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In spite of its oft-joked about reputation for bad weather, there are plenty of extremely pleasant coastal towns in the UK and while you might not want to rely on the weather too much for going to the beach and enjoying the sun, there are many other things to do whatever the time of year.
Explore Classic British Seaside Towns
Luckily, London is also home to a wonderful array of completely free attractions and events for the more money-conscious traveler. Even on the smallest of budgets, it really is hard to get bored in London! Listed below are just some of the free things to see and do in London during and out of the school holidays.
Southwold is the iconic East Anglian coastal town. Clean, civilized, smart and in the midst of a place categorized as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, there’s a lot to enjoy on a weekend away in Southwold. Things to see in Southwold include the Adnams Brewery, the Southwold Pier, the Lighthouse, the Old Water Tower and the Southwold Museum. The beach is one of the finest in East Anglia, although it is a combination of both sand and shingle.
One can also rent one of the many brightly coloured beach huts which overlook the sea. A short distance away from Southwold is the charming village of Walberswick. The village has some beautiful beaches which are not as busy as the ones in Southwold. Walberswick is also home to some classic countryside pubs, something that is becoming a dying breed in much of the rest of the country. One of the best ways to enjoy the region is by bicycle or simply on foot.
Cornwall as a whole boasts a unique cultural heritage that separates it from the rest of England and in addition to that, it is also home to some of the country’s best beaches and plenty of fine landscape and nature. Penzance is Cornwall’s western-most town and, in spite of its small size, it is a popular destination for families, couples and other tourists, particularly in the summer months.
With its generally favourable and mild climate, Penzance offers good sun, sea and sand opportunities in the summer months and the later weeks of spring. However, it is also a cultural hub of Cornwall, making it an ideal place for a long weekend break at any time of year. In Penzance, you will find impressive Georgian and Victorian architecture and in the wider area, many ancient and picturesque country villages. It takes quite a long time to get there from London and other cities in the UK, but it is definitely worth the journey!
Margate is one of the oldest resort towns in the United Kingdom, having been a popular destination for the summer holidays since long before the twentieth century. It has been a number one destination for holidaymakers from London and around for almost three centuries. Located in East Kent, it is easy to get to from London and most other towns and cities in southern England. Margate is the epitome of an English coastal town and, fortunately, it has preserved much of its old architecture and classic sites.
Margate boasts a smart seafront and harbour which are constantly being regenerated while keeping their traditional nineteenth century charm. There are plenty of activities such as swimming and water sports to partake in during the summer months and there are also plenty of cultural attractions in the town and the surrounding region. Margate also serves as a good base from which to explore Kent, particularly the Viking Coastal Trail, an area of beautiful countryside and plethora of stunning historical sites.
A Good Day Out in Hythe Kent
The first thing to say about the little town of Hythe in Kent is that it is very quiet, but its atmosphere isn’t melancholy: it is contented and peaceful.
Hythe High Street is a long narrow road quite unlike most high streets in the UK. It is full of individual traders rather than chain-stores. There is an old-fashioned greengrocer, two butchers, and a traditional draper’s shop as well as numerous individual cafes, clothes shops, hairdressers and other small businesses. There are two bicycle shops where you can find expert advice and a repair service, as well as bikes for sale and for hire by the day.
Go to the High Street on any day of the week and you will witness a quietly bustling scene with shoppers wandering up and down, stopping for a chat and actually enjoying the experience of High Street shopping rather than enduring it. The things that can make the average High Street a stressful and banal experience, road traffic and chain-stores, are more or less absent. The long, narrow road is traffic-free for about half of each day, and for the rest of the time there are so few cars around that people tend to walk down the middle of the street rather than keeping to the pavements.
The High Street is quaint looking, with an attractive jumble of buildings dating from every era since mediaeval times. Hythe was important in the late middle ages, when it was designated as one of England’s ‘Cinque Ports’, and as such was granted special privileges in return for assisting in the defence of the realm. In those days, the sea reached up to the back of the buildings in the High Street. The remains of an old harbour bollard are still to be found there at the foot of a steep hill leading up to the church. Now though, the sea is further out, beyond a flat area which was incorporated into the town in the 19th and 20th centuries, as the sea retreated.
The beach is shingly and it is very popular with sea anglers and tourists, as well as being the home base for a tiny commercial fishing fleet that still operates from the town. You can let the kids run off their excess energy on the beach, and there is safe swimming at low tide. But make sure you buy your beach picnic and anything else you may want up in the High Street, as the only shop near the beach is an excellent fishmonger, located on ‘Fisherman’s Beach’ where the little boats are pulled up on the shingle. You can sit outside with a pot of ‘fruits de mer’ and enjoy the scene. Otherwise there is little commercial activity beside the sea.
Hythe lies between Folkestone and Romney Marsh, and there are easy cycle routes in both directions that are particularly suitable for family outings. The sea front allows you to cycle past Sandgate with its castle and sandy beach, all the way to Folkestone, on a flat traffic-free route. The old Military Canal, another unique feature of the town, provides a level, off-road bridleway to pedal along, either in the direction of Sandgate where the canal ends after a mile or so, or the other way, right into the other-worldly atmosphere of Romney Marsh.
Hythe feels as though it’s on a different planet from London, but you can reach it by train in an hour, or in about the same time by car. So it is within reach for a half-term or weekend day trip with the kids and makes a great destination if you want to show them another side of the seaside.
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