There are several small lakeside beaches around Lake Windermere, but if you’re looking for a sandy seaside, you will have to travel a little. The trip will be well worth it though, and once you discover Cumbria’s coastline, you’ll realise that it’s a true hidden gem. The best beaches near Windermere include Grange-over-Sands and Bardsea Beach.
Ravenglass is actually one of only a handful of beaches within the Lake District. Others are close but are actually outside the boundaries of the national park.
Close to Eskdale and Wasdale, Ravenglass Beach has a rich Roman history and takes its name from the small fishing village that sits on its edge. The long sandy stretches of this pretty village, backed by old fishermen’s cottages, surround the point where the rivers Irt, Mite and Esk come together. One excellent way to reach this beach is by rail, either on the local trains that run right along the coast or via a miniature steam train on the La’al Ratty.
Cottages in Ravenglass
Seascale is a real hidden gem, reached via a winding road or the spectacular West Coast train line. There’s a large free car park that looks out onto wide expanses of pebbles ahead of you. This opens out to a sandy beach when the tide is out, and you can walk for miles down the coast.
You’ll often see people fishing off the edge of the long pier, and kids will love the mini ‘castle’ and playground just up from the shore. There’s also an excellent golf course that overlooks the sea.
Silecroft is one of the best beaches in the Lake District yet still remains relatively unvisited compared to other areas of the national park. It’s popular with locals and anglers, and you can walk for miles along its uninterrupted sandy beaches. The imposing mountain of Black Coombe rises behind, making for an impressive sight.
St Bees Beach
St Bees Head is an impressive sandstone cliff that marks the most westerly point in Cumbria, and its mighty outline perhaps makes St Bees the most recognisable beach in the county. Once a popular holiday destination for the Victorians, it still maintains its charm and appeal. The sand stretches out during low tide, and a short promenade is still accessible during high tide. There’s a wonderful walk over St Bees Head towards the lighthouse, with a playground, golf course, pub, café (selling local ice cream), and public toilets all close to the shore. There is ample paid parking, too, as well as a train station less than a mile away.
If you're looking for a nice swimming spot in the Lake District, see if you can discover the old outdoor swimming pool amongst the rocks!
As part of the famous and beautiful Solway Coast, Allonby Beach is an ideal spot for a bit of bird watching or a tasty picnic. Backed by sandy dunes, you can see the Lake District fells behind you and the Scottish hills over the water. In fact, when the tide is right out, it seems like you could almost walk across the sand to Scotland (you can’t!). This is another popular spot for fishing or, if you’re not catching your own, stop off for some yummy fish ‘n’ chips and watch a sunset from the shore. It’s an amazing sight!
Skinburness Beach and Grune Point
Once a prime spot for smugglers, Skinburness Beach is somewhere that will spark your imagination! It has a truly stunning location within the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, overlooking the sea towards the Scottish hills, and with the fells of the Lake District behind. You can picnic and paddle or wander towards the saltmarsh for the chance to see an abundance of birdlife. During low tide, look out for the remains of a Hudson AM 771 aeroplane, which crashed during WWII.
Cottages on the Solway Coast
Drigg Sand Dunes and Beach
Boasting the largest sand dune system in Cumbria, and one of the largest seabird breeding colonies in the North West, Drigg is a haven for wildlife. It’s almost always very quiet and a popular spot for kite surfing thanks to its long, uninterrupted sands. You can climb to the top of the sand dunes where you’ll find an old lookout post.
Though the beach at Braystones is almost completely submerged during high tide, it is nonetheless a popular holiday site, and you’ll still find a number of beach bungalows just out of reach of the water. It’s made up of shingle and sand and is a great place to visit if you want to escape the crowds and enjoy a fiery sunset.
Walney Island South Beach
Walney Island South Beach is a beach close to Barrow-in-Furness on the southern peninsula of Cumbria. This beach is part of South Walney Nature Reserve, a place where you can see England’s only grey seal colony, alongside a lot of other interesting wildlife. There’s also a lighthouse and views towards Piel Castle, and the Lake District fells beyond. It’s a wonderful place to really get off the beaten track.
West Shore Beach, Walney Island
Photo credit: Cumbria Tourism
Another lovely beach on Walney Island, the West Shore, which includes Earnse Bay, has stretches of sand and wonderful views of the not-so-distant Lake District mountains. Kids will love peering into the rock pools, and you can walk a long way and enjoy the brisk winds or the beaming sun. There’s plenty of parking in a large free car park, and public toilets at one end.
South Cumbria & Coastal Peninsula cottages
Although this is a lovely spot, the beach at Grange-over-Sands isn’t like the others on this list. In fact, it’s actually saltmarsh and not suitable for walking on. However, there is a wonderful Victorian promenade right alongside it, as well as excellent views over Morecambe Bay. If you are looking for a seaside feel but aren’t too fussed about getting sand in your pants, then this could be just the beach for you!
And as it’s right in the town of Grange, there are plenty of facilities nearby.
This shingle and sand beach is one of the beaches nearest Flookburgh: only a 14-mile drive. It’s also just a few miles outside of Cumbria’s “festival town”, Ulverston. You can take a bus from Ulverston to the beach or hop in the car and make use of a number of free parking spots nearby. Enjoy views of Morecambe Bay and its golden sand when the tide is out. It can get pretty windy here though, so it is best visited on a calm day if you don’t want your picnic blanket blown away!
Haverigg Beach is part of a small fishing village of the same name in the south of Cumbria. It’s ideal for families thanks to the nearby play area and the large, flat sandy beach. Its sheltered position means it’s the perfect place for birdlife, and you can enjoy a walk along the sea wall around the RSPB’s Hodbarrow Nature Reserve. There is a good-sized car park right next to the beach, as well as toilets and a beach café.
Rolling dunes, mountain views and sandy beaches; Roanhead Beach is a picturesque spot and ideal for a picnic. Though not suitable for swimming due to strong currents, it’s nonetheless a wonderful beach to visit if you want to relax and enjoy gentle walks. As a protected nature reserve, you may also see a number of interesting flora and fauna, including the rare natterjack toad and a range of colourful flowers.
There is a pay and display car park that also serves drinks and refreshments during the summer.
Though these are some of the best beaches in the Lake District and nearby, the West Cumbrian coast is full of even more pockets of coastal treats. Discover your own secret seaside gem at one of our coastal cottages.