One in four UK children has never swum in the British sea

For the millions of people whose childhood holidays involved huddling behind a windbreak on the rain-lashed UK coast, there was some surprising news this week: a quarter of the country’s children have never swum in the British sea.

What’s more, almost one in five have never set foot on a UK beach.

That’s according to a survey of parents with children under 15 years old, carried out by the charity Keep Britain Tidy to launch its annual list of England’s Blue Flag beaches.

Why are so many youngsters being deprived of the delights of a UK seaside holiday? According to the charity, parents frequently cite concerns about unclean seawater and litter – which makes the unveiling of the Blue Flag beaches, which all pass muster for their cleanliness, safety, water quality, and facilities, all the more pertinent.

Sixty-five English beaches make the list, while 125 were given a Seaside Award, a separate status which recognise beach management and water quality. That’s a huge improvement on the 12 English beaches given a Blue Flag in 1987, the year the scheme was introduced.

Botany Bay in Kent

Botany Bay in Kent


The South West is home to more clean coastline than any other corner of the country, with 26 Blue Flag beaches and 50 with a Seaside Award. They include Blackpool Sands in Devon, one of Telegraph Travel’s favourite British beaches, and – new for 2018 – Great Western in Newquay.

  1. Blackpool Sands
  2. Poole, Sandbanks Peninsular
  3. Poole, Shore Road
  4. Poole, Canford Cliffs
  5. Poole, Branksome Chine
  6. Alum Chine
  7. Durley Chine
  8. Fisherman’s Walk
  9. Southbourne
  10. Carbis Bay
  11. Gyllyngvase
  12. Porthmeor
  13. Great Western
  14. Polzeath
  15. Porthtowan
  16. Trevone Bay
  17. Widemouth Bay
  18. Sandy Bay
  19. Challaborough Bay
  20. Swanage Central
  21. Dawlish Warren
  22. Breakwater Beach
  23. Meadfoot Beach
  24. Oddicombe Beach
  25. Westward Ho!
  26. Weymouth Central

The South East has 15 Blue Flag beaches, plus 21 with a Seaside Award, including Brighton Central, as well as Botany Bay and West Wittering – both on our list of top UK spots.

  1. Brighton Central
  2. Hove Lawns
  3. Tankerton
  4. Marina St Leonards
  5. Hayling Island Beachlands
  6. Sheerness Beach
  7. Minster Leas
  8. Leysdown Beach
  9. Minnis Bay
  10. West Bay
  11. St Mildreds
  12. Botany Bay
  13. Margate Main Sands
  14. Stone Bay
  15. West Wittering Beach

Northern England has eight, including Whitby and Blackpool South.

  1. Tynemouth Longsands
  2. King Edwards Bay
  3. Whitley Bay
  4. Sandhaven Beach
  5. Roker
  6. Seaburn
  7. Blackpool South
  8. Whitby

There are 16 Blue Flag beaches in the east of England, including Southwold, Cromer and Central Beach, Skegness.

  1. Ingoldmells South
  2. Central Beach, Mablethorpe
  3. Central Beach, Skegness
  4. Central Beach, Sutton on Sea
  5. Cromer
  6. Sea Palling
  7. Sheringham
  8. Mundesley
  9. East Runton
  10. West Runton
  11. East Beach Shoeburyness
  12. Shoebury Common
  13. Thorpe Bay
  14. Dovercourt Bay
  15. Brightlingsea
  16. Southwold Pier

“Blue Flag and Seaside Awards set the standard for our beaches, including the war against the litter and plastic that does so much damage to our marine environment,” said Allison Ogden-Newton, chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy. “We are committed to creating a great environment on our doorstep for everyone to enjoy and offering a quality mark that shows everyone just how fantastic our beaches can be.”

Beyond England, Wales has 45 Blue Flag beaches – as of 2017; this year’s have not been announced – and Northern Ireland has eight. Scotland, as of last year, has none.

Are young Britons snubbing the UK seaside?

Keep Britain Tidy’s survey suggests that fewer youngster are spending their holidays at the UK seaside.

Domestic holidays are also falling from favour with millennials, according to recent statistics from VisitEngland, which show that 16–34 year olds took 1.4 million fewer holidays at home last year than they did a decade ago.

Factors such as the falling cost of flights to Europe have been cited, as well as a desire for young Britons to spend more on adventurous holidays to far-flung destinations. “[Millennials] often prefer the idea of Europe because it seems more exotic, but is the same price – if not cheaper – than a holiday at home,” said Sherelle Jacobs, Telegraph Travel’s resident millennial travel expert. “With London being the big exception, European city break destinations also tend to be better marketed for cultural weekends.”

About the Author

Leave a Reply

Name (required)

E-mail address (required)


Job Title

Having acknowledged of the Information document, pursuant to art. 23 of Italian Legislative Decree no. 196/2003 as well as art. 58 of Italian Legislative Decree no. 206/2005 (Consumer Code), fully informed of my rights, I give my specific consent to the processing of my personal data for the purposes of sending advertising material, direct sale, market surveys, contests prize, surveys, sending of advertising material and business communications by mail, attached bill, e-mail, fax or phone.

Surname (required)

Your Gender




Having acknowledged of the Information document, pursuant to art. 23 of Italian Legislative Decree no. 196/2003 as well as art. 58 of Italian Legislative Decree no. 206/2005 (Consumer Code), I give my specific consent to the communication of my personal data to third-parties specified in paragraph 5 of the Privacy Information.