If life is a beach, there needs to be somewhere handy to eat. That would be a beach cafe.
My memory of beach cafes in Britain as a child essentially comprises a sun-bleached wooden chalet with a few benches selling pots of tea in stainless steel teapots, a crusty scone or two and a collection of Lyons Maid ice creams. Oh, but how things have changed! Just like British holiday cottages, British beach cafes have certainly upped their game. While remaining reasonably priced and still with sandy sun-soaked decks, everything else from menus, ambience and customer service is markedly better than in my childhood days.
Here is a collection of beach cafes that can be found dotted around some of the UK’s loveliest beaches. Many now offer full-blown meals in the evenings as well as during the day. So, if you’re planning to book a coastal cottage in the UK and fancy a night away from the kitchen, make sure there’s a reasonably priced, laid back beach café in a location near you. It could prove to be the highlight of your holiday. Enjoy!
East Beach Cafe, Littlehampton, Sussex. Photo: Andy Stagg. www.andystagg.com
1. East Beach Café
How to find it: http://www.eastbeachcafe.co.uk/
Visit The East Beach Café in Littlehampton for three reasons. The first is a given: it is right on the beach. The second is its menu which fish foodies will adore, but don’t worry – if you’re more of a tea and good cake fanatic then you’ll be fine. Thirdly, just go for the architecture. The Thomas Heatherwick designed sculptured building is perceived by some as a giant sand dune, while for others it’s a wave-worn piece of driftwood. Either way, it is as impressive as it is beautiful.
Food is all locally sourced from sustainable sources and its inspiring menus tick yet more boxes: salt and pepper squid with chill anyone? Traditionalist will be reassured to note that it also serves up no-nonsense British breakfasts, a healthy choice of teas coffees and, come the evening hour, cocktails and a dinner menu.
If you’re booking a coastal cottage in the Littlehampton area, go, even if only to stand outside a look at it, but I defy you to resist the urge to venture in and taste its wares while enjoying the splendid beach views – at any time of the year.
Where to stay:
Rose Cottage nr. Lewes. Not quite on the doorstep, but 3 lovely cottages in Plumpton Green. http://www.myfavouriteholidaycottages.co.uk/sussex/lewes/rose-cottage
Evening Curry on the Beach at the Barricane Beach Cafe, Woolacombe, Devon
2. Barricane Beach Café
Woolacombe, North Devon
Where to find it: Barricane Beach Cafe Facebook
By day, the Barricane Beach Café operates as a traditional beach café, with a very tasty menu offering of hot and cold snacks, drinks and ice creams. The café’s seating area is the beach, with capacity dependent on the state of the tide in this beautiful little cove just off the Esplanade in Woolacombe. You can easily spend all day here, using the café to bring snacks, lunch and tea to your beach towel location on the sand.
This beach cafe really comes into its own on Thursday to Saturday evenings in summer, when it serves up a choice of curry dinners to eat on the beach. Bring your own chairs or picnic rugs and select your spot on this mainly sandy, tide-washed beach. It’s surrounded by rocks which will appeal to the little explorers in your party, and offers some beautiful sunsets on summer evenings. Stay for as long as you like, safe in the knowledge that you are not taking up a table needed by diners arriving later.
Where to stay:
Devon Beach Court Seaside Apartment. Overlooking Barricane Beach in Woolacombe. http://www.woolacombebeachapartment.co.uk
Dolly’s Barn or Aggies Cottage (or both) at Higher Mullacott Farm between Woolacombe and Ilfracombe. http://www.selfcateredcotages.co.uk
Deckchairs, Palm Trees and Blue Skies? It must be Norfolk!
3. Wells Beach Cafe
Find it at: http://www.holkham.co.uk/html/beach_cafe.html
Most beach cafes, by the very nature of their position, can boast an idyllic location, none more so than The Beach Café at Wells-next-the-Sea in Norfolk. As well as the sea views, it is backed by fragrant pinewoods within a few metres of the beach. The café was completely refurbished in 2011. It makes good use of local produce in its menus which range from tasty snacks to light meals as will as a healthy choice of ice creams. You can dine on the terrace in the summer or just picnic on the beach, (children are given free bucket!). While visiting, customers have the opportunity to top up on any beach goods necessary for a day on the sands and in the sea.
Another happy customer at the Wash n Wag Dog Wash at the Wells Beach Cafe
Even your dogs are cared for. One of the most appealing facilities is its ‘Wash n Wag’ Dog Wash, very popular with guests anxious to ensure their pet doesn’t deposit half the beach in the boot of their car on the way home. For those booking Norfolk Coast holiday cottages out of season, the café has comfy armchairs and sofas to welcome winter walkers, together with traditional board games and the daily newspapers.
Where to stay:
Kittiwake Cottage, Burnham Market, Norfolk: (no longer available)
Wonderful beach views at the Sandside Cafe, Sandsend North Yorkshire
4. Sandside Cafe, Sandsend, Yorkshire
Where to find it: http://www.sandsidecafe.co.uk/
All the best Beach Cafes sell crab sandwiches –so sandwich lovers will be heartened to see Whitby crab sandwiches on the menu at the Sandside Café. It’s right on the beach at Sandsend just north west of Whitby on North Yorkshire’s picturesque heritage coast. It’s where nature has kindly created a beautiful 2-mile stretch of golden sands just to allow you to work up an appetite for lunch (and work off the calories afterwards). We say calories advisedly having seen admired their homemade pies and cakes.
Apart from the calorie burn, a beautiful beach and the café itself, it’s also worth the trip to wander around unspoilt Sandsend village where sharp-eyed visitors will spy a secret ruined castle. You’ll get the route to the castle from the café. It’s popular with locals, and no wonder; it doesn’t do pretentious, just mouth-wateringly wonderful and traditional locally sourced food. Fish comes from Whitby fishing boats and the cakes from Whitby’s famous Botham Bakers. Pies are courtesy of Bob Ford’s Butchers Shop in Gladstone Village (a local legend so we are told). Even the ice cream comes from Whitby. If you haven’t time to sit and pass the time of day in the café, ask nicely and they’ll do you a picnic hamper to take on your walk or sit on the beach (best phone for this in advance to save waiting).
It opens all week in season and weekends and school holidays during the rest of the year, so if you’re on this part of the coast for a holiday, you’ve absolutely no excuse not to call in!
Where to stay: The Captains Quarters, Whitby
Commemo__rative Picnic Bench at the community-owned Rosemarkie Beach Cafe in Scotland
5. Rosemarkie Beach Café
The Highlands in Scotland
Where to find it: www.rosemarkiebeachcafe.info
From March to the end of October Rosemarkie Beach Cafe is open every day of the week from 10:00 to 3.30pm (often a bit later in fine weather). Thereafter it's weekends only other than January and February when it is closed, although all-year-round opening (weekends only November to March) was under discussion at the time of writing as it’s so popular with locals.
The cafe is run by the Rosemarkie Amenities Association so its profits go to a good cause. You can tell it is run by a dedicated team. It’s not just the customer service or the thought that has gone into the menus. You’ll be impressed with the effort that the cafe has invested in making this attractive beach café so appealing to every kind of guest.
Good food is a given, more on this later, but it’s the countless little and not-so-little touches that demonstrate how much the staff care about their visitors. It is fully wheelchair accessible and has a shower for rinsing away the sand from your feet. If you actually want to play in the sand, then you can order beach buckets and spades along with your tea and cake. You can even work up an appetite with a quick game of tennis while your children do the same in the children’s play area. There’s even a free exhibition all about Rosemarkie’s history, landscape and wildlife.
Although dogs are not allowed inside, they are welcome outside. There are free water bowls and even doggie treats. You can spot a local dog: they refuse to walk past the cafe until they’ve had their treat.
They do local home baking rather well at Rosemarkie. Indulge yourself in such delights as Stilton and pumpkinseed scones, squidgy flapjacks and zingy Highland ‘tablet’ fudge (luckily staff don’t provide calorie counters). Gluten-free breads and cakes are also on the menu. Local home-made burgers with fresh local salads, soup, big bacon baps and sausage ‘doorsteps’ in fresh crusty bread prove popular with all guests.
And after you have gorged yourselves, then walk the ‘Dolphin Mile’ along the beach, so called because there’s every chance you’ll see bottle-nosed dolphins along the way. Oh, and there’s a Fairy Glen too. Just ask those helpful staff for directions!
Where to stay: Big Sky Lodges, Muir of Ord, Inverness.
6. Swanpool Beach Café
Where to find it: http://www.swanpoolbeach.co.uk
It may be small, but they are very proud of their food at the Swanpool café, aiming to serve the best take-away food in Falmouth. There’s all the traditional beach food you can desire on offer, ciabattas, home-made yummy cakes, soups and a staggeringly irresistible range of Callestick ice creams (mention Callestick ice creams to a local and watch them drool). Ice creams can be smothered in Cornish clotted cream and topped with a variety of extras – from jelly babies to chocolate orange balls. They are not for the faint hearted. My favourites are the Ginger Dream and the Get Minted. It’s not for nothing that the locals will refer to The Swanpool Café as ‘The home of the quirky icecream’.
There’s plenty to do around the café. So, if you’ve a mix of energetic and laid-back people in your group, some can go kayaking, play on the fun bouncer, do a round of crazy golf, while the rest can surrender to an ice cream, a long lazy cool drink and perhaps a gentle saunter around the nearby nature reserve. Or, of course, there is Swanpool Beach, a small picturesque typically Cornish creek in which everyone can paddle or swim before lunch or tea is served.
Where to stay:
****Ruby Farmhouse, Falmouth****
7. Hive Beach Café Burton Bradstock, Dorset
Where to find it: http://www.hivebeachcafe.co.uk/
Felt by some locals to be the best beach café in Dorset (and it has some serious completion), this Award Winning Chesil Beach café on Hive Beach in Burton Bradstock near Bridport offers a healthy menu of locally caught seafoods and other produce. Most of it is fresh-caught or grown within a short distance of your beach-side table. Chef’s are on-hand to tell you more about the fish on the menu, but a local sea bass cooked in rosemary, lemon, olive oil and Cornish sea salt with new potatoes and a fresh salad probably speaks rather nicely for itself. In fact the café even has its own cookbook which it sells from its small shop along with other foodie items to take back to your holiday cottage, such as its coffee beans.
In summer, sit outside on a beach front patio under awnings, accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs and relax to the sound of waves crashing on the shingle beach below.
Another notable feature of The Hive Cafe is its breakfast club serving delicious breakfasts between 10-10.30am., All of the above reasons make the cafe popular with locals, which is always a sure-fine indicator of reputation.
Where to stay:
Chideock Cottage, Chideock, .
8. The Ty Coch Inn
Porthdinllaen, North Wales
Where to find it: http://www.tycoch.co.uk
OK – here’s the curve ball candidate! Technically, the Ty Coch it’s a pub – but it does everything a beach café should do (albeit with a license) and is officially the 3rd best beach bar in the world, so we felt it merited inclusion in this blog.
It’s well worth the drive (and walk) to get there. You’ll find it overlooking a sandy beach and the Irish Sea in the small picture-perfect seaside village of Porthdinllaen near Morfa Nefyn on the Lleyn Peninsula in Gwynedd, North Wales, (well, there’s an address!). If you’re lucky enough to be staying in a holiday cottage on the Lleyn Peninsula, then this beach bar will probably play an important role in your holiday unless you are planning to cook 3 meals a day during your stay.
You can’t drive to the pub – it’s a 20-minute walk across a golf course from a National Trust car park – but don’t let that put you off. In fact the walk is just the excuse you need to justify adding a portion of chips to your scrumptious Home cooked Beef with brie panini with red onion and horseradish, side salad and coleslaw__. However, once in Morfa Nefyn you’ll find yourself in the kind of place that makes you decide to return well before you’ve left it. It’s just so idyllic.
On fine days, those in the know, just like to sit on the wall above the beach outside with a drink and sandwich, looking out to sea and perhaps listening to the latest poem from the pub’s own bard (you’ll find a collection of ‘Anon’s Musings’ on the pub’s website.
Where to stay:
Eat, Drink Bathe (but not necessarilly in that order!). Sunset at The Barricane Beach Cafe, Woolacombe, Devon
And the Rest?
Do you know of a great British beach café? Add a description in the comments section or e-mail us. It must be on a beach and you’ll need to say what, in your opinion, makes it special, but we’ll be more than happy to add it to this list. Over to you!
I would recommend these 2 beach cafes -
Seaton Beach Cafe 15 mins walk along the beach from Looe Island View http://www.seatonbeachcafe.co.uk
and the Gook Beach Cafe about 10 mins drive from Looe Island View
Editors note April 2016: Trip Advisor reports that The Gook has closed and the website is no longer live.
Regards Philip Flanagan, The Manor Farmhouse, Kent