Which? leads rallying cry for cheap and cheerful seaside towns to get a second chance
They were once the go-to destinations where hard-working Brits and their families would enjoy donkey rides, the helter skelter and ice creams.
But the once-glorious seaside towns of Clacton-on-Sea and Skegness have now been ranked as the worst beach holiday destinations in Britain in a new survey, with spots including Burnham-on-Sea, Mablethorpe and Southend-on-Sea sitting just above them in the ranking of 118 places. Topping the table is Bamburgh in Northumberland, with Dartmouth in Devon in second place.
The list has been generated by a Which? Travel survey of over 3,000 holidaymakers, with ‘boozed up’ day drinkers blamed for the poor rating for Clacton, Skegness and Southend.
However, despite the towns’ low scores holidaymakers still found ‘plenty’ to recommend, such as Clacton’s ‘lovely’ seafront gardens and Skegness’s ‘old-fashioned charm’.
Editor of Which? Travel Rory Boland has called for more investment to help the resorts ‘level up’ and said the rankings were a ‘shame’ as the towns offer ‘exactly’ the type of seaside holiday Britons want.
The once-glorious seaside towns of Clacton-on-Sea and Skegness have been ranked as the worst beach holiday destinations in Britain in a new Which? Travel survey, with spots including Burnham-on-Sea, Mablethorpe and Southend-on-Sea (above) sitting just above them in the ranking of 118 places. ‘Boozed up’ day drinkers have been blamed for the resorts’ poor ratings
Editor of Which? Travel Rory Boland has called for more investment to help resorts such as Clacton and Skegness ‘level up’ and said the rankings were a ‘shame’ as the towns offer ‘exactly’ the type of seaside holiday Britons want. Pictured, Southend in June 1960
Pictured: A group of eight middle aged women go for a paddle with their hats on in the cold sea at Southend in July 1957
Mr Boland says: ‘Where was my last UK seaside break? Southend-on-Sea. This small city on the Essex coast finished an unhappy fifth from bottom in our survey.
‘Now, I’m not going to try and convince you it deserves to be up the other end of the table. Is it as nice as Bamburgh, or Dartmouth? No. But for that holiday where you want to have some fun and not spend a lot of money, it’s fantastic.
‘In Southend my kids and I won (and lost) a fortune on the penny slot machines, took a spin on the carousel aboard a pair of pink elephants and ate £9 fish and chips with our toes in the miles of sandy beach. It was not a warts-free holiday. Rubbish blew around our feet while we walked along the promenade and many buildings looked run down, a reflection of the struggles Southend and many other traditional seaside resorts have in raising enough revenue to regenerate their town centres.
‘Not for the first time we also had to cross the road away from boozed-up and shouty day drinkers. This is a perpetual problem in some seaside resort towns. Clacton, Skegness and Southend all received one star from visitors for the lack of peace and quiet, and some visitors complain that the boisterous atmosphere can tip into feeling unsafe.
‘That’s a shame, because what Clacton, Skegness and Southend offer is exactly the sort of seaside break many of us want. Big beaches, big entertainment and small prices. More should be done to help them level up and become first-class holiday resorts.’
Skegness, Lincolnshire, was voted as the worst seaside town in Britain with an overall customer score of 48 per cent
Pictured: Children at the start of a wheel-barrow race in a classic 20th-century picture taken at Butlin’s holiday camp, Skegness
Pictured: A group of eight women in swimsuits while a crowd looks on at Butlin’s holiday camp, Skegness
Pictured: Two women do the leapfrog at Butlin’s in Skegness in a picture taken last century
The survey asked holidaymakers to rate coastal resorts they have visited across a range of categories including quality of beaches, seafront, tourist attractions, food and drink, scenery, peace and quiet, and value for money.
Southend-on-Sea in Essex ranks 110th with an overall ‘customer score’ of 56 per cent.
Meanwhile, Clacton-on-Sea in Essex and Skegness are consigned to joint last with customer scores of just 48 per cent.
Skegness manages a paltry one star for ‘peace and quiet’, ‘scenery’ and ‘seafront/pier’, but does manage to scrape together two stars for ‘food and drink’, ‘tourist attractions’ and ‘shopping’. And three stars for beaches.
Clacton-on-Sea’s star ratings are almost a mirror image.
Clacton-on-Sea is ranked joint bottom in the survey of 118 seaside destinations with a customer score of 48 per cent. Pictured: East Jaywick, near Clacton, recently named as the most deprived neighbourhood in England
Pictured: Holidaymakers on a crowded West Beach with wooden boats at Clacton, Essex, in 1936
Yesteryear: A fleet of women cycling down Clacton-on-Sea’s promenade in novelty bikes in a picture dated to the 50s or 60s
Bamburgh, with a population of a little over 400, tops the charts for the third year in a row with an overall destination score of 88 per cent, while Portstewart in Northern Ireland ‘makes an impressive survey debut’ in third.
Which? says that table-topping Bamburgh is ‘renowned for its stunning sandy shoreline that’s ‘backed by the imposing ruins of its ancient castle’.
Visitors awarded it a full five stars for scenery – ‘unsurprisingly given its unique setting’ – as well as for the quality of its beach and seafront.
Bamburgh (above) in Northumberland is the UK’s No.1 seaside destination once more
Which? asked thousands of holidaymakers to rate coastal resorts they have visited across a range of categories including quality of beaches, seafront, tourist attractions, food and drink, scenery, peace and quiet, and value for money. Table courtesy of Which?
Which? adds: ‘It also secured five stars for peace and quiet, meaning day trippers never have to jostle for a spot. One beachgoer commented that there is “super-soft sand that stretches as far as the eye can see, and there is plenty of space, so the beach never feels crowded”.’
Dartmouth secures its silver-medal position on the podium with a score of 85 per cent.
It snared a perfect five-star rating for scenery and accommodation, and was awarded four stars for shopping, its seafront, food and drink options and tourist attractions. It also earned a respectable three stars for value for money, and peace and quiet.
Which? says: ‘Proving that hustle and bustle can be more than welcome, however, one respondent praised Dartmouth’s “atmosphere and vibrance”, which they noted is “not found in many coastal towns”.’
Portstewart in Derry/Londonderry is honoured with bronze thanks to an overall score of 84 per cent.
Which? reveals that its attractions include ‘an attractive harbour and promenade’ and a ‘wealth of tourist attractions including a championship golf course’.
Visitors, the consumer group says, praised the ‘fantastic beach’ as well as the selection of cafes’ selling home-style baking’.
Tying in fourth place with a score of 83 per cent are Portmeirion in Gwynedd; St Andrews in Fife; and Tynemouth, Tyne & Wear.
Dartmouth secures its silver-medal position on the podium with a score of 85 per cent
Portstewart in Derry/Londonderry is honoured with bronze thanks to an overall score of 84 per cent. Which? reveals that its attractions include ‘an attractive harbour and promenade’ and a ‘wealth of tourist attractions including a championship golf course’
‘Quirky’ and ‘magical’ were words used by visitors to describe Portmeirion, a town constructed over 50 years between 1925 and 1975 that harbours a colourful array of Italianate buildings.
St Andrews, meanwhile, drew praise for its ‘expansive’ beach and ‘characterful’ buildings, Which? says, as well as its renowned golf course, ‘a highlight that contributed to its five-star score for tourist attractions’.
Visitors enthused over the ‘beautiful’ beaches in Tynemouth, the consumer group reveals, and the ‘wide range of sites to explore, from the priory, to the lighthouse’.
‘Quirky’ and ‘magical’ were words used by visitors to describe Portmeirion (above), which ranks fourth
St Andrews, fifth, drew praise for its ‘expansive’ beach and ‘characterful’ buildings
Tynemouth ranks sixth in the survey. Visitors enthused over the ‘beautiful’ beaches
Pictured above is Southwold in Suffolk, which ranks seventh in the survey
Mr Boland says: ‘Few countries can be home to such a diversity of brilliant seaside breaks as the UK.
‘Whether you want world-class beaches and utter wilderness or the bright lights and bucket-and-spade atmosphere of a resort, the UK has a seaside break made for you.’
The results were generated from a survey of 3,007 Which? members conducted in January 2023.