20 of the best and worst of Britain’s seaside towns as ranked by The Telegraph - full list
and live on Freeview channel 276
Britain’s seaside towns have seen many changes over the years. Some seaside towns have always been popular – think of Blackpool or Brighton – while others such as Barry and Southport have increased in popularity since the changes.
Us Brits love nothing more than a seaside holiday – most of us will have childhood memories from the seaside town we frequented the most. Whether your go-to location was Southport or Tenby, find out if yours was included in The Telegraph’s list.
The gentrification of Britain’s seaside towns has led to some being left behind, while others are becoming increasingly popular for Since the pandemic, staycations have seen a huge hike in demand, meaning expectations of the upkeep of seaside towns have also risen.
The Telegraph has ranked 20 of the best and worst of Britain’s seaside towns – looking at nostalgic places from Southwold to North Berwick. They are rated against an overall score of 100.
From St Ives to Rhyl, we round up all the options on the list and give the reasons behind The Telegraph’s ratings. If you’re looking to book for the upcoming spring and summer season, look no further for a bit of staycation inspiration.
Best and worst seaside towns
1. St Ives
Rating: 98 out of 100
The top spot had to go to St Ives, the ever-popular Cornwall destination. You’ll get to explore the town for a bit of shopping or go fishing in the bay. Cornish seaside towns are not just popular with those who live nearby – every year, people travel to the area to enjoy the likes of St Ives.
Rating: 94 out of 100
Coming in at second place and narrowly missing out on the top spot is Southwold. If you’re a fan of old pubs you’ll be hard pressed to find another seaside location that fits the bill – Harbour Inn is the place to be. The Suffolk seaside town is a popular escape for Londoners who want to experience the sea for a bit, before returning to the city.
Rating: 87 out of 100
If you’re a fan of oysters, you might have heard that Whitstable is known for its oyster beds that supplied London restaurants. As a result, Londoners travel to the seaside town to try the seafood straight from the source. Its high street has a range of attractions – think boutiques, homeware stores, galleries and restaurants.
4. Lyme Regis
Rating: 85 out of 100
Famed for its affiliation with the arts, Lyme Regis comes in at number four on the list. Jane Austen’s Persuasion features The Cobb; the Harold-Printer scripted film starring Meryl Streep still pulls in visitors; artists Turner and Whistler painted in the seaside town. Meanwhile, foodies can enjoy international cuisine, including Asian street food at Red Panda.
5. North Berwick
Rating: 80 out of 100
Rounding off the top 5 is North Berwick. The Scottish coastal town is near Edinburgh and it’s full of independent shops and other attractions. From an artisan market to a gin distillery, you’ll find plenty to do for your short break or long weekend in North Berwick.
Rating: 76 out of 100
Just missing out on the top five, another southern favourite is added to the list – Brighton. Those who want to escape London will be hard pressed to find a more convenient – not to mention artistic – option than Brighton. Considered the LGBT capital of the world, Brighton is also a great spot for its nightlife.
Rating: 69 out of 100
Ranking at number seven on the list is Margate, located on the north coast of Kent in south-east England. Some attractions include the Old Town, the Mad Hatter Tea Room and The Bus Cafe.
Rating: 57 out of 100
Our southwest Wales option, Tenby, is sometimes characterised as a “Little England”. Its beautiful beaches are protected by cliffs – The Telegraph describes it as one of the only sustainable seaside resorts on southwest Wales’ coast.
Rating: 53 out of 100
Ranking in the top 10 is the ninth option on the list, Portstewart. You won’t be short of options when it comes to this location: you can choose from the promenade, a three-course golf club, a thriving Flowerfield Arts Centre, pretty harbour and (if that wasn’t enough for one weekend) a National Trust-managed strand and ancient dune system.
Rating: 47 out of 100
The Telegraph describes Worthing as “like Morecambe with cash” – making it a good option for those in the south east. For attractions, there’s Splashpoint Leisure Centre, an annual arts festival and plenty of food options.
Rating: 39 out of 100
Scarborough claims to be the first seaside resort, according to The Telegraph, and only just misses out on the top 10, placing at 11. In terms of attractions, you can wander through the South Cliff Gardens. Afterwards, rest at the Stumble Inn and take on the rest of the evening at Quayside Bar or Craft Bar.
Rating: 36 out of 100
Popular among the Essex crowd is Southend-on-Sea, narrowly missing out on a place in the top 10. This southern option is only a 49-minute train ride to Fenchurch Street. From fine-dining restaurants to fancy hotels and pub options, there’s a lot to choose from.
Rating: 33 out of 100
If you want posh dining and a stellar cultural experience, there’s plenty of options in Torquay, which comes in at 13 out of 20 on the list. The Telegraph recommends Michelin-starred Elephant, posh chippy Rockfish and Saltwater. If it’s culture you’re after, there’s even a local museum, so there really is something for everyone.
Rating: 28 out of 100
The Telegraph describes Southport as the “most Victorian” of seaside towns. Southport’s Lord Street apparently inspired Parisian boulevards and it’s a popular spot for those driving from the north or the midlands – it’s a one and a half hour drive from Stoke-on-Trent.
Creeping into the top 15 is Licolnshire’s option, Cleethorpes. The Telegraph recommends Papas for a portion of seaside classics, fish and chips, as you admire a grand salon, coin and stamp fairs and dance festivals.
Rating: 24 out of 100
Morecambe is a seaside town in Lancashire known for its West End Conservation Area. Some gentrification has taken place, including the Midland Hotel. The Vintage by the Sea festival also honours retro fashion, but other than this, The Telegraph rules that the seaside town could offer more.
Rating: 22 out of 100
You’ll be hard pressed to find a midlander or northerner who doesn’t have fond childhood memories of the Blackpool illuminations. However, as a seaside destination, The Telegraph merely ranks it as 17 out of 20. Still, the seaside escape offers the best of both worlds: if you want a beach getaway with plenty of entertainment at your fingertips, it’s the perfect destination.
Rating: 18 out of 100
Slightly higher in the list than the previous options but still nowhere near the top is Weston-super-Mare. The reason behind the ranking is primarily a lack of independent experiences. Instead, the town seems to focus on generic chains. Situated just a 40-minute drive from bustling Bristol, it’s a convenient choice.
19. South Shields
Rating: 11 out of 100
Situated just half an hour from Newcastle, South Shields received a score of just 11 out of 100 from The Telegraph. It’s ranked lowly due to a lack of nearby amenities – most of the food, nightlife and culture are inland, though there are restaurant options in South Shields. If you’re looking for a beach holiday with sand dunes and cliffs to boot, South Shields would still make a delightful choice.
Rating: 5 out of 100
The Telegraph ranks north Wales’ Rhyl a low five out of 100 and places it at the bottom of the list. Up until the 1970s, the seaside destination was popular for Lancashire natives. However, since the modernisation of other seaside towns, The Telegraph noted that Rhyl had fallen behind in its efforts to keep up with the competition.