Runswick Bay named best beach in Britain by The Times

A lesser-known seaside spot near Whitby has taken top spot in The Times' annual guide to the country's best beaches.

By Grace Newton
Friday, 24th July 2020, 2:25 pm
Updated Friday, 24th July 2020, 2:28 pm

Times travel writer Chris Haslam was beguiled by the beauty of Runswick Bay, where fossil-hunters, kayakers, dolphin-watchers, cod fishermen and families alike gather to enjoy unspoiled sands.

Haslam has compiled the annual Beach Guide supplement since 2008, and the 2020 list features several other Yorkshire destinations, including Spurn Head and Fraisthorpe in the East Riding.

He describes Runswick Bay as 'close to perfection' and highlighted its spacious sands, paddleboard and kayak hire centre, freshwater streams, safe swimming, abundant rockpools and fishing spots, as well as the fossil grounds at nearby Kettleness Sands.

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Runswick Bay has been named the best beach in Britain by The Times Beach Guide author Chris Haslam

The dog-friendly beach has excellent water quality, toilets and refreshment kiosks, although there's no lifeguard cover or wheelchair access. Parking costs £5.30 per day and there are only 80 spaces, keeping the sands quiet and ensuring natural social distancing.

He was also entranced by the Hob Holes - an intriguing series of caves that local legend claims were the homes of goblins who could cure childhood ailments.

Haslam references the recent sightings of a pod of bottlenose dolphins originating from the Moray Forth in Scotland, who have been seen regularly along the Yorkshire coast this summer, including at Runswick Bay, Staithes and Whitby. Wildlife-watching boat trips for tourists operate from Runswick Bay.

He also selected 10 beaches in the north to include in this year's top 50 beaches.

Spurn Head is a raw and atmospheric spit in the Humber Estuary

Among them is Spurn Head, a spit three miles into the Humber Estuary. Described as 'weird and fragile', this 70-metre-wide, ever-changing slither of land is where eroded cliffs from Holderness drift to and gather. Beachgoers can watch container ships arriving at Hull's docks and there's also a nature reserve with guided tours called the Spurn Safari.

He has also recommended Fraisthorpe, near Bridlington, which he visited this year for the first time in 12 years. Although Haslam wasn't impressed with the resort town of Bridlington - describing it as somewhere 'with little left to love' - he stumbled upon Fraisthorpe instead. The two-mile curved beach is served by the Cow Shed tearoom at Auburn Farm, which is renowned for its cakes.

Third on the northern list is Hunmanby Gap, a quieter alternative to Filey and close to Bempton Cliffs, ideal for the age of social distancing. There's a 'charming' beach hut cafe that Haslam believes is one of 'the treasures of the British coast', serving a full English breakfast for £5 and afternoon tea for £10. You can also see the Art Deco clifftop home once owned by Sir Billy Butlin, who brought holiday camps to Filey.

Further up the coast into Cleveland, Haslam picks out Marske-by-the-Sea, near Redcar. Despite nearby Saltburn being the preferred site for a Victorian seaside resort, it was argued at the time that Marske had a better beach. There are few facilities or hotels - other than railway baron Edward Pease's home, the grand Cliff House - but the beach is described as 'magnificent' and compared favourably to Bamburgh in Northumberland.

Haslam chose Fraisthorpe as a more charming alternative to faded Bridlington

Haslam's criteria for inclusion in the Best Beaches guide include water quality, safety, cleanliness, access and facilities, plus features such as rockpools, deckchair rental, waterfalls, caves and membership of the Beach Clean network.

He doesn't usually feature 'rowdier' locations and deducts points for jet skis, beach bars and pubs, overcrowding and high car park prices.

He also deliberately visits beaches out of season and in poor weather to assess their merits.

Read the full article here.

He believes Marske has a better beach than its more developed neighbour, Saltburn