Seaside Charm: The Seven Wonders of the English Seaside
Celebrate the very best of British, at English Heritage’s own seven wonders of the Great British seaside.
With more countries adding tourist taxes to discourage English visitors, where better to enjoy a break than in the UK? From the world’s longest pier to Britain’s oldest surviving rollercoaster, the English Coast is awash with architectural treasures to delight adventurers.
Catering to millions of holidaymakers year after year, landmark heavyweights in cities from Southend through to Blackpool all make the cut, with these top seven wonders of the English coast making for an exceptional tour this summer season.
1. The Royal Pavilion, Brighton
Start on the south coast, take in the view of Brighton’s Royal Pavilion and you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’ve been transported to the Far East. From its origins as a humble farmhouse, this Grade I listed Royal Palace was transformed for King George IV by James Wyatt and John Nash in 1811-23.
Marrying the grand aesthetics of both India and China, inside, you can explore spaces including the Banqueting Room and the Chinese Gallery, with rooms representing the eccentric character of the man for whom it was built.
After an afternoon of exploring, take a walk along the promenade and stop for a crisp glass of pinot grigio at The Seahorse, looking out over the remains of Brighton’s iconic West Pier. Stay at one of the many B&Bs in the area, or for seafront elegance, choose The Grand Hotel. Get lost in The Laines, a warren of boutiques and eateries and marvel at the alternative edge that sees Brighton compared to the San Francisco of the UK.
"Brighton's Regency Royal Pavillion is a treasure of architectural beauty. There's no shortage of things to do in beautiful Brighton."
2. Saltdean Lido, Brighton & Hove
A quick hop east on one of the many coastal bus routes from Brighton, you’ll find Saltdean Lido. This Art Deco gem has been a shrine to swimming and sun-worshipping since the 1930s, and today is one of just a few lidos on the English Coast that is still in use. Its latest renovation, led by locals, with the support of charity funding, is seeing the interior restored for a community space to be enjoyed by all. You can enjoy the outdoor pool throughout the summer, or head through the tunnel to explore the beach with its many rock pools, which is just across the road.
3. The Scenic Railway at Dreamland, Margate
Britain’s oldest surviving rollercoaster – a Grade II listed ride – is Dreamland’s American-style railway. Built in 1920 by J H Iles, it was reopened to the public after the completion of the theme park’s £28m restoration project, spearheaded by Wayne Hemingway in 2015. To this day it still attracts both local Kent residents keen to relive their youth, and the many visitors who are charmed by Margate’s retro seaside appeal. If you find rickety, rattling old fairground rides more hair-raising than anything the likes of Alton Towers can throw at you, then this one shouldn’t be missed.
4. Southend Pier
The world’s longest pleasure pier, extending 1.34 miles into the Thames Estuary, Southend Pier hails back to 1889 when it was built by James Brunlees to attract visitors arriving by boat from London. The pier has undergone many renovations over the years – including during 2000/1 when substantial amounts of money were pumped into it to celebrate the new millennium – and today it is home to an impressive array of shops, cafés, a museum, an RNLI station and so much more. You can even take the train from one end to the other, which is our favourite way to explore. Stay at the Park Inn Hotel for seaside views, or one of the many excellent nearby B&Bs.
Discover special offers and discount voucher codes to save on travel, fashion, wine, personal development and more, curated especially for you.
5. The Hippodrome at Great Yarmouth
On the Norfolk coast, you’ll find Britain’s only surviving total circus building, complete with striking art nouveau façade. Built in 1903 by the legendary showman George Gilbert, the Grade II historic Hippodrome is where Houdini and Chaplin once wowed the crowds. Today, some of the country’s finest acts continue to entertain visitors with a whole host of shows, including incredible water spectacles, theatre, cinema and dance, with performers from across the globe taking their skills – and bodies – to the limits.
6. The Grand Hotel, Scarborough
Architect Cuthbert Brodrick built The Grand Hotel in Scarborough between 1863-87, when it took the crown of the largest hotel in Europe. It quickly became the go-to holiday destination for wealthy holidaymakers, who would rent the hotel’s lavish suites for the entire summer season.
Since that time, having served as a flagship Butlins hotel (complete with all the English seaside charm you’d expect), it’s back to its best as a grand hotel in every sense. The Grade II listed hotel still takes pride of place overlooking the town’s picturesque harbour and South Bay, making it the perfect place from which to enjoy the city’s sandy beaches, promenade walks and the many vibrant eateries.
"The Gothic Grand Hotel is a majestic imposition on Scarborough's skyline and a classic slice of seaside nostalgia for bygone eras."
7. Blackpool Tower
One of the country’s best-loved landmarks, Blackpool Tower is a true British institution. On Blackpool’s famous seafront promenade, it brings as much joy to visitors today as it did when it was first constructed back in 1894, with plenty to explore.
Built as an ode to the Eiffel Tower, it’s the best spot to get a bird’s eye view of the city from the viewing platform at the top. On clear days, you can see as far as North Wales, the Lake District and the Isle of Man. But the most famous part for many visitors is the iconic Blackpool Tower Ballroom, where a plethora of dance stars have trodden the boards over the years.
One of the world’s most magnificent ballrooms, it’s where they film an annual episode of Strictly Come Dancing, and there are always plenty of opportunities to take in that British staple, a variety show, when the dancing isn’t on.
When in Blackpool, it’s almost mandatory to stay at one of the legendary B&Bs, and when you’re done exploring, grab a bucket and spade and relive your childhood on the seven stunning miles of sandy beach.
If you are feeling inspired to plan a trip, there’s plenty of accommodation on offer at Hotels.com.