It’s the middle of winter. You’re wrapped in at least ten layers of woollen gear and only your eyes are visible between the enormously oversized scarf and a knitted bobble hat. I’m pretty sure the last thing you’re thinking about is going to the beach.
But I’d like to dispel the myth that British beaches are only good for the warmer months. Sure, a sandcastle fest perhaps isn’t on the cards during the depths of the December, but don’t underestimate how uplifting a chilly, windy walk across the sand or shingle can be. Get your wellies on, wrap up warm and take a peek at my top five British (and Irish) winter beach walks.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. If you want to find the best beaches in the country, you need to head north. Cocklawburn Beach starred in my first Wild Place Wednesday article and to me, it’s the ideal of what I’m trying to achieve with this weekly feature. It’s secret, it doesn’t crop up in UK tourism guides and it’s unspoilt, free from commercialisation and above all, beautiful and truly wild. The sand stretches for miles under the vast Northumbrian skies, and even though the rock pools might be a little empty at this time of the year, you won’t be able to resist stooping down and having a little peek anyway.
Rossnowlagh, County Donegal
I can’t help but suppress a giggle whenever an Irish suggestion crops up in a Wild Place Wednesday feature. This is usually because it comes from my friend Judi, who is hands down the most patriotic and proud person ever to step out of the Emerald Isle. Rossnowlagh in County Donegal is her suggestion today, which is a lovely word to say if you roll it off your tongue first: “Rrrrossniiilahhh”, like Judi says it. It translates as “heavenly headland”, and even though I’ve never been I can’t help but agree that it certainly looks pretty heavenly. Definitely one to put on the list for 2014.
Lyme Regis, Dorset
Famous for being the setting for romantic film The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Lyme Regis in Dorset forms part of the long-stretching Jurassic Coastline. What could honestly be better than spending a chilly winter day fossil hunting? Imagine unearthing a new dinosaur skeleton on your adventures! And be sure to take a stroll down the Cobb too, the winding harbour wall that bends right into the sea. There’s no better way to blast away the cobwebs and get one of those amazing fresh air headaches that hurt a bit but make you feel indestructible afterwards.
Horden, County Durham
Have you ever been to a beach where the rocks are coloured bright orange and rusty red, and where you can pick up great lumps of sea coal from the shoreline? No, I didn’t think so. You won’t get much sunbathing in at Horden beach, and in place of sandals you’ll need sturdy walking boots to navigate the unstable mounds of copper-coloured rocks. This beach is wild, in the truest sense of the word, and it’s also incredibly secretive too. When I visited for the first time seven years ago, it was completely deserted.
Eastbourne, East Sussex
Perhaps this beach falls into the “arcade games and fairground rides” category during the summer months, but in winter it’s quite the opposite. I spent New Year’s morning at Eastbourne this year, and watched the first sunrise of 2013 at Beachy Head. Walking down on the shingle beach at eight o’clock in the morning was a gratifying and refreshing experience, and with only a handful of other folks up and about at that time I truly felt like I had the place all to myself.