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The Great British Seaside

Posted on September 01, 2017 by Kate

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The great British seaside, synonymous with stripy deck chairs, penny machines on the pier and t-shirt tans, holds a particular place in our nation’s collective holiday memories. Whether it’s a flashback of chasing a windswept beach umbrella that’s rolling towards the sea, or getting buried up to your neck in sand while snoozing under a newspaper, there’s something about the seaside that really encapsulates the nostalgia of a great British holiday. As the autumn rolls on and the nights start creeping in it can be easy to feel that we’ve already lost the best of the summer, but at Great Little Breaks we think a seaside break is just as good during the cooler months.

The UK’s coastline offers the perfect excuse to get down to the beach with plenty of fantastic seaside offerings for us to dip our toes into. From the pebbly expanse of Brighton beach in the south, to the wide sandy shore at Longsands in the north east, the seaside is a holiday staple with no passports required.

For generations, families have been packing up the car or jumping on the train to get away from the stress of their everyday lives, and breathe in the thick salty sea air. Black and white photos of stern looking relatives from the Victorian era in their stripy swimming costumes and sepia-toned pictures of children watching Punch and Judy shows run through our photo albums at home, right next to that picture of you with the seagull, who tried to steal your chips. 

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A stroll along Blackpool’s Pleasure Pier with a plate of fish and chips (the perfect winter warmer) are as much staples of a UK beach holiday in 2017, as they would have been 100 years ago. Even much of the architecture remains the same: British piers are a great example, featuring in many of our most loved seaside towns. And no two piers are the same, ranging from simple wooden deck structures to elaborate pavilions. But part of what makes them so special is the history that they all share. 

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Despite being burnt down in 2002, Brighton’s Old West Pier remains the most photographed pier in the UK, and for good reason - its eerie remains can’t help but captivate the gaze of seaside holidaymakers. Brighton Palace Pier was once named the biggest attraction in the South East, and anyone who’s topped off a day at the seaside by winning a giant cuddly monkey from one of its stalls or arcades would certainly agree.

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As offering a wealth of entertainment, Bournemouth pier is the go-to destination for thrill seekers. Packed with activities, it became the first pier in the world to open a pier to shore zip wire in 2014. However, if like us, you prefer a more leisurely pace of life, you can’t miss out on a boat trip from the pier to Poole Quay – a fantastic way to experience the British coast from the waters.

Architecture aside, perhaps the most enduring legacy of the seaside holiday is the food. With the sheer quantity of culinary treats on offer at Britain’s beaches, even the strictest of diets goes out the window. From ice-cream, doughnuts, fish and chips – if it’s sugary, salty, or otherwise delicious, you can bet it can be found at the beach. Mighella’s parlour on the Isle of Wight has been producing ice-cream for 60 years and is a beautifully quaint family-run parlour that is sure to take you back to the days of begging your parents for two scoops rather than one.

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A British coastal town particularly famous for indulgent seaside snacks is Brighton. It is impossible to walk along Brighton Pier without being lured into stopping off at one of its many eateries. And, as it’s unthinkable to venture to the beach and not treat yourself to fish and chips, we recommend The Palm Court – named ‘the spiritual home of fish and chips’ by none other than Heston Blumenthal. Praise indeed!

Far from just providing us with the sustenance we need to take on paddling, sunbathing and donkey rides, the great food traditions of the seaside also provide great opportunities for excursions. For example, the Docwra rock factory in Great Yarmouth produces 25,000 sticks of rock a week and is a popular tourist attraction in the area. Visit the factory to watch a cocktail of sugar and glucose transform into colourful sweet souvenirs, and take some home for friends and family to enjoy. 

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There are more than 200 beaches in the United Kingdom, all of which offer something uniquely different, and many of which are award-winning. The beaches on the Isle of Wight won a total of 17 Blue Flag and Seaside awards in 2014 and are recognised for having some of the most spectacular beaches in Europe. But it’s not just beaches that put our favourite coastal resorts on the map: the last ten years have seen an increasing trend of celebrity chefs putting their Michelin-starred quality spin on local delicacies. From Rick Stein’s seafood specialities in Padstow, Cornwall, to Mitch Tonks’ coastal culinary delights in Torquay, Plymouth and Exmouth, this trend provides a wonderful partnership of professional chefs using local produce to provide us with fantastic foodie treats. This is joined by an abundance of fresh local produce that us Brits just can’t get enough of. And not just in terms of food either, but local craft beers and ciders too. Head down to Haywood Farm in Cornwall and be immersed in the creation and production of its locally renowned cider, watching how it transitions from apple, to pint glass. Oh, and while you’re there, it would be rude not to have a pint or two to taste!

The great British Isles is a place that effortlessly delivers that traditional fun-filled beach holiday experience that keeps visitors coming back year-on-year. It’s clear that no amount of time or reconstruction can take away the magic of our beautiful coastlines.

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