Hidden away beneath wooded cliffs between Watermouth and Combe Martin on Devon’s wild north coast is Broadsands, one of Exmoor’s best beaches. This deep, double cove has many caves to explore, and two lovely secluded shingle beaches offering sheltered swimming.
Kynance Cove, Lizard, Cornwall
Set among the wild flower-covered rocks of the Lizard Peninsula’s breath-taking and rugged coastline, Kynance Cove was a favourite of the Romantic poets and painters. Its clear, azure water is perfect for snorkelling and swimming and the extraordinary, serpentine rock towers encourage dare-devil jumpers.
Nanjizal Bay, Penwith, Cornwall
This is the real Land’s End: wild and rugged with great caves that could hide sleeping dragons. The amount of sand comes and goes according to the winter storms, and there’s an incredible waterfall and stream for kids to play in. The amazing ‘Song of the Sea’ eyelet rock arch is for the adventurous and leads out to the ocean.
First bathe in the shallow rock pool, then snorkel through the sea tunnel, admiring the astonishing coralline pink walls while the water thunders and booms.
Along the rugged wild cliffs of the Purbeck shoreline lies Winspit, a beautiful turquoise lagoon with huge flat limestone rocks perfect for swimming, exploring and sunbathing. The whole area was once a hive of 18th-century quarrying activity, with stone being shipped out to build St Paul’s Cathedral and London’s Georgian squares.
Now the cliff walls are carpeted with wildflowers and the excavations have flooded to create rock pools. Forage for samphire on the rocks and head back up along the chalk downs for a drink at the quirky Square and Compass pub.
South Devon is home to one of the country’s most beautiful and enticing stretches of coastline. Here you’ll find secret, sandy coves overlooked by wild grassy cliff tops. A real standout spot is Soarmill Cove, a short walk below the tiny Soarmill Cove Hotel.
At high tide swim around the little island, and at low tide explore the many caves along the cliff bottom. Afterwards head up to the nearby Iron Age hillfort at Bolt Tail for spectacular sunsets and the chance to spot dolphins and porpoises.
South of Bude is the perfect west-facing cove of Crackington Haven. With a pub and lifeguards it’s very civilised, but at low tide follow the rocks to the right of the bay and discover Mermaid Pool with deep inlets perfect for swimming or jumping from the rocks.
The sunsets are magnificent here and it’s great for a spot of evening surfing or a lazy sundowner. The Cabin Café prepares all its own food and there’s a great farm shop three miles up the road at Dizzard Farm.
For the perfect white sand secret beach head for Pedn Vounder, a dramatic bay protected by the towering granite outcrop of Logan’s rock. In summer the sandbars create shallow tidal lagoons that warm up in the afternoon sun. The water is crystal clear and this is definitely a clothes-optional beach.
There are views out over to Porthcurno and the Minack cliff-top theatre. There’s also a wonderful wild campsite and lovely café on the cliffs above at the hamlet of Treen. Pure heaven.