Beach quality is of the utmost importance for those seeking seaside holiday cottages in the summer. As the main holiday season approaches it is most helpful that the annual Blue Fag awards have just been announced (May 2010). To achieve Blue Flag status a beach must comply with certain standards. This includes a requirement for excellent bathing water quality and no industrial or sewage discharges affecting the beach. A total of 71 beaches in England have earned the coveted international Blue Flag award in 2010 (including Sennen Cove, pictured above, near Land's End, Cornwall). Though this is a drop of one on last year, the figures are a dramatic increase from a decade ago, when there were only 24 Blue Flag beaches in England. Here are my suggestions for some holiday cottages the length of England, either on or close to beaches where Blue Flag status assures you of the quality and also, in my opinion, some of the best beaches in the country.
Bigbury Beach, South Devon
There are a number of fantastic beaches along this stretch of coastline. The cottage enjoys sea views and although not the closest beach to this property Bigbury Beach, just a few miles away, is backed by low cliffs and on one side the River Avon estuary with Burgh Island situated just off the beach. The island, home to a stunning art deco hotel, is accessible across a sand spit at low tide and via tractor at high tide.
Alum Chine, Bournemouth, Dorset
This new apartment close to Bournemouth is just five minutes walk from Alum Chine Beach. The Chine is a steep dry river valley and the largest of the four Chines in Bournemouth. The wooded gorge has shaded paths and tropical gardens, with many exotic and unusual plants, renowned for their striking landscape design and stunning views.
North Beach, Bridlington, East Yorkshire
These seafront apartments offer spacious and very comfortable accommodation in smart, contemporary style. A few minutes walk past the harbour takes you to the North Beach. The golden sands are spotlessly clean and behind them are the refurbished, award-winning promenades where you can sit and soak up the sun. Between the North Beach and South Beach, the historic harbour is a hive of activity, with fishing boats bringing in the day's catch, pleasure cruises along the coast and out to Flamborough Head, speedboat rides across the bay and fishing trips on the traditional cobble boats.
Brightlingsea Beach, Essex
This high-quality barn conversion is in a rural setting less than a mile from Brightlingsea Beach. A major yachting centre at the mouth of the River Colne, the town has a history of shipbuilding and seafaring and was the only one of the historic Cinque Ports outside Kent and Sussex. It is home to one of England's oldest timber-framed buildings, the 13th century Jacobes Hall.
Sutton on Sea Beach, Lincolnshire
Enjoying glorious country views, this well appointed property is just two miles inland from Sutton on Sea, a peaceful resort with a beach ideal for families. It has the advantage of day chalets along the seafront which you can hire to shelter from the sun or eat lunch under cover. The beach is rarely crowded and if you venture into the water look out for the wreck off-shore. Although signposted on the beach, the unwary could get a shock splashing about! The glorious beach stretches up the coast to Mablethorpe, six miles away, where there is another Blue Flag beach.
Cromer Beach, Norfolk
This attractive and superbly furnished ground floor apartment is just 100 yards from the beach in the heart of Cromer, one of north Norfolk's most popular traditional seaside towns. Cromer is a small town with a long and unique history, easily explored on foot. Today one tends to be reminded of the archetypal Victorian seaside town with atmosphere from different eras seeping through the old buildings in the winding backstreets just behind the sea front.
Four Blue Flag Beaches, Poole, Dorset
This newly refurbished mid-row cottage is just five minutes walk from bustling Poole Quay and within easy reach of some of the best beaches in the country, in and around Poole Harbour. One of the largest natural harbours in the world it boasts five islands, fabulous scenery, wonderful wildlife and exhilarating watersports. Poole boasts four Blue Flag beaches, with perhaps the best the three miles of golden sand along the Sandbanks peninsula in Poole Bay.
Sandown Beach, Isle of Wight
This comfortable cottage is just a few miles from the sparkling waters of Sandown Bay and the twin resorts of Sandown and Shanklin which have delighted generations of holidaymakers for over 150 years. The Victorians laid out Sandown's broad seafront promenades and beautiful parks and gardens. The magnificent sandy beach slopes gently and there are all kinds of watersports on offer. The cliff-top path offers a wonderful walk, with panoramic views of the bay and continues all the way to Shanklin where you can visit the famous Chine, a dramatic fissure in the rock where a 45-foot waterfall cascades through boulders and ferns to the shore.
Sennen Cove, Land's End, Cornwall
Captain's Cottage is in the heart of St Just, England's most westerly town on Cornwall's remote Penwith Peninsula. Just along the coast and very close to Land's End is Sennen Cove, one of the loveliest stretches of sand in Cornwall, popular with surfers and a glorious coastal path which can be followed all the way from St Just to Land's End.
Oddicombe Beach, Torbay, Devon
This comfortable cottage is just 500 yards from Oddicombe Beach, one of four Blue Flag beaches in the Torbay area. The small, sheltered beach is popular, although access is quite steep. To make the journey down to the beach it is possible to travel on the Babbacombe Cliff Railway, which has been operating for almost 80 years.
Tunnels Beach, Ilfracombe, Devon
Enjoying panoramic sea views this superbly renovated, single-storey property set in pretty gardens, is just a short stroll from many fine beaches, from secluded coves to the wide stretches of golden sand with crashing surf. The Blue Flag Tunnels Beach is a unique experience, with passages hewn through the cliffs to a privately owned bathing beach. The Victorians also built up walls between rocks to make two bathing pools which have been recently restored and make for an excellent family day out on the beach.
Ventnor Beach, Isle of Wight
Spectacular sea views greet visitors to this modern and stylishly appointed property , set high on the cliffs overlooking the beach and out across the English Channel. A Victorian town with a Mediterranean feel, Ventnor is one of the sunniest spots on the island. Built on a series of terraces beneath St. Boniface Down, the town's roads zigzag down to the seafront past the beautifully planted Cascades - sub-tropical gardens overlooking the sea.
Whitley Bay Beach, Northumberland
This charming renovated cottage is just two minutes walk from the beach at Whitley Bay. This golden sandy beach is popular as a place to enjoy the sun, have a relaxing walk or take part in watersports - especially surfing. Tynemouth village is an old Tyneside resort with an interesting mix of antique shops, fashion boutiques and village pubs. Tynemouth is steeped in history. The pier is overlooked by the ruins of a Benedictine priory and a castle which have stood guard over the River Tyne and formed a major part of England's coastal defences for several centuries.
For enquiries, availability or to book over the phone please call: 0844 561 8329
Opening Hours: Mon, Tues 9am-7pm, Wed-Fri 9am-6pm, Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 10am-4pm
37 Back Percy Gardens, Tynemouth. View on map>
8 Larkstone Gardens. View on map>
Galley Horn, Ventnor Road, Apse Heath. View on map>