From Dorset's Jurassic Coast to the Scottish Highlands, these coastal boltholes offer something for everyone
Camber Sands isn’t just any beach, it’s a glorious golden stretch with knee-high grass and bumpy dunes. Here, you can kite surf, windsurf, horse ride and fish, or ramble along the High Weald Landscape Trail and 1066 walk, both of which start at the beautiful port town of Rye, just three miles from the village of Camber.
Just ten minutes outside Rye, you'll find The Gallivant, a small, budget-boutique B&B that is a homage to all that’s great and good about the British seaside – 18 rooms and a coastal-cool bistro that serves up daisy-fresh fish and seafood, all caught daily in the bay.
The seaside town of Margate in east Kent was all the rage in the 18th century, but now? Well, it’s having a moment. With maritime history at its heart, this coastal location has everything you need for a classic British seaside stay – from sandy shores to fish and chips – while the Old Town area is undergoing something of a rebirth, with new galleries, quirky shops and charming cafés – but you can still find a 2p machine when the amusement arcade calls.
The Reading Rooms bring a splash of East-London cool to Margate and is at the forefront of the area's renaissance. Each room spans an entire floor of this Georgian townhouse (admittedly, there are only three of them), and each blends immaculate comforts with artfully shabby seaside chic.
Welcome to the Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage site that spans a 95-mile swathe of spectacularly photogenic coastline from East Devon to Dorset, where you’ll find rocks that record 185 million years of the Earth’s history. Make your way to Lyme Bay, where the Blue Marine Foundation (set up by the team behind awarding-winning film The End of the Line) is championing marine conservation: they’re working alongside local fishermen, scientists and regulators to prevent overfishing in the bay, one of Britain’s premier marine areas.
Just 20 minutes from Lyme Bay, you’ll find The Bull Hotel in village of Bridport. With its stripped wooden flooring and carefully chosen antiques, this 1850s coaching inn offers great-value vintage chic – as well as 37 varieties of cider to enjoy in the sunshine.
There’s more to the British coast than buckets, spades and sandcastles; there’s also rugged sweeping majesty, and the Scotland has it in, ahem, spades. There’s plenty to do up here in the Highlands that will keep you entertained in, on and around the water. Stay in Wester Ross and you can visit the Isle Maree (sail across to this one-time seat of Christianity to see the Viking graves), go angling for skate in the Minch or take a boat around Loch Gairloch for some sealife spotting.
A great place to stay is Pool House, a loch-side lodge in the fishing village of Poolewe. With vistas over the water, a very warm welcome, and a frankly astonishing whisky selection, this Highland hotel has all the seals, seabirds and sunsets to make for a very special Scottish stay.
Cornwall: you know the score – rocky shores, rolling surf, soft-sand beaches and, well, pasties. But as well as all that, there’s St Ives, on the north coast, with its cobbled streets, fresh air and sunny days (it boasts Britain’s mildest climate). The bay is home to dolphins, porpoises and basking sharks, and with 50 miles of Cornish coastline to explore beyond the town, you’ll find plenty of room to roam.
The Salt House B&B, set in a Modernist building on the outskirts of town offers two rooms that are simple but spectacular, with balconies and bay-spanning views. Perfect for watching the waves at any time of day through the floor-to-ceiling glass.
For a seaside town with real character (and plenty of sails slapping against masts), head to Dartmouth, a postcard harbour-town. If you’re looking for a quiet retreat, opt for the close-to-the-coast village of Chillington, where the gently rolling hills are backed by the drama of Dartmoor.
Just a mile from the beach is Whitehouse, the perfect getaway for city dwellers hankering for a rustic rest-stop. The attractive Georgian buildings boast lush green gardens and a croquet lawn as well as chunky furniture and fireside snugness inside. Exactly what you want to welcome you back in after a coastal stroll.
The south coast of Cornwall is home to sheltered estuaries, historic ports and sandy beaches. And, of course, the kind of climate that sees palm trees lining the roads of Falmouth. Hills roll down to the shore, where the sea is framed by whitewashed fishing villages and well-trimmed gardens.
Nearwater, as its name suggests, sits three minutes’ walk away from Summers beach, just outside the fishing village of St Mawes, a short and scenic ferry ride across the estuary from Falmouth. Ideal for travellers in search of some low-key luxury and a cracking breakfast. It's the perfect base for touring the Roseland Peninsula – whether by foot, car, kayak or yacht – with picnic spots a-plenty and beaches in reach.
Mr & Mrs Smith have been visiting and anonymously reviewing stylish boutique hotels and hip holiday houses for almost a decade now and share the same insider low-down they’d give their best friends. Book a coastal hotel with them in June and 1% of the booking value will be donated to the Blue Marine Foundation. To book, go to www.mrandmrssmith.com or call the 24-hour Smith Travel Team on 0845 034 0700.