Six superb seaside hideouts in England and Wales
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North Norfolk bliss in Blakeney
Is it the miles-long sand beaches? The hard, gin-clear evening light? The soaring cathedral skies overhead – higher, it can seem, than skies elsewhere in England? Whatever: north Norfolk is something else. Blakeney (permanent population: around 800) is one of its most atmospheric villages, hard by the North Norfolk Coastal Path, with old brick houses lining close, sweet little lanes, and front-row seats to dramatic tidal flows across Morston Marsh every day of the year.
The 60-room Blakeney Hotel, owned by the local Stannard family, has been a fixture here since 1922; a recent refurb sees rooms smartened up with lots of sisal, stripes and toiles, and chic ribbon detailing on headboards. Downstairs, the restaurant was also renovated not so long ago; panelled in dove grey, bright and airy, it excels at classics alongside great steaming bowls of mussels and dressed crab. (And a sweets trolley. How we love one of those.) From £328, blakeney-hotel.co.uk
The best Beach House in Brighton?
A Grade II-listed terrace; panoramic views of the pier and Brighton beach; multiple indoor-outdoor noshing and drinking options: Soho House has arrived in southern England’s once-dazzling, then-seedy, now-just-about-dazzling-again seaside city. Brighton Beach House brings both expected signifiers of Nick Jones’s empire (an outpost of Cecconi’s; the cosy, vintage-chic design) and some clever site-specific flourishes, among which the Brighton Beacon collection – a permanent exhibition of works by some of Britain’s best known LGBTQIA+ artists, among them Catherine Opie, Sunil Gupta, Maggi Hambling and David Hockney himself.
The banana-shaped pool (with a banana mosaic designed into its floor), courtesy of Brighton-based David Shrigley, is another highlight. Two floors of club space and loft apartments for events round out the picture. sohohouse.com
The real Deal
A hodgepodge of genteel Georgian façades and twee cottages, Deal is set into the wide curve of lower Kent – at a healthy remove from the seedy sparkle of Margate, and almost as close to Calais as is Dover.
The town has long attracted artists and creatives in search of community, with its handful of great local cafés and restaurants, and a long ribbon of eminently walkable (even sometimes swimmable) pebble beach. These last few years it’s topped many a “best places to live” list, helped along, one imagines, by its proximity to London.
The very pretty newcomer here is The Rose, a block in from the shore – eight sweet, unique rooms that look exactly like a place stocked with weekend refugees from Stoke Newington should: headboards in borderline-outré chintz or velvet, cute, repainted chests of drawers mixed up with modern lighting and natty brass clothes racks. (Also: soft, Farrow & Ball-esque wall shades and plenty of wainscoting in the bathrooms.) The restaurant holds its own with dishes like sea bass with strawberries and seaweed, and blackthorn gelato served with fresh honeycomb. From £100, therosedeal.com
In far west Wales, a Fforest in town
Fforest has made its name in west Wales with its unique tripartite hospitality: a campsite on the beach, a converted granary with self-catering lofts, and a farm dotted with cottages, space-agey domes and “shacs” (with some of the nicest modern, rustic-chic styling in the country, they hardly live up to that moniker). Next month, they’ll open a fourth component right on the River Teifi, within easy striking distance of Fforest Coastal Camp as well as some of Wales’ most unspoilt beaches.
The Albion Aberteifi’s 23 suites are spread across two reclaimed warehouses (12 will open at first, with a further 11 to follow next year), and the design has the same rough-edged but welcoming cool that prevails at the farm: exposed timber walls, exposed joinery, even exposed graffiti dating back a century and a half. It’s complemented by bright-hued, cosy, Welsh-wool blankets and textiles (available to purchase, as are socks, knitwear and even the enamel tableware in your room), and plenty of chandlery. The Fforest crew also run Pizzatipi in town, should the desire for a Marinara with a stone-ground crust overtake you. From £165, coldatnight.co.uk
(Almost) On Chesil Beach
West Dorset: good enough for PJ Harvey and Mark Hix (and Jane Austen, and Thomas Hardy), good enough for us. Hive Beach, at Burton Bradstock just south-east of Bridport, sits at the far western end of (the more famous) Chesil Beach. On a bluff above its bustling old-school café and sandy cove is the Seaside Boarding House.
For eight years it’s been a hot spot for a good cocktail at sunset (not so surprising, when a venue’s founders are Groucho Club-emeriti) but it’s also a lovely place to spend a night or three, with its views up and down the coast, from the Isle of Portland to Lyme Regis. Its nine rooms skew neutral, simple and spare, privileging the light and vistas from bay windows. Here and there, a lovely antique headboard or chair elevates things. From £245, theseasideboardinghouse.com
Salcombe, the sleek and spa-centric way
If you want your Devon beach holiday with a young, Scandi-chic and buzzy twist, make for this relative Salcombe newcomer, opened quietly last summer by Harbour Hotels, which already has some 14 coastal boltholes and statelies across Britain. The Harbour Beach Club & Hotel is, as of this summer, fully up and running, its 40-plus rooms and six suites awash in rattan, midcentury-inspired furniture and textiles, groovy terrazzo baths and complimentary G&T service.
The spa has an indoor pool and hydrotherapy circuit, and a big terrace with sunbeds overlooking the beach. The restaurant runs the length of it, and plies big-city dishes (burrata and carpaccios, supergrain salads and truffle-parm fries) in a bistrot au bord de la mer setting. From £285, harbourhotels.co.uk