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.

  • County: by train
  • Great for: beaches | good cafés and pubs | Picnics | scenic train |
  • Refreshments: ice cream vans, seaside pubs and cafes, picnic spots...
  • Please note: researched/updated November 2023. If anything’s changed or you have tips to share, do get in touch:
People on a beach - Nine UK beaches you can reach car-free.
  1. 4. Sunshine Coast Line

    Clacton, Frinton, Walton-on-the-Naze… just the names of these maritime towns and villages conjure up forgotten seaside pleasures: sand castles and shellfish stalls, beach huts and bowling greens.

    • The railway from Colchester to Clacton, branded the Sunshine Coast Line, gets support from a keen community rail group.
    • Clacton Pier, with its arcades and fairground rides, its circus and seaquarium, is exciting enough to brighten even the rainiest holiday.
    • The other branch of the Sunshine Coast Line heads for Frinton and Walton-on-the-Naze, where you can stroll along the sands or climb the 18th century viewing tower.
  1. 5. Cromer

    The railway line leading to Cromer also has an appealing identity: the Bittern line, running from Norwich to Cromer and Sheringham, through some lovely countryside. Cromer has sandy beaches, a traditional pier and plenty of seaside entertainment.

    • Norfolk County Council has produced a booklet of walks to help you enjoy the countryside around Bittern Line by train, including a 7-mile route from Roughton Road to Cromer if you’re feeling energetic. This leads you through Overstrand with a choice of routes: along the beach at low tide or over the cliffs when the tide is high.
    • On the higher route, you’ll pass the Cliff Top Café, and on both routes, nearer the beach, you’ll find the Rocket House Café, serving excellent full English breakfasts.
    • More simply, it’s not far from Cromer station directly to the beach and pier. Right along the seafront, you soon pass a memorial to Henry Blogg (“the greatest lifeboatman of all time”). Cromer’s first lifeboat station opened in 1804 and the Lifeboat Museum is named after Blogg.
    • This is a curiously haunted stretch of coast: listen out for the sound of bells from a village lost to coastal erosion in the 15th century and look out for Black Shuck, a fearsome ghost-dog who haunts the beach in stormy weather.
    • Bus CH1 runs from Cromer to Wells-next-the-Sea, an hour away, where you could catch bus 36 onwards towards King’s Lynn, for an epic bus journey all along the North Norfolk coast.
    • Hop off at Hunstanton, another hour’s bus ride beyond Wells, to enjoy striped cliffs, rock pools, wading birds and old fashioned cafes.
  1. 6. Scarborough and Whitby

    The sandy beaches along the east coast of Yorkshire are the stuff of nostalgia: ice creams and donkey rides, boat trips and beach huts. Castle-topped Scarborough is a lovely place for a sunny stroll. Wrought-iron bridges link gardens, full of winding wooded pathways, and promenades overlooking the sparkling sea.

    • In Summer, you can ride down to Scarborough beach on a tram from the top of the cliffs. It’s less than ten minutes from the station and the views on the way are great.
    • There are fresh-off-the-boat crab sarnies available from kiosks near the beach and you can climb up to the castle for views of town, sea and countryside.
    • A scenic ride away in Whitby, via bus X93, there’s the ruined abbey that inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula, boat trips around the harbour and famously tasty fish and chips. Work up an appetite with a climb to the headland or a swim from the mile-long sands. Book timed tickets in advance for the abbey. Follow Good Journey’s directions.
  1. 7. Portobello, Edinburgh

    The relatively new Waverley-Tweedbank railway line from Tweedbank has been a bonus for commuters living in the bohemian “Porty beach” area of Edinburgh. And it’s good for visitors to the city too, looking to escape the festival crowds in August, for instance, in favour of a day at the beach.

    • Hop on the train from Waverley station and get off at Bruntstane eight minutes later.
    • Leave Brunstane station (pronounced “Broonstun”) and walk for fifteen minutes. You’ll find the beach ahead of you.
    • Turn left along the seafront to find lots of great bars and cafes.
    • Several buses also run from nearby Portobello High Street into central Edinburgh.
  1. 8. Blackpool

    Sticks of rock and kiss-me-quick hats, winter lights and summer fun – Blackpool pleasure beach is the ultimate seaside destination if you’re looking for the too-often-forgotten flavour of childhood holidays.

    • Get the train from Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Glasgow or London Euston – via the South Fylde Line – step off at Blackpool Pleasure Beach station and you’re there! Walk straight ahead toward the sea, turn right to reach the Big One roller coaster, or carry on along the coast to reach the Sandcastle Water Park.
    • For refreshments, try fish and chips from Yorkshire Fisheries or fresh vanilla ice cream from Notarianni’s parlour.
  1. 9. Barmouth and Aberdyfi

    The west coast of Wales has some brilliant beaches and a huge amount of space. The Cambrian Line, one of the UK’s top scenic routes, divides at Dyfi Junction with one line heading for Aberystwyth and the other running up the coast all the way to Pwllheli on the Llyn Peninsula. The seaside town of Barmouth, with its Victorian cottages and steep, winding alleys, its classic seafront and spectacular viaduct, makes a great base.

    • Nearby, there’s also the Mawddach estuary to explore and – further up the coast – there are castles, wildlife reserves, and fabulous visitor attractions like Portmeirion and the Ffestiniog Railway.
    • To the south, the pretty fishing village of Aberdyfi has three miles of sandy beach stretching north to Tywyn, home of the Talyllyn Railway, the world’s first preserved railway.
  1. 10. Swansea Bay

    Swansea’s underrated charms include five miles of gentle sandy beach. Get a PlusBus ticket when you arrive by train and you can ride along the coast to some of the less busy stretches. You can even reach the beautiful Gower peninsula and walk the flowery coast path near the characterful village of Mumbles.

    • How to get to Swansea beach: The sandy bay at Swansea is about twenty minutes’ walk from the railway station, just beyond the museums, but for quieter and slightly less urban stretches of Swansea’s fantastically long beach, hop on bus 4 and lots of others to ride along the seafront.
    • Don’t miss the Secret Beach Bar and Kitchen, right on the sands near Bynmill Lane Swansea’s botanical gardens. Nearby is the suburb of Uplands where the poet Dylan Thomas grew up.
    • How to get to the Mumbles: from Swansea bus station, bus 2 runs all the way along the coast, with great views, to the Mumbles. When you get to the Mumbles, there is paddleboarding and a Victorian pier, views of the lighthouse, stretches of coast path to walk and fresh seafood. Enjoy the beach!
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  • Pier - Nine UK beaches you can reach car-free.
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  • Bridport beach - Nine UK beaches you can reach car-free.