Look out for the Good Journey Mark – where car-free visitors are welcome and enjoy a discount
How to get toBeachesby train
“Oh I do love to be beside the seaside”… As the days get longer and the sun feels warmer, we all want to head for the coast. But an overheated car is the least appealing way to get there. Here are ten beaches you don’t have to drive to. And once you get there - more options for exploring by bus, boat or on foot.
1. Newquay and Par
With a dozen sandy beaches at the far end, the Atlantic Coast Line (one of Cornwall’s scenic community railways), is a little branch line that runs from Par to Newquay, three quarters of an hour away across cotton-grassed Goss Moor.
- Par station is on the main GWR line from Paddington and the soft, white expanses of Par Sands Beach are a 20-minute walk from the station.
- From the station, follow the path past the athletics track and keep on in this direction to Par Green (the Roseland Observatory is nearby). From here, you can pick up signs for the South West Coat Path and follow them to the beach.
- From the Newquay end of the branch line, the seaside is just two minutes from the train and there are twelve sandy beaches to chose from.
- Closest to Newquay station is the Great Western Beach, with its coves and nearby cafés: simply turn right on Cliff Road to the Great Western Hotel and turn left down the tarmac path just before it. At low tide you can walk along the sand to neighbouring Tolcarne beach and explore the rock pools left behind by the retreating sea.
- Newquay’s beaches offer something for everyone: surfers can head along the South West Coast Path to famous Fistral Beach, where you can hire boards and wetsuits.
- For a spectacular sample of the coast path’s delights, hike the mile from Fistral, past craggy Lewinnick Cove to the steep-sided River Gannel for crab sarnies and homemade cakes at the Fern Pit café above the tidal ferry. Or just relax on the sheltered sand of the tiny, surf-free Harbour Beach and eat fish and chips as the sun sets.
- Costing just £5.10 for a day’s unlimited travel, the Atlantic Coast Railway also stops close to the UNESCO-listed Luxulyan Valley – one of four seasonal request stops on the line.
- Ask the guard to stop at Luxulyan and wander past the village church, through mossy oaks and fern-fringed waterways to the monumental Treffry viaduct, a mile from the station. Towering thirty metres over the wooded path, this huge granite bridge is the centrepiece of an extraordinary post-industrial valley turned fairy tale glen, where foxgloves and spring bluebells sprout beside old tramlines and forgotten cascades.
There are royal connections in this iconic Dorset town: when George III went famously mad, his doctor sent him to Weymouth as “the Resort of many people of the first Distinction”.
- Turn right out of the station onto Queen Street, past the Railway Tavern, and left into King Street to see the clock tower ahead of you on the Esplanade. This bright red landmark commemorates Queen Victoria’s jubilee in 1887.
- There’s a statue of Queen Victoria to the left, Rossi’s Ice Cream parlour (opened the year Victoria became queen) just a few paces to the right and – ahead of you – Weymouth’s famously long and sandy beach.
- Continue right towards the ferries and attractions at the south end of the beach and you’ll soon pass a statue of George III, who made Weymouth fashionable with his love of swimming in the sea. There’s a replica of his bathing machine nearby, a sort of beach hut on wheels.
- From the King’s Statue, you can hop on the X53 towards Axminster and enjoy one of Britain’s top scenic bus rides, along the picturesque Jurassic Coast, taking you to other Dorset beaches like West Bay – the real life Broadchurch!
3. Brighton and beyond
There’s more Georgian seaside splendour in sunny Sussex. It was George IV who made Brighton fashionable, building the ornate Royal Pavilion as his Regency beach hut.
- Trains from Victoria Station in London take an hour to get to Brighton and the beach is a ten-minute walk downhill.
- Walk straight ahead out of the railway station along Queens Road and you’ll soon see the water shimmering ahead of you and, at sunset, huge murmurations of starlings circling mesmerisingly over the old pier.
- A scenic coastal bus ride away on the 12X is elegant Eastbourne. On the way, soon after Seaford, the bus stops at Exceat beside the Severn Sisters Visitor Centre and Saltmarsh Cafe. From here you can follow a meandering estuary down to the sea or walk ten miles over the lighthouse-topped Seven Sisters – one of England’s best cliff-top walks.
- From Eastbourne you can follow a Coastal Culture Trail – by train, bus or bike – taking in some fabulous art galleries, like the modernist De La Warr pavilion, perched on the seafront at Bexhill and just a short walk from the station.