Beach

Accessible days out beside the seaside

There are few better places to spend the day than beside the seaside. And whether you want to get involved with some water sports, discover a dose of maritime history or simply sit beside the seaside, many of Britain’s best beaches have great access for people with disabilities. Here, Rough Guides’ writer Jacqui Agate picks nine top coastal spots to while away an afternoon.

England

Bournemouth beach

Bournemouth Beach and Pier on a blissfully sunny day

Boscombe Beach, Bournemouth

England’s south coast has little shortage of sandy crevices, but Boscombe Beach is one of the finest. It’s fringed by pastel beach huts with a (fully accessible) modern pier jutting out to sea. More than just photo fodder, the beach huts are available for hire, and several are purpose-built for wheelchair users, complete with electric mobility-scooter charging facilities.

To reach the top of Boscombe’s rugged cliffs – and for ocean panoramas – use one of the wheelchair-friendly lifts; carers get free access to these, as well as to the land trains and the pier. The land trains also run along the coast to Bournemouth Pier. If you’re content to stay at sea level, beach wheelchairs with hardy balloon tyres (available from the Boscombe Beach Office) will help you power through the sand more easily.

Summerleaze, Cornwall

Summerleaze Beach, Cornwall

Sand dunes and a part-natural, part-manmade “sea pool” characterise this popular beach in Bude. It’s a favourite for surfers too, with several outfitters offering lessons here. Big Blue Surf School runs tailored sessions for people with special needs, while adapted boards are available for those with physical disabilities. You can even opt for a “tandem board” and ride with an instructor in tow, if you prefer. After you’ve caught some waves, fill up at one of the beachside restaurants here: Life’s A Beach overlooks the sand, serving up baguettes and juicy burgers by day, and fresh fish dishes come evening time. Access is via ramp and there are widened doorways too.

If you’d rather sunbathe than make a splash, sand wheelchairs are available for hire from the Summerleaze Beach Office through summer, and there are numerous beach huts with full access too.

Dover esplanade

Dover Esplanade was designed by Tonkin Liu

Dover Harbour Beach, Dover

Dominated by the White Cliffs of Dover, this shingle beach is a hub for accessible boat tours. Dover Sea Safari offer wheelchair-friendly excursions in their purpose-designed catamarans and yachts, departing from the adjacent marina. Expeditions include journeys out to cliff-lined Langdon Bay and seal-spotting trips to Pegwell Bay.

There’s flat access to the beach itself, but this pebbly swathe looks best from up high. Explore the National Trust-operated White Cliffs visitor centre, 10 minutes east of the beach. The fully accessible space offers information on the cliffs and the wider Dover coast, with a wheelchair-friendly viewpoint – weather permitting, you can gaze across the beaches and the marina, and even get a glimpse of France.

Wales

Swansea Bay Beach, Swansea Bay

Known as Wales’ Waterfront City beach, this sandy arc is a stone’s throw from Swansea’s centre. Soak up some sea views from the pretty marina – there’s ramped access from here down to the beach – before taking to the sands. Beach wheelchairs are available free from the 360 Beach & Watersports Centre. If you really want to blow off the cobwebs, take advantage of the coastal trail between Swansea Bay and the Mumbles. An accessible section of the Wales Coastal Path, this broad promenade rewards walkers with ocean vistas and plenty of ice-cream stops. You’ll end up at Mumbles Pier: a kitsch spot (with disabled access) full of family amusements.

Rhos-on-Sea Beach, Conwy

Arrive in Rhos-on-Sea and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time. The beach is edged by a quaint town, and you can watch brightly coloured boats bob in the harbour. There’s a flat promenade backing the beach where you can pass a relaxing few hours – but history buffs should follow the Rhos-on-Sea Heritage Trail. This wheelchair-friendly route takes in 25 of the coastal town’s historic sights, from old fishermen’s cottages to a historic steamship wreckage.

Broadhaven beach

Splashing in the shallows at Broad Haven Beach, Pembrokeshire

Broad Haven Beach, Pembrokeshire

This cliff-backed sand and pebble bay is the British coast at its most idyllic. Broad Haven’s shallow water, and the presence of lifeguards during summer, means it’s a safe bathing zone, while even pathways provide convenient access to the strand – there’s a tarmacked path to the north. In summer, hire an all-terrain wheelchair from Haven Sports Surf Shop and head down to the water’s edge.

Scotland

Scottish Seabird Centre

The Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick

West Bay Beach, North Berwick

This sweep of sand is a great bet for birders – abundant species flock to its shores, and Bass Rock, visible from the beach, is home to the world’s largest colony of North gannets. At West Bay Beach, you can hire beach wheelchairs for both children and adults, and a hoist is also available. Or, if you’re keen to learn more about the resident wildlife, visit the revered Scottish Seabird Centre. Here, you’ll find a host of interactive displays, plus a viewing deck (accessible by lift) fitted with binoculars and telescopes. The entire site is fully accessible and there are large-print guides if needed.

Portobello Beach, near Edinburgh

If you want to pair your seaside escape with some city exploration, make for Portobello’s award-winning beach. Around three miles from the city, this stretch of sand sprawls for two miles and benefits from a wide, smooth path down to it. Beach wheelchairs are available for hire, and there are plenty of places to refresh and recharge on a sunny day. Dream & Season café is a lovely, accessible option right on the beach: pop in for coffee and cake, or feast on homemade fishcakes and chips at lunchtime.

For more inspiration for a great day out, here are some more articles by Rough Guides

10 great summer days out

The best afternoon teas: traditional, fun and accessible

12 accessible travel tips

The best accessible caravanning spots in the UK

How to plan an accessible holiday

Planning a staycation? Explore the nine best UK scenic drives

Image credits

Rough Guides would like to thank the following individuals, companies and picture libraries for their kind permission to reproduce their photographs (in order of appearance on the web page):

Header image: © Bournemouth Tourism

Bournemouth Beach and Pier: © Bournemouth Tourism

Summerleaze Beach: © Shutterstock

Dover Esplanade: © Dover District Council

Broad Haven Beach: © visitpembrokeshire

Scottish Seabird Centre: © VisitScotland/Grant Paterson

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