We all like to be beside the seaside. And whether that word brings to mind the Cornish Riviera, windswept dunes, saltmarsh or a far-flung island, it always transmits a little thrill. Here, from listings as endlessly varied and appealing as the UK’s shoreline,The Good Hotel Guide picks its top 10 hotels with the sea at their doorstep.
Cary Arms, Devon
Peter and Lana de Savary’s Cary Arms at Babbacombe, Devon, with its nautical-themed décor and stripy deckchairs on the sundeck, feels positively seagoing. The eight bedrooms have views of beach and bay; most have a terrace or balcony. Daily specials chalked up on blackboard include the freshest local fish and shellfish. Children are welcomed with a fishing net and bucket and spade. Double rooms £195-£295 B&B (01803 327110,caryarms.co.uk).
The Henley, Devon
Another Devon favourite, Martyn Scarterfield and Petra Lampe’s Edwardian villa The Henley, at Bigbury-on-Sea, has quite a different vibe. The feel is of a private home, with antiques, potted palms, books, magazines and resident labrador. Martyn cooks with local ingredients and flair. The five country-style bedrooms have sea views (binoculars provided). A private path leads down to the beach. Double rooms £120-£150 B&B (01548 810240,thehenleyhotel.co.uk).
The Beach, Cornwall
Not far to the north, William Daniel’s small hotel, The Beach, in Bude, Cornwall, above Summerleaze beach, is on the side of fun, with ‘rude cocktails’ and tapas in the beach bar, and an international menu in the new Nomada restaurant. The best of the 16 New England-style bedrooms overlook the beach. Double rooms £140-£195 B&B (01288 389800, thebeachatbude.co.uk).
The White Horse, Norfolk
A world away from the West Country, on tidal marshes under a big Norfolk sky, is the White Horse, the Nye family’s 1930s pub cum small hotel which has a laid-back, friendly ambiance. Eight of the 15 bedrooms are in a garden annexe, each with terrace and access to the Coastal Path. You can eat in the conservatory with views to Scolt Head Island, or have a drink in the open-plan bar with the locals. Double rooms £140-£230 B&B (01485 210262,whitehorsebrancaster.co.uk).
Mullion Cove Hotel, Cornwall
Back in Cornwall, above a picturesque harbour on the Lizard Peninsula, the Mullion Cove Hotel, a Victorian former railway hotel, has been rescued and restored by the Grose family. Chocolate brownies and binoculars in the bedrooms show generosity of spirit. There is superior cooking in the Atlantic View restaurant. Most of the 30 bedrooms have sea views. Double rooms £115-£335 B&B (01326 240328, mullion-cove.co.uk).
Driftwood Hotel, Cornwall
A little way to the east, Paul and Fiona Robinson’s Driftwood Hotel at Portscatho stands in landscaped gardens, overlooking Gerrans Bay, with a path leading down to a private beach. The simple décor of the 15 bedrooms evokes sun, sea and sand. Most face the sea and some have decked terraces. Chef Chris Eden holds a Michelin star for his European cooking. Double rooms £215-£280 B&B (01872 580644, driftwoodhotel.co.uk).
Soar Mill Cove, Devon
Moments from the fishing port of Salcombe, in a secluded cove on the South Devon coast, Keith Makepeace’s Soar Mill Cove Hotel is family run and family friendly, with a cream tea on arrival and a blackboard to draw on in the café. The 22 well-equipped ground-floor bedrooms have French doors opening onto a private patio, some with sea views (ask to borrow binoculars for dolphin-spotting). There’s a heated saltwater pool, a spa, a dog-friendly beach, and picnics can be packed for a walk on the Coastal Path. Double rooms £149-£319, B&B (01548 561566, soarmillcove.co.uk).
Balcary Bay Hotel, Dumfries & Galloway
From the English to the Scottish Riviera, to Auchencairn on the heritage Solaway coast and Graeme Lamb’s Balcary Bay Hotel. It’s relaxing, well-managed and welcoming, with an open fire in the lounge, though the climate is mild. Many of the 20 individually styled bedrooms look across the bay to the distant mountains of the Lake District. You can eat in the conservatory, almost lapped by the tide. Double rooms £150-£182 B&B, 01556 640217, balcary-bay-hotel.co.uk) .
Dunvalanree, Mull of Kintyre
There are no-less-breathtaking views – across Kilbrannan Sound to the Isle of Arran – from Alan and Alyson Milstead’s homelyDunvalanree in Carradale, in a small fishing village on the Mull of Kintyre. The nine bedrooms, three with bay views, are individually styled (one pays homage to Charles Rennie-Mackintosh), but chef Alyson’s cooking is sophisticated and modern – she is a founder member of the Scottish Seafood Trail. Double rooms £145-£177, B&B (01583 431226,dunvalanree.com) .
The Colonsay, Argyll and Bute
You have to take the ferry from Oban to reach our 10th top seaside hotel, The Colonsay on the island of Colonsay, Argyll and Bute. Built as an inn, on a hillside overlooking the harbour, in the mid-18th century, it has been renovated by owners Jane and Alex Howard, who run it in an easy-going and unpretentious manner. There are open fires and painted wooden floors in the light and airy public rooms, with deep sofas, books and board games. Chef Robert Smyth cooks simple and delicious food with local produce and vegetables from the garden. The nine bedrooms are quite simple but tasteful, several with sea views. Take your golf clubs – and shout ‘fore’ to warn unsuspecting sheep. Double rooms £90-£150 B&B (01951 200316,colonsayestate.co.uk).