Okay, so the Lake District might have the World Heritage Status, the highest peaks, and the biggest lakes, but should you really stick to the national park boundary when you visit? If you do, you will be missing out on some of Britain’s most spectacular coastline. We might not have the weather of Bournemouth, or the surf of Cornwall, but don’t dismiss the west coast of Cumbria.

Some of our beaches stretch as far as the eye can see. They’re brimming with wildlife, you can spot various species of gulls here, and you will find a plethora of marine life amongst the rockpools. Oh, and did we mention the ice cream? Best of all, even on some of the warmest days of the year, their lack of popularity means that you will always find an empty spot to set up your towel, bucket, and spade. Just don’t tell anyone or they will all want to come.

Allonby

Allonby Bay

Allonby Bay (Andy Mitchell / Wikipedia.org)

Charles Dickens once described Allonby as a “dreary little place.” We’re a great admirer of literary heroes here in Cumbria, but on this matter, we think Dickens is just plain wrong. Located on the Solway Coast, Allonby used to be popular with Victorians seeking to convalesce by the seaside, and it’s easy to see why. The combination of the Atlantic breeze, the roar of the ocean, and a beach that at low tide disappears into the horizon, is enough to shake the hardiest of cobwebs and reawaken all the senses of your soul.

From the beach, you can see across the Solway to the fells of Dumfries and Galloway, as well as a huge off shore wind farm adding a unique character to the skyline. Best visited at low tide, the beach is brilliant for dogs needing a run off the lead, for children wanting to explore rock pools, and for poetic types seeking inspiration from the solitude. In the village, you will find a playground, public toilets, free car parking, a pub, a chip shop, and Twentyman’s Ice Cream, which is a local favourite.

Seascale & Drigg

Drig Beach

Drigg Beach & Black Comb (Peter Eckersley / geograph.org)

Let’s put aside the nuclear reprocessing site shaped elephant in the room for a second and look at the merits of the beaches at Seascale and its neighbour, Drigg. At high tide, you can comb the shore for treasures, and at low tide, you can walk for miles on flat golden sand. Seascale was another popular town for convalescing Victorians, and the town still retains some of its Victorian resort charm. Further along the coast, the neighbouring small village of Drigg gives access to a vast remote beach that will invigorate your soul. There are huge sand dunes to climb here with an old look out post at the top.

The view of Sellafield puts a lot of people off, which in some ways could be considered an advantage, as the place is usually quiet. Furthermore, at Seascale, you will find a children’s play area, and free parking. A visit to the town’s Mawson’s Ice Cream Parlour is a must. Here you can try unicorn ice cream or take on the challenge of “The Bucket” with 13 scoops of dairy delight.

St Bees

St Bees

St Bees beach from the South Head (Doug Sim / Wikipedia.org)

It’s an RSPB reserve, a site of special scientific interest, and the only stretch of heritage coast between Scotland and Wales. St Bees is also Cumbria’s most westerly point, and is one of the more popular beaches in the county. The cove features dramatic sandstone cliffs, and the beach is a mix of sand and stone with some amazing rock pools to explore. The beach is also the start point for Wainwright’s Coast to Coast walk.

There are plenty of facilities next to the beach, including toilets, large pay and display car parks, and a café and beach shop. In addition, there is a huge playground with a range of equipment suitable for all ages.

Haverigg

Haverigg Beach

Haverigg Beach (Andrew Hill / geograph.org)

Just south of Millom, Haverigg sits on the Duddon estuary, and is adjacent to a large RSPB reserve, attracting hundreds of breeding birds. This sandy beach has been awarded a Blue Flag for cleanliness, and is spacious enough for kite flying, dog walking, and horse riding. The old sea wall with a path along the top makes for an interesting feature, and a walk along here will take you through the nature reserve and back around to the village. In the village, you will find a café and a play area.

Walney Island

Piel Island & Castle

Views of Piel Island & Castle from Walney Island

Amazing views, vast sandy beaches, and even a seal colony. There are plenty of reasons to visit Walney Island. The Island is accessed via the Jubilee Bridge that leads from the town of Barrow-In-Furness. It is 11-miles long in total and there are two nature reserves. At the South Walney reserve a colony of seals can frequently be spotted at high tide. You cannot access the beach here, but there are various hides dotted along the reserve that offer views of the seals. Along the north of the island, there is a large stretch of coastland with sand and shingle beaches. It’s worth noting that Earnsie Point is a naturist beach.

From Walney Island you can see the castle at Piel Island. At low tide it may appear that you can walk between the two islands, however, this should not be attempted due to sinking sands and fast incoming tides.