Broadstairs, Kent


On May 29th 1974 the Broadstairs and St Peter’s Mail reported on its front page that the charms of Broadstairs had at last reached the stars: ‘The actor Gregory Peck has promised to visit the town next time he is in England.’ But Peck never kept his promise and today Broadstairs remains in comfortable obscurity, sandwiched between its large, rumbustious neighbours, Ramsgate and Margate. Its beaches are wonderful – Botany Bay and Toss Bay have golden sands and chalk-white cliffs peppered with smugglers’ tunnel entrances, while the beach directly below the heart of town is sheltered and intimate.

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Llandudno, Caernarfonshire


High above the lush cream villas on the outskirts of Penrhyn Bay the road climbs up to the sheep-scattered heights of Little Orne’s Head – all pale grey rocky outcrops and seemingly sheer grassy slopes. Over the brow, Llandudno, ‘the Naples of the North’, is spread out on the level land below at the narrowest point of this extraordinary peninsula. The perfect crescent shape of its northern shore is edged with an arc of graceful white stucco terraces and hotels looking out to the Irish Sea and ending in a pretty blue and white painted pier.

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St Leonards, Sussex


St Leonards is majestic. The well-to-do from Bexhill may not venture here, but it is their loss. The resort has now merged imperceptibly with Hastings (there was once space and a grand gateway between the two), but St Leonards remains a place apart. It is what Hove is to Brighton. The distant silhouette of Hastings’ black burnt-out pier looks like a row of matchsticks when you see it from  Marine Court – a clomping great Cunard Liner of art deco building which feels as though it is about to weigh anchor and sail out to sea. (When it . . . → Read More: St Leonards, Sussex


Whitby, Yorkshire


Sitting in the cosy bustle of Elizabeth Botham and Sons’ tea rooms (established 1865) on Whitby’s West Side, beside towered plates of Yorkshire curd tarts, ginger cakes and lemon buns, I said to my waitress: ‘This is as good as Betty’s in Harrogate.’ ‘Madam: she replied, ‘it’s better.’ Whitby’s pride is bursting, and justly so.

Between high hills, the town is set in a deep cleft where the River Esk widens towards the sea, secreting an upper harbour full of boats and clinking masts in the town’s midst, and ending its twenty-mile journey in the lower . . . → Read More: Whitby, Yorkshire


Skegness, Lincolnshire


Beyond low-lying potato fields and isolated farms down dog-leg fenland lanes, Skegness sits safe on its mild rise above the sea. The churned-up sand shows buff through the choppy waves and an offshore windfarm wades across the grey horizon. Below soft sandbanks and patches of marram grass the beach stretches far away for miles in each direction, curving imperceptibly to far-distant dunes.

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Fowey, Cornwall


Fowey is all romance. The town’s face and its heroic history as one of Cornwall’s principal ports was, and is, its fortune. There are steep twisting streets of whitewashed cottages, their pattern unchanged since medieval times; a triple-aisled church at its heart, stuffed with monuments to the Rashleighs of Menabilly and the Treffrys, whose ancient pile ‘Place’, with its battlemented walls and turrets, overshadows the churchyard. There are old inns like The Ship and the flashily handsome King of Prussia, which takes centre stage on Albert Quay, with its glistening granite steps and its Doric columns; and there . . . → Read More: Fowey, Cornwall


Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria


Grange is on the mysterious Cartmel Peninsula, its low-lying edges often wreathed in mist. I came on a train from Carnforth beside the vast expanse of Morecambe Bay, and crossed the treacherous sands of the Kent estuary on a stalwart Victorian viaduct of fifty spans. Grange Station is beautiful. Its elaborate wrought ironwork, supporting the glass platform canopies, is painted red and apple-green, colours echoed in the gardens of nearby villas.

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Filey, Yorkshire


Beyond the ghost of a 1939 Butlin’s Holiday Camp, where only the huge, empty swimming pool and its tiered fountain survive among the scrubland, Filey retains an air of quiet, solid respectability. Past a roundabout packed with scarlet roses, pale apricot brick terraces and white stucco bay-windowed pubs and inns, only the sea is visible – the beach is hidden far below the cliff-like hill. There was a high spring tide running down on the front when I went, and the sand was completely covered.

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Cromer, Norfolk


Cromer is a magical place. Approaching it from the heights of Roughton Heath, you suddenly see the town way below against a backdrop of slate-blue sea – all red pantile roofs, cedar trees, pinnacle Victorian and Edwardian houses, flamboyant verandas on the edges of the old town, and then the great flint church of St Peter and St Paul, flaunting Norfolk’s highest tower at its heart.

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Lyme Regis, Dorset


‘An easterly is the most disagreeable wind in Lyme Bay,’ writes the town’s famous resident, the novelist John Fowles, ‘Lyme Bay being that largest bite from the underside of England’s outstretched south-western leg.’ The picture he paints of the town and its immediate surroundings in The French Lieutenant’s Woman is so vivid that even if you have never been here before, you feel you know it. As I walked along the stalwart, sinuous breakwater called the Cobb I felt I would surely see the ghost ofSarah Woodruff waiting alone at the far end.

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