A summer of rediscovering the traditional British seaside holiday

With foreign travel still uncertain, millions of us are set to holiday in Britain this year — and that is something to celebrate, says Annunciata Elwes.

To those sighing wistfully over travel-insurance clauses and old holiday snaps of safaris or tropical islands, take heart. You’re  about to rediscover the glorious British seaside this summer — jam jars full of darting gobies scavenged from rock pools and bee orchids in the sand dunes — but without the privations of the past or bored donkeys.

Evocative transport posters illustrate the 1840s to 1960s coastal boom, but the myriad beaches, cliffs, coves, flats and crumbling castles (both sand and stone) of the British Isles have always held an allure, long before even the 1730s, when saltwater swims could ‘cure’ gout and rabies.

Dubious medical advice is one facet we’re happy to leave to history, together with those awkward bathing machines — wheeled changing huts, horsedrawn into the waves, allowing ladies in swimwear that would now pass for funeral garb to take a dip. These parked contraptions became painted huts that still line many beaches: Southwold in Suffolk, the Llŷn Peninsula in Gwynedd and Mudeford Spit, Dorset, where one sold for £330,000 last year. Also here to stay is a legacy of coastal art, from Turner and Tracey Emin at Margate to Antony Gormley’s 100 musseled-up figures at Crosby.

Southwold Beach Huts on the seafront promenade Southwold Suffolk East Anglia England GB UK Europe

The brightly coloured beach huts at Southwold, Suffolk are among the many that offered shelter to visitors and inspiration to artists

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Women of a certain age will agree that swimming hats, vintage glamour aside, are uncomfortable and smell weird. We can’t ditch slimy seaweed and jellyfish stings, but we can wave goodbye to gangsters and vampires, à la Brighton Rock and Whitby (although the latter is still Mecca for goths). Speaking of Rock, Cornish locals might cope without the influx of rowdy teenagers, but, as to sticks of rock, candyfloss and ice lollies — in garish hues echoed on deckchairs and parasols — yes please (the dentist may not agree).

Boat trips, piggyback races, pockets full of shells, fish and chips, scampi, cones of winkles, piers, penny arcades and Punch and Judy — what could be better? Hi-de-Hi!-esque ‘organised fun’, knobbly-knee contests, sunburn, 9pm curfews and prurient landladies boiling cabbage can stay in the past, but crabbing, fishing, handstands in the sea, windy walks and picnics are pleasures to treasure. So what if you get sand in your sandwiches?

This summer, join Mary Anning in her search for fossils on the Jurassic Coast, taste whisky on a Hebridean island or leap from the Cobb at Lyme Regis like an Austen damsel. Pick your favourite seafood — Whitstable oysters, Cromer crab or Morecambe Bay shrimp — and head to the right spit of land for a salty swim to whet your appetite. And if it rains, well, that’s what books are for.