William Cook

Britain’s iconic seaside towns

  • From Spectator Life

Finally, at long last, it seems we can start thinking about summer holidays – maybe even a short Easter break, if the Covid numbers keep coming down. However booking anything overseas still looks like a tricky prospect, so this year I’ll be renewing my acquaintance with the Great British Seaside.

Like a lot of people who grew up before budget flights made foreign travel affordable, I didn’t go abroad until I was 18. And so, during my cash-strapped childhood, I got to know the British seaside pretty well. I didn’t spend much time there in my twenties, but once I had children of my own I began to make up for lost time. Taking my kids to these seaside resorts made me remember what fun I’d had there when I was a child. It also made me realise how much these places have improved. Sure, the weather is still just as variable, but food and accommodation are far better than they were when I was small.

For me, the thing that makes the British seaside so special is its remarkable variety. Every resort has its own history – no two are alike. They’re a reflection of our island heritage, and although the beaches are the main attraction, the towns that grew up around them are fascinating too. You’re bound to have your own favourites, but to whet your appetite here are some of mine.

Brighton

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Brighton has always been a beguiling blend of down-to-earth and la-di-da – a mecca for Mods and Rockers, and luvvies like Laurence Olivier and Terence Rattigan. Originally a sleepy fishing village called Brighthelmston, it became a bathing resort thanks to Dr Richard Russell, author of A Dissertation on the Use of Sea Water in Diseases of the Glands. More recently, the Pink Pound has given the place a tremendous boost.

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