english riviera

The insider’s guide to the British Riviera

Who needs Eden Roc when you've got, well, Rock? And isn't Abersoch just as fun as Antibes?

The aestival months, alias summertime, bring out some of the best and worst in seaside-bound Britons, as salined air contends with pasty hues, suncremular self-denial, and errant offspring. Have you imagined what it might be like to see all of West London’s special utility vehicles decanted into but a smattering of inter-connected beachsteads? Have you wondered what it might be like to be a lusty teenager in the cattle-market of Cornwall or stuck on a rollercoaster overlooking a Bansky installation? Here we tell you that upon which you might stumble should you venture to one of the Isle’s treasured coastal troves (and coves of course).

Burnham Overy Staithe, North Norfolk

Burnham Overy Staithe

Should there exist a more worthy contender to the title of Chelsea-on-Sea, readers are warmly invited to submit their petitions to the presiding arbiter, but find him a place with more vehicles less adept to the roads they for two months of the year beshit and he’ll show you a liar. Ever since the industrious folks at Tata Motors told British car manufacturers the world might just be moving on, Range Rovers and their ilk have sprung out of every aureate orifice and now humbler road users must tremble at the literally uncontrollable wrath of hedge fund managers’ wives as they steer (veer) their superpowered tanks towards sea walls and our unsuspecting children. A shed masquerading as a studio will tip you into six-zero territory. A studio masquerading as a maisonette.. elevated prefixing integer.

The Chin Dictionary, Sir Chinoccio himself, would have an absolute field day, as is his deft wont, in this ever-so-pretty Sloane Rangerdom. Out of season, this salt-marshed, bovined, fair-sanded, clear-watered, good-humoured haven offers every bounteous beauty it does in the season, minus the fuss. At all times of year however it boasts magnificent sailing, albeit challenged by the North Sea’s intimate relationship with the moon, as well as miles of serenely-duned shores at either flank.

Rock, Cornwall

Rock, Cornwall

It is said Polzeath is where 16-year olds go to celebrate the end of their GCSEs. In Rock it is said they will be arrested on sight. Post-A-Level revellers are tolerated, but chicken-cooped they must be. This is Rick Stein, Fat Face, Jules, Mr-Whippy-on-disconsolate-infant’s-front-territory. It is also home to some of the realm’s most beautiful coastal architecture. So well heeled it is that big-swinging gallerists such as Larry Gagosian/Sotheby’s have manned a posting, catching ‘em while they’re giddy on salty air and priapic on one-upsmanship.

Unlike Polzeath, this is where you buy when you’ve well and truly made it. But sorry to digress, back to the lusty teenagers we come. Bedecked in ‘Leavers ‘insert year here’’ hooded jumpers, the ones you can’t get an ASBO for, the game is getting as hosed/hooned/bedunkerdunked as humanly possible and hoping you’re one of the lucky few guys who doesn’t still look as though puberty’s hit them à la ton of bricks to the power of knobbly branch and thus has just a blind hope in hell of a sandy flagrante with the girl of his dreams. Fear not baby-faced fellas, time is a generous bedfellow. Should all this hormonal pageantry be avoided like a swarm of locusts? Hard to say, but it does make for fascinating spectator sport. A note for the wilder and more rhapsodic at heart, the littoral idyll that is Lizard’s Cove.

Abersoch, Wales

Abersoch, Wales

If you’re an easy-on-the-eye, recently or otherwise cashed-up bloke with a predilection for beautiful blondes, this is the place for you. Assuming they haven’t already been snapped up by one of the Northwest’s multitude of eye-wateringly-wealthy footballers, present yourself as someone who won’t have an affair with your brother’s wife and Robert will verily thy mother’s brother be, for in no other nook of the nation will you find such a glorious gathering of sirenous stunners seeking a handsome, wholesome husband.

Something of a well-kept secret to the Lancastrian-Merseyside seam, Abersock also plays annual host to a festival of hormonal high-jinks, Ibiza-eat-your-heart-out music, and aquatic amusements.  For the more misty-eyed, romantic-walks-down-the-beach crowd, and indeed for those predisposed to ski poles and trail shoes, North Wales boasts sumptuous scenery in the form of the Anglesey-facing coast, the druids’ island itself, and of course, almighty majestic Snowdonia.



Yep, we went there. Probably thought you’d be spared this one, but resistance is a dish best served futile and the charms of the British answer to Magaluf (which chicken begat what egg here?) must be held aloft for all to see. This place is so grim that the Kingdom’s premier graffiti artist erected an apposite monument to its splendour in the form of a dystopian Disney aptly named, Dismal Land.

I could probably stop here, but permit me a brief anecdote to salsify the palate. Have you ever heard the joke about the drunkard whose wife threatens to leave him should he return home in a state of inebriation again? Well, this bibulous individual returns to his steading covered in vomit and reeking of booze with the excuse, “I swear, my love, a man in the street threw up all over my suit, but look – he left me this £20 note for the dry cleaning”, and when asked for what reason there sat a second £20 note in the same breast pocket he answered, “that was from the man who shat in my pants”. This story was made in Blackpool. 

Now, why not find out how to groom your body hair for those British beaches?

Further Reading