumer group says this seaside town has enough charm to warrant being a holiday spot of its own and also gets top marks for stunning scenery.

Bamburgh in Northumberland, which topped last year’s ranking, was described as ‘one of the UK’s top secret locations’

In Wales, St Davids (81 per cent), Llandudno (80 per cent), Tenby (79 per cent) and Conwy (78 per cent) all scored highly, with many Welsh destinations earning high ratings for scenery and value for money.

Which? found that crowds can easily be avoided by missing better-known destinations and heading a little further up the coast.

For example, instead of Llandudno and Conwy, Which? says fewer people will know Criccieth, which achieved a respectable 74 per cent customer score.

This town also received a full five-star rating for its stunning views, and being a bit further afield will also mean that hotel rooms are a little cheaper, says Which?

The top-ranked Scottish destination was St Andrews, pictured, which is the home of Scotland’s oldest university

One of the Welsh destinations that ranked highly was Llandudno, which earned five stars for its seafront, value for money, scenery and tourist attractions

Also in the top 10, but often overlooked by holidaymakers, is Tynemouth (81 per cent), eight miles northeast of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

This coastal town was awarded five-star ratings almost across the board, including for its sandy beach, which is popular with walkers and is a nationally recognised watersports hub.

Meanwhile, bottom-ranked Skegness, the famous home of the original Butlins, achieved one-star ratings in each category, apart from the three stars for its beach.

Bottom-ranked Skegness, pictured, achieved one-star ratings in each category, apart from ‘beach’, for which it earned three stars

While some of those who spoke to Which? were scathing in their comments, going as far as to say the Lincolnshire town was ‘to be avoided,’ nature lovers highlighted the seal sanctuary and bird watching at the Gibraltar Point National Nature Reserve.

Which? says some spoke fondly of a ‘typical town that caters for all ages’ and one visitor told the consumer champion: ‘Don’t be put off by the stereotypical opinions of Skegness. It’s a well-maintained, vibrant area.’ 

Other iconic seaside resorts complete with Victorian-era piers, amusement arcades and roller coasters also fared badly, including Great Yarmouth (48 per cent), Clacton-on-Sea (48 per cent), Bognor Regis (49 per cent) and Blackpool (53 per cent).

Which? says that the survey of over 4,000 people – carried out before the coronavirus lockdown – shows British holidaymakers favour peace and quiet over crowds, crazy golf and roller coasters.

Finishing joint-second bottom of the table was Great Yarmouth, pictured, which had a customer satisfaction score of just 48 per cent 

Clacton-on-Sea in Essex, pictured, was joint second bottom. It scored just one star in four of the categories 

The consumer champion says it also highlights some of the lesser-known resorts savvy travellers can escape to if they want to avoid busy beaches, bars and restaurants this summer.

Rory Boland, Which? travel editor, said: ‘With many people choosing to holiday in the UK this summer it is a good time to explore parts of the country you may not have considered before and to spread our sandcastles beyond the beaches of Devon and Cornwall.

‘As our survey shows, it’s smaller seaside towns and villages with fewer visitors that holidaymakers love.

‘Whether that’s hitting the waves in Tynemouth or camping in Criccieth, there are good options for those of us keen to keep our distance from the crowds this year but still want to combine stunning scenery with sumptuous seafood.

‘Don’t forget, if you book your hotel or accommodation direct and over the phone, you may even get a discount or free bottle of bubbly thrown in.’

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