50 best European beach breaks

United Kingdom

Mawgan Porth, Cornwall

Cornwall is brimming with beautiful beaches, but Mawgan Porth is a highlight. For a 'grown-up' break, Emma Gibbs recommends luxurious eco-lodge the Scarlet (from £245 per night) as 'one of the country's chicest beach retreats'. And if you crave the call of the wild, the Park at Mawgan Porth offers stylish, sustainable stays in high-end yurts, caravans and cottages set in 27 acres of parkland.

Details Detailswww.scarlethotel.co.uk; www.mawganporth.co.uk
United Kingdom
Mawgan Porth, Cornwall
Cornwall is brimming with beautiful beaches, but Mawgan Porth is a highlight. For a 'grown-up' break, Emma Gibbs recommends luxurious eco-lodge the Scarlet (from £245 per night) as 'one of the country's chicest beach retreats'. And if you crave the call of the wild, the Park at Mawgan Porth offers stylish, sustainable stays in high-end yurts, caravans and cottages set in 27 acres of parkland. Details Detailswww.scarlethotel.co.uk; www.mawganporth.co.uk
Weston-super-Mare, Somerset
The beach that made seaside donkey rides de rigueur in the 1880s still leads in the field of children's entertainment, and families are very welcome at Lympsham's Hope Farm Cottages (each cottage sleeps four from £460 a week). Paddle, build sandcastles, ride go-karts at the Grand Pier, take a trip on the miniature railway and much more.
Details www.hopefarmcottages.co.uk
Ballygally, County Antrim
Brave swimmers can enjoy a safe but chilly dip in the clear waters, and people-watchers can get their beach fix from the splendid luxury of Ballygally Castle Hotel, dating from 1625, which dominates the bay (ensuite doubles from £50 per person).
Details www.hastingshotels.com/ ballygally-castle
Barafundle Bay, Pembrokeshire
This small yet stunning bay is the jewel in this celebrated coastline's crown. Only accessible by foot via a half-mile cliff-top walk from Stackpole, the pristine sandy beach is worth the trek. Stay at the cosy National Trust cottages in the tiny fishing village of Stackpole Quay for a rustic touch (cottages sleep two to five, from £462 for three nights)
Details www.nationaltrust.org.uk
Whitstable, Kent
As famed for its seafood as it is for its beach huts, Whitstable is 'ideal for a gourmet beach break', says Emma. She recommends the £65 tasting menu at the 'fantastic' Michelin-starred restaurant the Sportsman at nearby Seasalter. Backing on to a sandy shore, the Beach House Whitstable offers charming self-catering accommodation for six from £295 for two nights.
Details www.thebeachhouse whitstable.co.uk
Torbay, Devon
'Basil Fawlty gave hoteliers in Torbay a bad name,' says Stuart Butler, who grew up near the 'English Riviera' and recommends Paignton's kitsch sea-front road as a 'throwback to the classic British bucket-and-spade holidays of old'. The charming Elmdene Hotel (doubles from £66 per night) bears no resemblance to Fawlty Towers, and is just 300m from Torquay's main beach.
Details www.elmdenehotel.co.uk
Gower, Glamorgan
Somehow this long-standing Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty still remains underrated. Families, groups and couples can all find a budget-friendly welcome at Three Cliffs Bay Holiday Park (family pitches sleep two adults and two children from £20 per night), which offers panoramic views across the breathtaking coastline and quick (but steep) access to the beach.
Details www.threecliffsbay.com
Luskentyre, Harris
'When a blade of sunlight slices through the cloud, the dazzle of the beach turns the Atlantic to deep blue ink,' Simon Calder says of Harris's most spectacular sandy shore - Luskentyre. Isolated and sparsely inhabited, this dramatic destination is a haven for amblers, twitchers and fishers. Carminish House bed and breakfast (doubles from £70 per night) boasts a prime location.
Details www.carminish.com
Chesil Beach, Dorset
This pebble and shingle tombolo is just one of the fascinating natural features on the stunning World Heritage-listed Jurassic Coast, which is favourite area for climbers. Couples, families and well-behaved dogs are welcome at the family-run Chesil Beach Lodge (doubles with breakfast from £95 per night), which boasts stunning views and direct access to Lyme Bay beach.
Details www.chesilbeachlodge.co.uk
Newquay, Cornwall
'Surfers of the world unite here, and if you are a beginner it's a great place to cut your teeth,' says Simon, of this infamous party location. Reef Surf School and Lodge offers value-for-money packages (three nights with three lessons from £197), which is ideal for group holidays.
Details www.reefsurfschool.com
Lochhouses Beach, East Lothian
Just an hour from Edinburgh, this hidden gem has 'a real, wild romance about it', which make it perfect for couples and honeymooners, says Emma. Lochhouses Farm is a glamper's paradise, boasting seven luxurious 'safari tents' 400 metres from the sea (from £325 for three nights). Designed to sleep six to eight, but more indulgent for two.
Details www.harvestmoonholidays.com
West Kirby, Wirral, Merseyside
Only 300 metres long, this lively little sandy beach offers bathers the security of lifeguard patrol with the beautiful Welsh coastline as a backdrop. For the adventurous, West Kirby's huge marine lake offers a wealth of water sports which is perfect for sailing and wind-surfing. Rest up at the five-star Herons Well self-catering cottage (sleeps six from £980 for one week).
Details www.heronswell.co.uk
Muasdale Beach, Kintyre, Argyll
Boasting stunning sunset views of the Isle of Gigha, a stay at the remote Muasdale Holiday Park is the epitome of getting away from it all. Caravans, motorhomes or tents can pitch up in sea-view spots next to a white sandy beach, home to seals, otters and plenty of sea birds, and close to the picturesque Kintyre Way (pitches from £14.50 in summer).
Details www.muasdaleholidays.com
Brighton, East Sussex
Boasting plentiful restaurants, Lanes shopping and beach bars, Brighton's pebbly seafront is the place for summer indulgence. Four-star townhouse hotel Drakes boasts a sumptuous feature room (from £295 per night), which offers a super-kingsize bed and free-standing in-room bath, both with stunning sea views. Friendly staff can arrange in-room spa treatments and the celebrated restaurant serves delicious seafood.
Details www.drakesofbrighton.com
Deal, Kent
Come rain (unavoidable during UK summers) or shine, Dickensian Deal is always charming. No busy arcades or noisy nightlife, just a Georgian-style British seaside holiday complete with promenades, pier and pavilion. Number One Bed and Breakfast offers bespoke doubles (from £75 per room per night) and a stylish base for couples to explore the Kent coastline.
Details www.numberonebandb.co.uk
Orkney Islands
'The islands are a naturalist's dream,' says Stuart. 'There are seabirds in their thousands, otters playing in the channels, whales breaching in the open seas and how many other places are there in Europe where your only company on a sugar-white beach will be half-a-dozen snoring, sunbathing seals?' Get up close to Orkney's local wildlife by staying at North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory's guest house (half-board from £47.50 per night).
Details www.nrbo.co.uk
Climping, West Sussex
Looking for a treat? The historic medieval setting of Bailiffscourt Hotel and Spa offers sheer luxury set in 30 acres of beautifully cared for grounds (doubles from £270 per room per night for dinner, bed and breakfast). Stony at high tide, sandy at low tide, Climping is a picturesque spot for shallow paddling and the Littlehampton area is a haven for kite- and wind-surfers.
Details www.hshotels.co.uk/hotels/ bailiffscourt.html
Ventnor, Isle of Wight
A Victorian seaside favourite with its very own microclimate, Ventnor offers breath-taking sandy beaches with a cosy community feel. The Royal Hotel is bursting with old-world charm, lush gardens and a small, heated pool for those who fancy a break from the waves (doubles from £265 per person for dinner, bed and breakfast during peak season).
Details www.royalhoteliow.co.uk
Portstewart Strand, County Londonderry
Swimming is a must at this popular Blue Flag beach managed by the National Trust. The beach and surrounding area have it all: convenient beach facilities, playground, rare wildlife, surfing, horse riding, 18-hole golf course and shopping. Families are welcome at the quaint self-catering courtyard houses of Cromore Village (houses from £260 for three nights).
Details www.cromorevillage.com
Trearddur, Anglesey
'The 'island of love' is how the county has been known since a certain Royal helicopter pilot from its RAF station, Valley, married in April,' says Simon. 'You're unlikely to meet the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at this family-friendly beach, but it is a good, old-fashioned resort.' Hafod cottage (sleeps 12 from £1,325 for a week) makes a great base to explore the island's many unspoilt beaches from.
Details www.resortsandretreats.com
Peel, Isle of Man
Snorkellers and divers will enjoy playing with seals around Peel Castle, or exploring the Iron Pier in the north and the wreck of the Glendun Belfast Steamer in the south. Mann Scuba Divers and Discover Diving offers a wide range of trips. For a well-earned rest, Albany House is a charming bed and breakfast (from £35 per room per night).
Details www.manxbedandbreakfast.com
Holkham Bay, Norfolk
The historic Victoria Hotel is a few minutes' walk away from this four-mile expanse of unspoilt sandy flats, and offers opulent double rooms (from £120 per night) from which to enjoy the wildly beautiful setting. Walk, paddle, watch wildlife in Holkham's National Nature Reserve, look out for wild orchids in Wells Dell in early July and sniff the purple sea lavender across the saltings.
Details www.holkham.co.uk/victoria/ index.html
Northern Europe
Gurteen Bay and Dog's Bay, Ireland
When the sun shines on the white sands of these two crescent bays in County Galway, the sparkling greenish-blue water gives a new meaning to the phrase 'Emerald Isle'. With views over the harbour, O'Dowd's Pub and Seafood Restaurant in nearby Roundstone is a great place for oysters, washed down with a Guinness. Next door, townhouse bed and breakfast No 3 Fuschia Lane sleeps six, and is available for week-long bookings.
Details www.roundstoneselfcatering.com
Gotland, Sweden
Stylish five-star retreat TOTT Hotel Visby offers sleek seaside bungalows (from around £2,700 for a week) on Sweden's largest island, which boasts several noteworthy golden sandy beaches. Sudersand beach on the northern Gotland island of Faro is a domestic favourite reachable by ferry from Stockholm, and don't miss nearby Visby, a Unesco World Heritage-listed harbour town.
Details www.gtsab.se
Bornholm, Denmark
It's no wonder seven out of 10 visitors to this Baltic island return. With an array of white sandy beaches, idyllic fishing villages, and a cycling-friendly pace of life - all easily reached by ferry and train from the capital Copenhagen ? Bornholm is a Danish favourite. Stay at Hasle Hytteby cottages nestled in woodland, 400m from the sand from around £680 per week for two-to-four people including transfers.
Details www.holidaybornholm.com
Lofoten Archipelago, Norway
'Heading above the Arctic Circle might sound like madness when it comes to beach holidays, but Norway's Lofoten Archipelago boasts some outstanding beaches set amid dramatic mountainous scenery that's home to sea eagles and puffins and near-constant sunshine during the summer months,' says Emma. She recommends staying in old converted fisherman's cottages, available from £1,498 for two people for a week.
Details www.inntravel.co.uk
Vesterålen, Norway
The Vesterålen Islands are 'equally spectacular and a good deal less known' than neighbouring Lofoten, according to Stuart. 'Highlights of a holiday here include whale watching? hiking, sunbathing (in a jumper) at midnight in the summer and building sandcastles (in several jumpers).' Families are welcome at Stø Seaside Camping, set in a tiny and ancient fishing village by the northern sea shore of Long Island.
Details www.stobobilcamp.com
Bohuslän coast, Sweden
Seafood, swimming and sun-worshipping are the key factors for a classic Swedish holiday at this rocky western coast. Solvik Camping, just north of Smögen, offers a private (rocky and sandy) beach and activities such as sailing and seal safaris. Cabins, caravans and tent pitches are available from around £50 per night.
Details www.solvikscamping.se
Western Europe
Zandvoort, Holland
'A sunny day in Amsterdam-on-Sea, as Zandvoort deserves to be known, makes you wonder why holidaymakers bother going further afield,' says Simon. 'After a day on the beach, you can head into Amsterdam to enjoy the museums when the tourists have gone home; the Van Gogh Museum opens to 10pm on Fridays.' Beach Residence Zandvoort is minutes from the sand and boasts a cosy apartment that sleeps four from £80 per night.
Details www.beachresidencez andvoort.com
Villefranche-sur-Mer, France
Emma recommends this lesser-known Côte d'Azur destination for its 'jumble of colourful buildings that run down to the sea, and its lovely sandy beach'. She says: 'Stay at the charming Hotel Welcome (from £92) a night, which makes a great base for leisurely days, whether in Villefranche itself, out on the hotel's boat, or finding yet more beautiful beaches in nearby Cap d'Ail, which can be reached by train.'
Details www.welcomehotel.com
Ile de Ré, France
'The Ile de Ré is one of the best family holiday destinations in all of Europe,' says Stuart. 'The pancake-flat island is ringed by beaches and bisected by cycling trails and the island's 'capital', St-Martin-de-Ré, is a delightful walled port town full of arty boutiques.' For happy campers, Les Grenettes offers a half-board package from £203 per adult and £97 per child under 12.
Details www.campinglesgrenettes.com
Sylt, Germany
'Germany's northern most island is an absolute delight, with soft-sand beaches and delightful towns, and, at just 40km across, is easy to explore at a leisurely pace,' says Emma. 'The island has long been a rather chic German holiday destination, and much of it retains a tranquil charm. It's not hard to find your own quiet patch of beach here.' She recommends the Hotel Fährhaus Sylt (from £143 a night), which 'has a smart, New England feel to it, with gorgeous views over the Wadden Sea'.
Details www.faehrhaus-sylt.de
Zeebrugge, Belgium
'Almost the entire coast of Belgium is one long beach, with a good scattering of resorts from the French to the Dutch border,' says Simon. 'But with sand sculptures, wide, flat beaches and excellent fish restaurants on offer in Zeebrugge, there's no need to wander far from the port.' Minutes from the beach, B&B B-eaufort in nearby Heist offers doubles from £62 per night.
Details www.b-eaufort.be
Britanny, France
For a holiday off the beaten track, venture to Britanny's rugged Atlantic-facing beaches and stay at Les Roulottes des Korrigans, which offers family-friendly wooden caravans from £148 for two nights. From here, venture to the sheltered Baie de Lannion for calm, cool waves (patrolled by a lifeguard), which is perfect for bathing, and framed by lush green landscapes.
Details www.roulottes-deskorrigans. com
Southern Europe Lanzarote, Spain
'For something a little different, stay in a Mongolian yurt (from £370 a week) set in a gorgeous 30,000-acre estate, with fabulous sea views,' says Emma. 'The beach is just a stone's throw away, and the resort can arrange activities, from windsurfing and diving to boat trips to nearby La Graciosa island (home to fantastic sandy beaches) and mountain biking across the island.'
Details www.lanzaroteretreats.com/eco
Carrapateira, Algarve, Portugal
'The Algarve's south-western corner retains the quiet rural vibe that first attracted tourists to the area,' says Stuart. 'There are no resorts here, just some go-slow white-washed villages and mile after mile of windswept empty sands. For me, the finest beach on this coastline is Carrapateira.' A wide selection of gorgeous mountain villas (from £150 per night) are available nearby, but book up quickly.
Details www.atmospherehotels.pt
Lido de Jesolo, Italy
'The best way to see Venice? Dipping into the city during the course of a beach holiday, which you can enjoy on this long strand backed by reliably excellent hotels and good restaurants,' advises Simon. 'A bus-and-boat connection gets you to Venice, via some of the lagoon's loveliest islands, Murano and Burano', but for a base in this romantic area, Residence Il Teatro offers studio apartments for two from £1,000 per week in July.
Details www.residenceilteatro.it
Riva di Ugento, Puglia, Italy
'There's a real feeling of freedom that comes from pitching your tent within earshot of the sea,' says Emma. 'Set right at the tip of Italy's heel, Riva di Ugento in Puglia, from £18 a night, is the perfect place to enjoy the stunning coastline of this under-explored region. Set up your tent in the sand dunes, and you'll feel absolutely spoilt by the beautiful views, and the joy of waking up with sand beneath your toes.'
Details http://eng.rivadiugento.it
El Hierro, Canary Islands, Spain
The smallest and least known Canary Island is 'the delightful isle of El Hierro', says Stuart. 'Once considered the end of the world, it still feels remote and untouched. Down at sea level the coastline consists largely of wave-battered cliffs, but the south offers world-class diving and the north has a series of natural swimming pools that are like oversized rock pools ideal for all the family to swim.' Great for those on a budget, deals are available from £250 per person for a week.
Details www.expedia.co.uk
Elounda, Crete
'The small fishing village of Elounda, on Crete's northern coast, is home to some wonderful beaches - days here can be spent discovering quiet coves and tucked-away beaches, or visit the fascinating old leper colony island of Spinalonga,' says Emma. 'For views, dinners on the beach, and crisp, white, luxurious surroundings, head for the stylish Domes of Elounda (from £1,500 for five nights).'
Details www.kuoni.com
Scopello and the Riserva Naturale Orientata dello Zingaro, Sicily, Italy
Stuart and his wife discovered the Riserva Naturale Orientata dello Zingaro on their honeymoon. Boasting olive groves, wild flowers, a 'pristine bay with honey-coloured cliffs and rocks and a hazy blue sea filled with colourful sea creatures', and the charming village of Scopello nearby (where sea-view rooms start from around £88 a night), he says it's his childhood idea of the perfect Mediterranean cove.
Details www.venere.com
Amalfi Coast, Italy A great romantic getaway or honeymoon spot along this stretch of the coast is Casa Angelina (from £225 a night) 'where the crisp white rooms contrast perfectly against the vivid blues of the Gulf of Salerno', says Emma. 'Situated in the small town of Praiano, strikingly surrounded by volcanic cliffs, the hotel is just a short five-minute walk from the beach, and provides that perfect honeymoon mix of luxurious surroundings and tranquillity'.
Details www.casangelina.com
Benicassim, Spain
Leave the wellies at home for this beachside music festival. Hugely popular with Brits, music lovers will descend on 14 to 17 July for a string of must-see headliners ? the Streets, the Strokes, Arctic Monkeys and Arcade Fire. Tickets from £165 can include nine days free camping, which makes this a great alternative to the usual party holidays.
Details www.fiberfib.com
Lycian Coast, Turkey
It's not a conventional beach holiday ? but seeing Turkey's spectacular Lycian coast from a yacht is far more exciting. Packages can cater for anyone from complete beginners to seasoned sailors, and offer a unique way to view the beautiful seaside coves and bays. Dramatic sunsets, plenty of snorkelling and the freshest seafood are just some of the perks. Setsail Holidays is offering a one-week flotilla holiday from £595 per person (based on six travellers) with flights from London Gatwick and transfers, departing on 4 July.
Details www.setsail.co.uk
Eastern Europe Sopot, Poland
'Poland has an excellent portfolio of Baltic beaches, but easily the best resort is Sopot - a grand 19th-century town with a fine pier, and a beach flanked with top-class hotels at prices far better than those in the Eurozone,' says Simon. 'You can also reach the profoundly historic city of Gdansk by train in 20 minutes.' The quaint bed and breakfast Villa Sedan is one of Sopot's best, and offers doubles from £100 per night.
Details www.sedan.pl
Parnu, Estonia
Temperatures reach 30 degrees in Estonia's answer to California's sunny coastline. Popular with families for its shallow waters and idyllic setting, the Tervise Paradiis hotel (from £350 per person for a week in July) boasts a water park for children, while the local Parnu mud baths should keep the adults entertained.
Details www.balticholidays.com
Palanga, Lithuania
'Lithuania is yet to really take off with British visitors, which is all the more reason to head there,' says Emma, who recommends staying at the 'sweet and simple' Villa MamaRosa (from £52 a night). 'The country's big summer resort is Palanga - a fantastic 10km stretch of beach set against pine trees and sand dunes [which] remains a hotspot for the country's young and beautiful, well justifying its reputation as Lithuania's party capital.'
Details www.vilamamarosa.lt
Durres, Albania
'You're fed up with the crowds? Hop on a BA flight from Gatwick to Mother Teresa international airport in Albania, and take a cab to the coast,' advises Simon. 'Durres is the main resort in the country that everyone forgets, and has plenty of reasonable hotels offering good value with only a few Italians for company.' Resort fans will enjoy Hotel Adriatik, which offers couples a seven-night stay from £502.
Details www.adriatikhotel.com
Lopud Island, Croatia
'Just an hour by ferry from Dubrovnik, the tiny car-free island of Lopud is home to one of Croatia's loveliest beaches ? Sunj - a small stretch of white sand backed by pine forest,' says Emma, who recommends basic but charming La Villa (from £88 a night) for its fantastic terrace. 'Days can be spent hiking, snorkelling, or even diving; evenings are much quieter - pack a book or two, and make the most of the tranquility.'
Details www.lavilla.com.hr
Irakli Beach, Bulgaria
Bulgaria's coastlines usually specialise in enormous shiny resorts sporting all inclusive packages. But for a more soulful getaway, venture to its few remaining wild beaches, such as Irakli in the middle of Bulgaria's Black Sea coast. Camping on Bulgaria's wild beaches is free, which makes them the perfect alternative to budget high-rise hotel breaks.
Details www.discover-bulgaria.com

Whether it’s UK's bays, stunning Sweden or the magical Med, Enjoli Liston selects the top spots by the sea

>>Click 'More Pictures' to launch the guide

This week's panel

Simon Calder, senior travel editor of ‘The Independent’;

Emma Gibbs, writer for ‘The Rough Guide to Europe on a Budget’ and editor of www.thehoneymoonproject.com;

Stuart Butler, author of Lonely Planet’s new travel guides for France and Spain

Source: Independent

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