Many of the seaside resorts that attracted the masses until the 1960s, such as Hastings and Margate, have struggled in recent years-although these two towns may experience a renaissance with the siting of major new art galleries there (see Visual Arts, May 4)-but picturesque fishing villages continue to appeal to second-home buyers. Figures from LSL/Acadametrics show that house prices in sought-after coastal locations are 20% to 100% higher than their regional average, and that some seaside properties are among the most expensive each region has to offer.

Although the waterfront market hasn’t been immune to the property downturn-on average, prices are still 15% below market peak, according to Christopher Bailey of Knight Frank-demand for the best houses is healthy. Limited supply leads buyers to ‘cast a wide search net to find their dream house’ and to make ‘strong, competitive bids’ to secure it. This ensures that ‘water-front properties continue to carry a premium,’ says Mr Bailey.

To capture buyers’ interest, a seaside location must have a pretty harbour, a sandy beach and a good selection of detached houses with sea views. Salcombe, in Devon, certainly ticks all these boxes-it’s ‘one of the most sought-after locations for second-home buyers,’ says Alasdair Pritchard of Knight Frank. Indeed, Knight Frank put the town at number 26 in their ranking of the world’s top
property locations, with prime house prices of about £10,100 per square metre. Strutt & Parker are asking £2.2 million for Moult End, a classic Edwardian house designed by a pupil of Lutyens, which has five bedrooms and panoramic views (01392 215631).

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Prices remain on the high side even on lower rungs of the Salcombe property ladder-the average value of a detached house here is £800,000, twice as much as the equivalent figure for Devon.
Far more affordable are the houses in West Wittering, West Sussex, where a detached house costs, on average, £530,000. Nonetheless, this is still 1.3 times the average value for the county, and the best properties can fetch up to £2 million.

The village, which has a reputation as one of the best resorts in the entire South-East, has a huge sandy beach on one side and Chichester Harbour on the other. ‘It’s a great place to retire to or for families wanting their children to grow up near a safe, sandy beach,’ explains Ben Green of Henry Adams estate agents.

In East Anglia, tiny, pretty Walberswick-separated from the hubbub of Southwold by the River Blyth-was home for a time in the 1910s to Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Carl East-wood of Strutt & Parker believes that Walberswick and the Suffolk coast have remained largely unscathed by the downturn. The average price for a detached house in Walberswick is £500,000, double the average for Suffolk, and properties can sell for up to £1 million. Flick & Son are asking £795,000 for Cloudcroft, a perfect bolthole situated in a third of an acre down an unmade private road (01502 722253).

Further north, Alnmouth is the star of the north-eastern coast. Until 1806, it was a major port exporting grain, but a violent storm caused the River Aln to change course, destroying the church and stranding the warehouses. Now, it’s a picturesque coastal village with a notable golf course. Crime writer Val McDermid lives here for part of the year and says that ‘it has all the facilities most
villages lack, but, for me, what’s most important is that it’s a genuine community. When I’m here, I never want to leave.’

A detached house in Alnmouth costs, on average, £400,000 against an equivalent figure for Northumberland of £300,000-going up to £600,000. Agents Sanderson Young are offering Fossil Bank, a charming one-bedroom cottage that would make a great retreat for a couple, at £249,950 (01665 600170).

In Scotland, Nairn-optimistically referred to as ‘the Brighton of the North’-has a fishing port, lots of sand and a large number of ornate Victorian villas. Oscar-winning actress Tilda Swinton lives here, and runs the wildly eccentric Ballerina Ballroom Cinema of Dreams film festival, where the admission is £3 or a tray of homebaked cakes. Detached houses in the area start at £300,000 and rise to £800,000. Strutt & Parker are asking £750,000 for Alltan Donn House, a Victorian villa in Nairn’s best street (01463 719171).