In his new book, The British Beach Guide, Ian Brighouse takes a deep dive (did you see what we did there?) into the nation’s seaside resorts. Here, he profiles three of Kent’s finest and asks locals what they love about them.



This is a long shingle beach that runs from north of Kingsdown beach past Walmer beach to the town of Deal with its pier, a popular spot for fishing. It is a dog-friendly beach and there are wonderful walks in both directions from Deal. The promenade behind the beach gives an up-market feel to any visit, with smartly presented beach huts. The town itself has many independent shops and businesses. It’s also steeped in history, with a Tudor castle and a part of the town being included in a Conservation Area. There is a slipway for sailing boats and leisure craft. Sea fishing, sailing and swimming in the clean bathing water are also popular.

Dave – ‘I’m originally from London and I’ve always wanted to live by the sea. When I retired, I moved to Deal to be by the sea. There’s just something about the beach, whether it’s stones or the sand is irrelevant, I just seem to be closer to nature and that’s about it.’

Stephen – ‘I love my visits to Deal. I can be down here in no time from London for some much-needed rest and recuperation. When I wake up near to the beach, from my window I hear the pebbles rolling in the sea and smell the fresh air, then out for a walk and breakfast at a local café. It’s all I need and puts me back in my stride.’

Great British Life: One of the cottages on Dungeness beachOne of the cottages on Dungeness beach


Technically classified as the UK’s only desert, Dungeness beach is the second largest shingle formation in the world. It’s a wildlife paradise featuring bats, stoats, marsh frogs, varied birdlife and several RSPB hides, as well as six hundred species of plants and rare insects. There’s a public car park or you can arrive by steam train from Hythe, using the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway. The “patch” or “boil” is a favourite angling spot and bathing isn’t recommended, so this is first and foremost a wildlife destination. Dogs are allowed and there’s a lighthouse, a couple of pubs, fish ‘n chips, plus a plethora of characterful beach shacks, including filmmaker Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage. I recommend a visit to The Old Lighthouse, commissioned in 1904 and de-commissioned in 1960. Standing 46 metres high, the internal mezzanine slate floors and their steel beams are particularly impressive.

Eileen – 'I love the openness of it. I love the sounds, the birds, the seagulls; I love the pebbles and all the different grasses; and then the sea itself, all the different colours in the sea and the contrast with the sky. Here, as well, we have the sound of the Dymchurch Railway and this particular beach is unique, very different from other beaches, it’s very special.'

Caroline – 'I like how calm it is at the beach, very tranquil. For me, it’s very good for the soul and you can come here and breathe the lovely clean air. Every now and then, as the train goes past, you get a lovely smell of the steam from the train coming. It feels very clean here and something about it makes my soul sing.'

Great British Life: The timeless charm of Viking Bay - don't forget your bucket and spadeThe timeless charm of Viking Bay - don't forget your bucket and spade

Viking Bay, Broadstairs

Broadstairs is a quintessential seaside town, with a crescent beach at Viking Bay and a quaint harbour that features fishing boats to the north of the beach. The town is well-to-do and has all the facilities that you’ll need. History is all around you, for example Bleak House, where Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield. There is lifeguard cover in the summer and the bathing water is clean. Down on the beach, below the striking white cliffs, you’ll find children’s rides and characterful beach huts. To top off the setting there is a cliff-side elevator at the southern end of the beach to save any weary legs from the walk up to town. Viking Bay is highly diverse in its attractions and the smartest of a few beaches in and around Broadstairs.

Nathan – ‘As well as a being a constant source of income through the summer for nearly thirty years, this beach means a lot to me. It’s a very family-orientated beach. It’s a beautiful beach and it has a lot of history. It means a lot to a lot of families, who come back to the same chalets every year for generations. In different seasons, the visitors change like the tide, like an ebb and flow of people. When they’re working in London in the Stock Exchange or something and they grew up here and they come back with their millions of pounds and buy a great big house. Yes, it’s a beautiful place.’

Jenny – ‘This is the top corner of Kent and I like the view from the top of the cliff. I have a coffee here every morning. The gardens are clean and tidy. It’s a nice place. It’ll do for me.’

Great British Life: The British Beach Guide by Ian BrighouseThe British Beach Guide by Ian Brighouse

The British Beach Guide by Ian Brighouse is available from, as well as all good bookshops and online retailers, priced at £18.99.