Liz Rowlinson

The coastal boltholes that rival Cornwall

The coastal boltholes that rival Cornwall
Tenby, Pembrokeshire
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May Day is behind us, the summer season approaching, and already the tensions between second homeowners and locals in Cornish seaside towns have been gleefully reported by the tabloid press. Visit Cornwall is considering a register of second homes while councils are proposing a tax on empty properties. House prices have gone up by an average of 28 per cent across Cornwall since the pandemic began, according to the Land Registry, so is it time to look elsewhere for a coastal bolt hole?

The British coastline is at least 1,200km long so there are some great alternatives, although the perennial favourites can get just as ‘overrun’ as the likes of St Ives. According to Rightmove the most searched-for seaside towns this month are big-hitters like Bournemouth, Southampton, Eastbourne, Worthing and Brighton, but perhaps you fancy somewhere a little more off the beaten track?

Pembrokeshire has proved a popular alternative to Cornwall, sharing the same craggy coastline dotted with fishing villages and pristine beaches but with fewer crowds and lower prices. The average price in Pembrokeshire is £230,640, according to Hamptons using Land Registry figures, a third lower than Cornwall’s £341,590. Newport, Tenby and Narberth are three of the priciest locations in Pembrokeshire, but for even greater value look to the Fishguard and Pembroke areas.

Marloes Sands, Pembrokeshire

Pembroke Dock sits near the mouth of the Cleddau river – the tidal creeks and salt marshes are heaven to explore by boat or kayak – and the average price is £163,870, but this four-bedroom architect designed house is for sale at £550,000 through Fine & Country. Holiday home buyers should know that, as of April 2022, they will need to pay double the rate of council tax on a secondary property in Pembrokeshire – on top of the extra Land Transaction Tax, the Welsh equivalent of stamp duty.

Pembroke offers relative coastal value (Fine & Country)

North Norfolk can be as blissfully crowd-free as West Wales – take a kayak out to the Scolt Head barrier island from Burnham Overy Staithe or roam the salt marshes around Cley-next-the-Sea and Blakeney. In Heacham, a beach village famed for its lavender near Sandringham, this four-bedroom stone cottage is £650,000.

A lack of properties for sale has been pushing up prices in the most fashionable coastal villages – and those around the market town of Holt – where delis selling crab pate and artisan sourdough have begun to proliferate but look inland or east of Cromer to see your money go further.

Close to Great Yarmouth, Gorleston-on-Sea is tipped for potential price growth by local estate agent, William H Brown. With its vast sweeping sandy beach it’s also handy for the further watery pursuits of the Norfolk Broads, but the average price is only £211,570 (Hamptons).

Boating types also love the Isle of Wight, a much under-rated 23-mile-wide natural playground of bays, promenades and clifftop walks. Charmingly slow paced and full of great local food producers, the island is also broadly affordable – the average property price is £296,197, according to Rightmove. But you can pay much more for something special or super views, and this five-bedroom manor house at £895,000 is located in Cowes, the focus of the sailing scene and the newly revamped North House whose restaurant is being run by Robert Thompson, the youngest British chef to receive a Michelin star.

The needles, Isle of Wight (iStock)

Some of Devon’s coastal hot spots – especially Salcombe and Dartmouth – are as highly priced as their Cornish counterparts, but Tom Bedford of Savills’ Exeter office tips Exmouth as one to watch, with its two miles of golden sand and the Exe estuary a twitchers’ paradise. 'It’s going up in value, much investment is going into improving the seafront and a trainline into Exeter [it can be three hours to London].' According to Rightmove, the average price was £322,501 over the last year, and this deceptively large four-bedroom townhouse comes with a home office, ideal for that summer of flexible working.

A four-bedroom townhouse in Exmouth

Another one to watch is the East Sussex town of Hastings and its next-door neighbour, St Leonards-on-Sea. Over the last 10 years prices have gone up by 79 and 89 per cent respectively, two of the heftiest increases amongst Sussex coastal towns, according to Hamptons. Average prices still hover around £300,000 in both – is there still room to grow? Eastbourne’s £325,140 and Brighton’s £481,370 would suggest so.

Increasingly the choice for bohemian south Londoners, these two traditional towns are now full of great eateries, craft beer shops and even concept stores. Apartments in the faded Regency townhouses overlooking the seafront are being smartened up by AirBnB investors or second-home owners. In Hastings you can find a whole seven-bedroom townhouse for £670,000, or a five-bedroom 19th-century property overlooking the English Channel for £1m.