Things to do this Christmas across England's Coast
From blustery Boxing Day walks and sea swims to clear out the cobwebs, to gift ideas with a difference and charming coastal staycations, discover the many ways to celebrate the festive season over the coming weeks and support our much-loved coastal businesses across every part of England’s rich, varied and beautiful coastline.
Find the best things to do in each region around England this Christmas
Wherever you are in England you're never far from the coast, scroll down to find an area near you and plan your Christmas activities!
Meet Father Christmas and the reindeer at Bamburgh Castle Northumberland has more castles than any other county in England, and one of its most iconic is Bamburgh Castle, a magical spot with spectacular coastal views and two thousand years of exhilarating history. The castle hosts a very special Christmas Experience 16 December to 3 January, for lucky children to meet Father Christmas in his workshop and visit the reindeer. For those who are unable to visit Father Christmas in person, a virtual grotto experience will bring him into front rooms around the country.
Get lost in one of the largest second-hand book shops in the UK – Barter Books, Alnwick The characterful and wonderfully-restored Barter Books, housed within Alnwick’s grand Victorian station, is a wonderful spot to spend an afternoon searching for unique gifts. Browse the book columns, poetry section and fascinating antiquarian book room; relax and dip into a book by one of the open log fires; watch the model railway zip around the store; and have a bite to eat in the Station Café with its excellent bakes, teas and coffees.
Take a Twixmas walk on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne Skim over the sands and causeway to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne and prepare to enter another world. Lying just a few miles off the Northumberland coast, Holy Island is cut off twice-daily from the rest of the world by fast-moving tides. Both an island and a picturesque village, Holy Island carries a wealth of history within its tidal walls, including the 12th century Lindisfarne Priory, the epicentre of Christianity in Anglo Saxon times.
Durham and the North East
Give the gift of five-star escapism and wellness with Seaham Hall gift vouchers Five-star boutique hotel and spa, Seaham Hall, on the Durham Heritage Coastline, has it all wrapped up – history, hot tubs, pampering, fine dining, outdoor exhilaration, and – the best bit – it all comes in one posh envelope. Gift a loved one with a choice of overnight stays, spa packages and dining at this beautiful Georgian mansion hotel. The hotel boasts 37 acres of grounds, 21 individually -decorated suites, a 44,000 sq ft award-winning Serenity Spa with Pan-Asian restaurant and Zen Garden with an infinity hydrotherapy pool, as well as the recently-relaunched Dining Room, serving the fine local produce in a decadent setting. View the full range of gift vouchers here, starting from just £25.
A Boxing Day walk along the Durham Coast Durham’s coast is home to a dramatic stretch of designated heritage coastline, overflowing with wildlife, magnificent beaches, cobweb-clearing clifftop walks, and dramatic panoramic views across the North Sea. Follow the coast’s contours striking out along the Heritage Coast Footpath, stretching from Seaham in the North to Crimdon in the South on a twisting 11-mile path which takes in the lively harbour town of Seaham where Lord Byron once resided, as well as Nose’s Point, Hawthorn Dene and Easington Beach Banks, which have emerged from their industrial past to become a haven for wildlife and rare fauna and flora.
Enjoy a sweet treat at a 1950s ice cream parlour After an energetic walk along the Durham Coast, indulge in a decadent sundae or dessert the fabulous family-run Lickety Split, a charming 1950s style ice cream parlour and juice bar, which has twice won the UK National Ice Cream Competition for its fabulous ice cream made on site. (N.B. County Durham is currently in tier 3 and ice cream can be purchased for takeaway until Lickety Split reopens).
The freshest seafood fit for a New Year’s Eve Banquet
Treat your bubble to a New Year’s Day feast featuring seafood from world-famous smokehouse Fortunes, a unique family business on Craster Island which has been producing the legendary ‘Craster Kippers’ and superb smoked salmon for almost 100 years. The 150-year old family fish smokery in the pretty port of Whitby on the North Yorkshire coast is run by fifth generation members of the Fortune family, who smoke kippers (herring), salmon and bacon, and produce kipper paté. Buy in store at Fortunes, in Whitby.
A night-time dark sky walk on the North York Moors
Most of us go for a walk during daylight hours, but the walks led by Alison Goodwin at Adventures for the Soul are a little different. Alison runs twilight and night-time “awe walks” along the coast: ‘What I do is different to a standard nature walk,’ she explains. ‘It’s about reconnecting to nature but we’re not just looking for deer or birds. It’s extremely calming for the mind.’ Head torches are provided but at points Alison – who is assisted by Fabian Seymour from AFS Mountaineering) – asks guests to switch these off and just stand, listen and look at the night sky. The absence of light pollution on the moor means this can be truly breath-taking. Alison is running a series of guided Awe Walks and Mystery Twilight Walks throughout December and into the new year.
A scenic rail journey day trip along the Cumbrian coast
The Cumbrian Coast Line is one of the most scenic and underrated routes in Britain, and the perfect way to explore the great outdoors and the spectacular Cumbrian coastline without a car. This journey – which is three-hours non-stop but can be easily broken up – offers fine walks, stirring views and great pubs. Highlights include the Senhouse Roman museum in Maryport; a bracing walk up to the headland in St Bees for incredible views across to the Lake District; the tiny seaside medieval village of Ravenglass; the 13th century Muncaster Castle with its secret doors and ghost stories; and Victorian seaside town Grange-over-Sands with a mile-long promenade and excellent food offerings – try The Estuary bistro serving tapas such as Bury black pudding and langoustines, and the award-winning Higginsons Butchers where choice picks include lamb reared on the adjacent salt marshes.
STAY: Rest your head at the Pennington Hotel in Ravenglass, a lovely, cosy hotel that is part of the historic Muncaster Castle Estate and overlooks the beautiful estuary. From £119 per night, room only.
Sea swimming on the Cumbrian Coast There may not be any of the usual organised Christmas Day or New Year’s Day swims happening across the country this year, but hardy swimmers shouldn’t let that stop them! The Cumbrian coast offers a wealth of quiet, underexplored beaches with beautiful backdrops, perfect for a festive – and very chilly – swim. Stretching out below a dramatic headland looking out to the Isle of Man, St Bees is a magnificent mile-long sandy beach, arguably the best in the western Lake District coast and one of the cleanest in the country. Just make sure to travel with a friend or family member for safety, take plenty of layers to wrap up warm in afterwards, and a flask of tea or hot chocolate to enjoy post-swim.
Continuing around the coast with things to do this Christmas!
Moving South, from the East coast down to the South West Coast - keep reading for your perfect Christmas activity!
The English coast offers some of the world’s very best seafood, and none more abundant than on the East Coast – there are cockles from Leigh-on-Sea, oysters from Mersea Island, Cromer Crab from Norfolk, fish huts along Aldeburgh Beach to buy the day’s wide-ranging fresh catch, and excellent local seafood restaurants in which to enjoy them. Discover where to buy and sample them on the Seafood Coast website, and plan your festive fish feast.
A cultural walk in Lincolnshire Enjoy a slightly different post-lunch festive walk; the Structures on the Edge project in Lincolnshire is a series of small-scale coastal art and architecture installations along the 10-mile stretch of coast between Chapel St. Leonards and Mablethorpe, including various platforms, havens, shelters and look-out points which encourage walkers to appreciate and enjoy the coastal environment.
A Christmas shopping jaunt in the traditional seaside town of Southwold, Suffolk
With its sandy beach, famous pier, pretty harbour, and beach-hut lined promenade, the picturesque seaside town of Southwold is a lovely spot for a pre-Christmas stroll and a spot of Christmas shopping. Browse gorgeous independent gift shops as well as delis selling great local produce and stop off at the world-famous Adnams Brewery and Distillery to pick up your festive ales and IPAs, and even a Christmas pudding made with Adnams Broadside Beer.
Escape to the vibrant East Sussex coastal town of Hastings for a revitalising break over New Year. There’s lots to discover – such as its bohemian ‘old town’ filled with antique shops and independent boutiques, the Norman ruins of Hastings Castle – once home to William the Conqueror, the fantastic Hastings Contemporary Art Gallery, Hastings Fisherman’s Museum (with free entry), the steepest funicular railway in England which opened in 1902, a wonderful shingle beach with a renovated pier and Europe’s largest beach-launched fishing launch – an impressive spectacle, and a superb food and drink offering including the excellent Rock a Nore Kitchen serving ‘boat to plate’ dishes.
STAY: Boreham House is a luxurious five-star bed & breakfast, and adjoining self-catering cottage, set within a grade II listed Georgian house. Overlooking magnificent views of the Sussex countryside in an AONB, the cottage is a 25-minute drive from Hastings. A two-night stay at Boreham House self-catering cottage costs from £202 for two people, or £230 for a family of four.
Shop for eclectic Christmas gifts at Kent’s world-class art galleries
For bright pink lobster baubles, Christmas crafting kits, Tracey Emin’s exclusive fine bone chinaware collection, and prints from local artists, head to the Turner Contemporary website where you can shop online until the Margate gallery reopens in February 2021. Meanwhile in Deal, the excellent Don’t Walk Walk is an independent artist-run space boasting a “punk rock ethic”, with a working studio, screen-printing facility, and gallery showcasing 20 emerging talents in painting, printmaking, illustration, photography and sculpture, available to purchase online and in store.
Twixmas mountain biking in the South Downs National Park
The South Downs offers an abundance of fast open trails, heart pumping downhills, and spectacular landscapes. Hire mountain or e-mountain bikes from Chalkpit Trails Cycle Hire in Amberley (a short walk from the train station), and head straight for the South Downs Way right on the doorstep, exploring the chalky trails, rolling hills, and incredible long distance views. From £45 for a full day’s bike hire.
Walk a section of the South West Coast Path along the Jurassic Coast Get your dose of awe on a walk along a section of the 95-mile dramatic Jurassic Coast, taking in the fascinating rock formations of this World Heritage Site including Old Harry Rocks, Lulworth Cove, Durdle Door, Man O’War Beach and Chesil Beach. Search for fossils, admire geological features, take in rugged, rocky landscapes, and witness abundant birdlife.
Wild adventures on the Jurassic Coast Get closer to nature with outdoors adventures such as sea kayaking, paddle boarding, sea foraging and feasting, kayak fishing and bushcraft with Fore / Adventure, based in Studland on the Jurassic Coast. Run by Jade and Dan and their helpful team of outdoor adventurers who love the coast, the woods and getting their hands dirty, the company allows budding adventurers to get closer to nature and experience freedom and a sense of escapism. Support this fabulous local business with Christmas vouchers for the adventurer in your life (most activities available March to October).
Stay in the ‘Pearl of Dorset’ – Lyme Regis The historic seafront town of Lyme Regis is the ideal base for exploring all that Dorset has to offer over the festive period. Stay in the Old Lyme Guest House in the heart of Lyme Regis, a glorious 17th century property made of Blue Lias stone, just a three-minute walk from the seafront and and yards from the recently-restored Town Mill Artisan Quarter with its working water wheel, Lyme Regis Micro Brewery, art galleries, pottery and restaurants. An overnight stay costs from £95 per room per night. Axminster is the closest train station, with bus links to Lyme Regis.
Explore Medieval Dunster, Somerset One of the most intact Medieval villages in England, Dunster is huddled in the foothills of Exmoor National Park and overlooked by its own craggy castle. During December, the air laden with the welcoming smells of mince pies and freshly baked cakes – and the charming main street winds its way slowly uphill, its shops draped in Christmas decorations. There is a wealth of history to discover, including the remains of a Benedictine priory, a working watermill and Iron Age settlements. Explore the iconic Yarn Market area and pop into Made in Dunster which features seasonal gifts made in the next-door workshop along with local art works, and the Dunster Deli, an outstanding supplier of pies, cheeses and other Christmas foodie treats. For a light bite, the Chapel House Tea Room serves excellent home-made scones and bakes, to enjoy while relaxing on its quirky mismatched furniture.
STAY: Retire to the Yarn Market Hotel, a family-run hotel which oozes character and boasts the excellent Gables restaurant, using local produce from the wonderful Exmoor bounty on its doorstep. This pet-friendly property boasts a boot drying room and maps are readily available – as well as local knowledge – for planning hikes on Exmoor.
A Boxing Day Walk on Exmoor with literary links A winter walk in Exmoor National Park can be spectacular, with sunsets flooding the channel and hill tops peaking out above low mists as the temperature drops. A good choice for a short walk is to take a stretch of the long-distance Coleridge Way from Porlock to the hamlets of Culborne and Oare. The trail is named for the English Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who is said to have written Kubla Khan at a farm along this stretch of coast, and also passes through the Doone Valley, which has its own literary links with the eponymous Lorna Doone, a lusty 19th century romance by RD Blackmore. The walk shows off Somerset wonderfully across moors and woodland with fine views of the area’s distinctive combes (a local term for a valley).