Seven of the best coastal family adventures in the British Isles
1. Great for rock climbing: County Donegal
The inky waters that pound the coast of Donegal have shaped the region’s distinctive marine stacks for thousands of years, and you can conquer the spectacular formations on your own on a journey with Unique ascent. Led by climber and mountain instructor Iain Miller, the steel sailors will be guided to the top of one of these rugged rocky outcrops after kayaking from the coast; keep your eyes peeled for seals and basking sharks. The team also welcomes children who have climbed with children from the age of five.
Alternative: Climbing the cliffs of the Isle of Portland, Dorset – suitable for climbers of all skill levels.
2. Ideal for growing: Kent
Result of a collaboration between the contemporary art gallery Turner and Visit Kent, Creative Coast of England finally landed after a Covid-induced delay. Connecting 870 miles of coastline across Essex, Kent and Sussex, the program includes seven new site-specific works of art by seven international artists. Adding an element of discovery for the kids, there’s an associated GeoTour, where participants embark on a scavenger hunt-style mission to find hidden ‘caches’ at sites marked on the Creative Coast app.
Alternative: Try geocaching along the South West Coast Path, with trails in North and South Devon.
3. Ideal for camping: Outer Hebrides
For breathtaking adventures, head to Lewis and Harris for white sand beaches and seas as clear as the Caribbean. As for where to stay, the Big Wild camp-out, affiliated with the Wildlife Trust, will take place on June 19. This initiative aims to encourage more of us to sleep under the stars. This year the focus is on camping in your back garden, but the good thing about Scotland is that wild camping is legal and you can pitch a tent almost anywhere. Don’t forget to pack the hot chocolate when night falls.
Alternative: There are very few possibilities for legal wild camping in England and Wales. Instead, head to a seaside campsite, such as Beryl’s Campsite, a secluded spot in Kingsbridge, Devon, where winding paths lead down to Start Bay in Salcombe.
4. Ideal for beaches: Formby
If you’ve got little ones to entertain, the expansive sandy beaches of Formby, Merseyside are perfect for bucket-and-spade family getaways. Since this place of beauty is in the care of the National Trust, it is a very natural beach experience offered here. Instead of souvenir shops, expect to climb and slide along milky white dunes and play hide and seek in the marram grass. You might even spot red squirrels sneaking into the woods that spread out beyond the sands.
Alternative: Camber Sands, just south of Rye in East Sussex, for its dreamy dunes.
5. Ideal for surfing: Abersoch
This bustling seaside resort on the southern tip of North Wales’ Llŷn Peninsula draws crowds with its thriving water sports scene, where salty-haired surfers and families revel in its mild climate. If you’re visiting in midsummer, grab a board and cool off with a surf on the rugged Porth Neigwl (Hell’s Mouth) beach – a vast expanse of coastline with bubbling waves that are perfect for surfers and kayakers alike. If the pounding waves put you off, try a session of bodyboarding in the shallows.
Alternative: Look to Saltburn, Yorkshire, nicknamed the ‘Surf Capital of the North’, where wave-goers end a day on the water with fish and chips.
6. Ideal for stand up paddleboarding: Isle of Man
A quick jump across the Irish Sea, this bucolic island has quietly established itself as a hub of outdoor action. Much of this is due to its rugged coastline, marked with hidden coves, caves and towering cliffs where seabirds come to nest. To capture the whole scene from the water, try stand up paddle boarding (SUP) along the shore. Saline SUP offers a range of sessions for adults and children aged 11 and over. It even provides SUP Glo after dark paddles and SUP safaris, allowing you to glide past the seals in the flint swell.
Alternative: For a more intense workout, try SUP surfing on the waves at Polzeath in Cornwall. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a passing dolphin.
7. Ideal for coasteering: Northumberland
The unspoiled beaches and rugged coastline of the North East of England rarely see the same crowds as the South West, but the scenery is just as beautiful. For a thrill, try coasteering – a mix of cliff jumping, rock climbing and cave exploration – with local attire Northumberland Adventure. Suitable for anyone over eight, each two-hour stint will have you staggering over rocks and throwing yourself into the foamy swell. The team also runs quieter kayak trips around Coquet Island, an RSPB seabird sanctuary one mile from the mainland.
Alternative: Head to St David’s in Pembrokeshire, where coasteering was invented in 1986.