How to get toBeachesby train
On summer days, many of us want to head for the coast and an overheated car is the least appealing way to get there. Here are nine beaches you don’t need 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 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 sand somewhere and eat al fresco fish and chips as the sun sets.
Weymouth’s main beach itself is likely to get busy like other parts of the Dorset coast. But the sands are a couple of miles long so if you turn left and keep walking, you’re bound to find somewhere a bit emptier. 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”. South Western Railway run regular trains to Weymouth.
- Walk out of the station onto Queen Street, past the Railway Tavern, and along King Street with 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. It’s generally quieter heading left.
- 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 buses X53 or, in the summer the new open-topped X52, and enjoy one of Britain’s top scenic bus rides along the picturesque Jurassic Coast. These buses can take you to other Dorset beaches like shingly Burton Bradstock and sandy 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. The beaches and walks mentioned here are quite popular, but have plenty of space – just be prepared for a pebbly trek to find a quieter corner.
- Southern trains from Victoria Station in London take an hour to get to Brighton and the beach is a fifteen-minute downhill stroll.
- Walk straight out of the railway station along Queens Road and you’ll soon see the water shimmering ahead of you and, at sunset in spring and autumn, huge murmurations of starlings circling mesmerisingly over the old pier.
- A scenic coastal bus ride away on bus 12X is elegant Eastbourne. On the way, soon after Seaford, the bus stops at Exceat. From here you can follow a meandering estuary down to the sea or walk over the lighthouse-topped Seven Sisters – one of England’s most popular cliff-top walks. At the far end, there are direct trains back from Eastbourne.