10 of the loveliest beaches in Devon and Cornwall

From glorious sweeping bays to picturesque sheltered coves, the south-west coast is home to some of the UK's finest beaches. Whether you're planning to take a stroll along golden sands, clamber in and out of rockpools or try your hand at surfing, you really are spoilt for choice.

1. Woolacombe Bay, North Devon

Over the years, Woolacombe Bay has been consistently recognised as one of Europe's best beaches. Renowned for its water quality, Woolacombe boasts three miles of golden sands flanked by rolling sand dunes.

Exposed to Atlantic swells, it's very popular with surfers. It's also very family-friendly. There are rockpools to the north, with acres of space for sandcastles and beach games all the way south to Putsborough.

2. Bigbury on Sea, South Devon

Located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty overlooking Burgh Island, Bigbury on Sea beach is ideal for family holidays.

Lapped by shallow waters, it's also the perfect place to try something a little different - you can learn to kitesurf or windsurf here. And if the sea air gives you a healthy appetite, try the fantastic beach café selling organic and local produce.

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3. Blackpool Sands, South Devon

No, we're not in Lancashire. This stunning Blue Flag beach west of Dartmouth, backed by fragrant pine trees, has a hint of the Mediterranean about it.

Unsurprisingly, it's popular in the height of summer, with the clear blue waters a real draw for sunbathers and swimmers. You can also hire kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and wetsuits on the beach.

4. Lee Bay, North Devon

Nestled in a quiet wooded valley, between Woolacombe and Ilfracombe, is the delightful coastal village of Lee. As the tide drops back, the small, rocky beach becomes a playground for all ages.

Explore the rockpools teeming with marine life, build a sandcastle or dip your toe in the water. And when that tide comes in again, you can retreat to the Grampus, a lovely old pub with great food and a warm welcome.

5. Saunton Sands, North Devon

A few miles south of the superb Woolacombe Bay, Saunton Sands is another glorious Devon beach with a wild feel about it. It's backed by Braunton Burrows, a designated UNESCO nature reserve.

If you're keen to take to the waves, surf lessons are available and the shallow-sloping beach is well-suited to beginners. Families meanwhile will love having plenty of space to play and picnic.

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6. Sandymouth, North Cornwall

Rugged and beautiful, Sandymouth is a popular destination for keen surfers. At low tide, the beach becomes a long expanse of golden sand interspersed with finger-like rock formations. It's a dramatic setting and a perfect place to explore rockpools or enjoy a long beach walk.

As with any beach, always keep an eye on an incoming tide to avoid being cut off. There's a popular café next to the car park.

7. Polzeath, North Cornwall

Polzeath must be one of the UK's most family-friendly beach resorts. It's a laid-back place popular with surfers and, in recent years, David Cameron clutching a boogie board.

At low tide, the beach is huge, extending around half a mile with plenty of room for everyone. The waters around Polzeath and the nearby Camel Estuary are rich in sealife with dolphin sightings quite common.

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8. Sennen Cove, West Cornwall

Little more than a stone's throw from Land's End, Sennen Beach is a truly breathtaking location in the far west of Cornwall. Looking out across the vast Atlantic, the long sandy bay stretches north from the small fishing port all the way to Aire Point.

It does get crowded in the summer, but it's a spacious beach offering excellent surfing and swimming, not to mention one or two superb beachside cafés.

9. Marazion Beach, Mounts Bay, West Cornwall

The beach at Marazion is a real family favourite, with large areas of flat sand for beach games and plenty of rockpools to explore. Overlooked by the iconic St Michael's Mount, it's a shallow-sloping beach sheltered from the waves, making it perfect for swimming in the summer.

At low tide, you can walk across the causeway all the way to the Mount. But allow plenty of time before the tide comes in - or you'll have to catch the boat back!

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10. Porthcurnick Beach, South Cornwall

On the Roseland Peninsula, near the scenic fishing village of Portscatho, Porthcurnick is a beautiful sandy cove that's ideal for children.

South-east facing, the sea is often calm in the summer making it popular with swimmers (take the normal precautions and watch out for rip currents). The delightful Hidden Hut above the beach is not to be missed.


All images from Alamy.