Van Morrison sang: "Smell the sea, and feel the sky / let your soul and spirit fly," – and of course he’s right – as an island nation, we have a deep-seated affinity with the sea on so many levels.
Wherever you live in Britain, the coast is within a few hours’ drive at the very most, and the variety and beaches, ports, fishing villages and beauty spots means there are attractions whatever the weather. Surfers flock to Cornwall and the north of Scotland, foodies go in search of oysters and samphire, nature lovers can enjoy a multitude of birdlife and walkers are simply spoilt for choice.
Users of TripAdvisor consistently rate British beaches among the best in the world. While the top spots are taken, predictably, by destinations such as the Seychelles and Hawaii, Britain has sneaked into the world top 10 and is a strong contender in the European rankings.
Of course, to enjoy the white sands of Norfolk or the deserted coves of Pembrokeshire, all you have to do is hop in the car – no need to book, no great expense, no hassle at all.
"To have three British beaches named among the best in Europe," comments James Kay of TripAdvisor, "just goes to show how lucky we are in the UK to have such stunning scenery right on our doorstep."
Of course, the naysayers will always cite the British weather as a drawback, but this is to overlook the range of opportunities our beaches offer. It doesn’t have to be the height of summer for you enjoy a good lunch in Padstow or Solva.
There are historic sites for all weathers, from Lindisfarne to Eilean Donan, and there’s little better than a mid-winter walk on Holkham Beach, with skeins of geese flying in from more northerly climes. And, of course, for all our islanders’ scepticism, the evidence is that we do get our fair share of sunshine after all – Cornwall, for example, averages over seven hours of sunshine a day in high summer.