Escapes

Q:

Besides London, Where Should I Go While on Summer Vacation in Southern England?

The Cornwall peninsula is bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, and to the south by the English Channel.     Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Brighton Pier.

Kayaks in Hele Bay, near Devon.

A:What about the beach? Although you might not associate the seaside with England, maybe you should. After all, England is an island, with ocean waters slapping against its coasts on all sides. Plus, there are some really lovely shore towns, where outdoor pursuits, cultural activities, and good old beach bumming will keep you occupied. Here are just a few places to whet your appetite:

Brighton

The “bright” in Brighton fits it to a tee. This beach town in South East England is known for its vibrant atmosphere, complete with thrumming clubs, an exciting lineup of summer festivals, and a populace that loves all things bohemian. Brighton’s pebble (not sand!) beach looks out on the blue waters of the English Channel. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, you might want to try your hand at paragliding or surfing in the cold waters. But you’ll need a wetsuit: the channel averages temperatures in the mid-60s, even during August, the hottest summer month. 

You should also try the famous fish-and-chips at Bardsley’s of Baker Street. Then burn off the calories with a leisurely run along the seafront, where you’ll pass eye candy like the Brighton (Ferris) Wheel, the Palace Pier, and the Brighton Marina.

Devon

Spreading out across about 450 miles of coastline in South West England, the county of Devon draws tourists to its golden beaches, emerald hills, and cerulean waters. Visitors flock to these shores to relax in an awe-inspiring setting. But because this is such a large swath to cover, you’ll probably have to make a choice: either North Devon’s grand cliffs, large beaches, and huge surfing swells, or South Devon’s “English Riviera” resorts and Jurassic Coast history. No matter where you go, you should sample some of Devon’s famous clotted cream.

The county is also known for the extraordinary walks along its coasts and through its stunning moorlands. The 21-mile Drake’s Trail is a favored route, as is the 630-mile South West Coast Path. Walking is such a popular pastime here, there’s even a twice-yearly event, the North Devon and Exmoor Walking Festival, devoted to it. 

Cornwall 

One of Cornwall’s claims to fame is that it has Britain’s longest stretch of shoreline—but this western county is also known for its breathtaking beauty. Old fishing villages nestle into craggy coves; steep seaside cliffs, blanketed in grass and lined with hiking trails and golden beaches, give way to ultramarine waters. The southwestern county is also peppered with intrigue, from the prehistoric stone circles (think Stonehenge) near the village of Minions to Tintagel Castle, the reputed birthplace of King Arthur.

When it comes to active endeavors, you’ll find that boating, biking, fishing, surfing, and paddleboarding are all popular activities, as is something called coasteering—a blend of rock climbing, cliff jumping, and swimming while donning neoprene. Average water temperatures in the summertime won’t rise above the mid-60s, making wetsuits a must.

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