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Britain’s best white-sand beaches

Aquamarine waters, bone-white sands, bleached driftwood… the stuff of holiday brochures and Instagram posts, and designed to lure us to foreign and exotic idylls. But, hang on; why go abroad? 

Look closer to home. Britain’s coastline may not offer the bath-warm temperatures and languid palm trees of, say, the Caribbean, but it has some startling beaches along its varied coastline. And they’re not always where you might think. 

Holkham beach on the breezy north Norfolk coast, for instance, was recently voted “the UK’s whitest beach” by holiday rental company, Dog Friendly Cottages (dogfriendlycottages.co.uk). The company used Google satellite images and digital colour analysis to detect the palest sands around our shores.

As an island nation, the seaside jaunt has long been our default holiday option – think Butlin’s and Pontins holiday camps and, before that, the Victorian railways that brought coastal resorts, such as Scarborough, Blackpool and Brighton, to the masses. 

The attraction of the seaside is a mix of comforting sameness with a dash of wildness – the power of the sea – and permission to just “let go”. Who cares who’s watching?

Get the sand between-the-toes, jump over the waves, build that sandcastle, or just gaze at the far horizon and wonder what lies beyond. And if it’s a dreamy pale-sand beach, so much the better. Whether you want to walk, laze or swim, here’s our pick of the UK’s palest.

Luskentyre, Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides

At the end of a three-mile-long single-track road, this beach, on the west coast of Harris in the Outer Hebrides, dazzles like an illusion.

Even under cloudy skies, its waters are temptingly clear – though always resolutely chilly – while the powdery sand stretches around the coastal inlet.