1. Holkham, Norfolk
The north Norfolk coast is famous for many things and indeed many famous people (from Nelson to Alan Partridge), but nothing matches the sheer wonder of the wide and open stretch of sand from Holkham to Wells-Next-The-Sea. Take a long, rewarding walk along the beach, occasionally venturing in to the large sand dunes or along boardwalks in the nearby pine forest. Just past Wells, if the timing is right and the weather is good, you can hop on a ferry out to Scolt Head. Best of all, there’s a reliable hopper bus to take you back along the coast road later. You will eat and sleep well at the cosy, dog-friendly and reliable Victoria Inn, part of the Holkham Estate.
2. Bamburgh Beach, Northumberland
There’s something nobly iconic about the huge, moody Norman castle looming over the beach at Bamburgh. Admittedly, this is not part of the country famous for the sort of weather that encourages sunbathing, although on a recent visit it was evident the locals are made of hardier stuff and seemed delighted to splash around in the water as if it was the Med. What’s beyond doubt is that there are few better places for a long, bracing beach walk. For somewhere to stay (and indeed to also enjoy fine hospitality) head into Bamburgh and seek out the dog-friendly Victoria Hotel, where there is also a fine restaurant (although dogs are only allowed in the bar).
3. Sandwood Bay, Scotland
Further north still, indeed all the way to the far north of Scotland, just a short hop from Cape Wrath on the western tip of the country, is the wondrous solitude of Sandwood Bay. It is bleak and rugged, but in a game of beach Top Trumps Sandwood Bay is hard to match. There are few better places in the UK to enjoy wild coastal nature in all its glory. From a saltwater lagoon to coloured sand (in this case a soft pink) to an impressive system of dunes and the obligatory Victorian lighthouse, Sandwood ticks every beach walk box. There’s even an impressive sea stack, Am Buachaille (“the Herdsman”). This being a remote area, accommodation is rudimentary, but the Rhiconich Hotel is a comfortable, dog-friendly option nearby.
4. West Wittering, Sussex
Ask anyone to list their favourite UK beach and it’s not long before the Sussex coast and West Wittering in particular pops up. This is a stalwart among UK beach lovers, most notably for its privately owned (and horrendously priced) beach huts. With views of Chichester Harbour and the South Downs, things are less wild and rugged than in Sandwood Bay and here the water is certainly more inviting for those wanting a dip. There are some restrictions for dogs during the summer, but there is still plenty of excellent walking available. For excellent accommodation with fabulous food, the hotel on the Goodwood Estate is just a 30-minute drive away.
5. Watergate Bay, Newquay
Take a long stretch of golden sand (in this case two miles of it), throw in some notable cliffs and caves as a backdrop and add a touch of wild Atlantic sea. This is the successful recipe for one of Cornwall’s most famous – and popular – beaches. Watergate Bay also has the attraction of plenty to keep everyone happy, from extreme sports fans to dog walkers to foodies (Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen is here). After you’ve exhausted yourself with a full day at the beach, The Watergate Bay Hotel is the perfect place to eat, drink and sleep it all off.
6. Rhossili Beach
The Welsh coast boasts plenty of spectacular beaches, but few can match the sheer beauty and style of Rhossili. So pretty it’s been dubbed “the supermodel of beaches”, Rhossili is as good a beach as you’ll find anywhere. For anyone keen to really get close to the beach life, the National Trust has a cottage – or more accurately, an Old Rectory – more or less on the beach. Due to the presence of sheep in adjacent fields, the cottage is not dog friendly, but dogs are allowed on the beach all year.