London may be ranked number one when it comes to cool capitals, but when it’s hot in the city most Londoners would rather be anywhere else.
When the sun has got its hat on, we hop on the nearest train and head to the coast.
There’s something about a British seaside that Londoners lap up. Maybe it’s because we’re used to being packed like sardines on a tube every day that we have a spiritual affinity with our salty coastline. We happily swap Michelin-starred cuisine for fish and chips and Olivier Award-winning plays for Punch and Judy. Who needs The Tate when you can get a street artist to draw your caricature? So, apart from nostalgia, what’s the appeal of the Great British seaside?
The seafront reeks with the smell of hot-fat-fried, sugar-dusted donuts and it’s festooned with clear plastic bags of cloudy pink candyfloss. But there’s more to coastal dining than neon rock and soggy chips served in a Styrofoam box. The Brighton and Hove Food and Drink Festival has been rated by the New York Post as one of the world’s leading local food events. It celebrates local gastronomy at various galas throughout the year as well as regular monthly events.
And in Whitstable, Kent the humble native oyster comes out of its shell during the now famous oyster festival held during the last weekend of July. Paddling No-one really goes to a British beach to swim in the sea but the water is the seaside’s ultimate appeal.
That’s because we all love a wee paddle. Socks off, trousers rolled to knee height while running gleefully up to the water’s edge. There’s nothing (apart from queuing) that screams BRIT as loudly.
You can stroll along the Prom all you like, but every good seasider knows that the real action takes place on the pier.
Britain has loads of piers – some towns even boast more than one. There’s a real danger that this unique element of our holiday heritage may one day be lost, but for now the pier gives the seaside its edge. Southend, a mere 40 miles from London, boasts Britain’s longest pier. While nearby Clacton’s pier has seen plenty of action, including a casino and a display of dolphins and killer whales, up until 1985. These days most piers boast huge halls crammed with arcade games, kiosks selling traditional seaside fare and, if you’re lucky, a health and safety-defying helter skelter.
Image source: The Nick Page
Finally, a trip to the seaside would not be complete without at least one round of crazy golf. The British Minigolf Association reckons around a million people in the UK play the game every year. Swing down to Hastings (less than a two-hour train ride from Waterloo) and experience the spiritual home of crazy golf. It has three world-class seafront courses and hosts the World Crazy Golf Championships every October.
It’s no Ryder Cup but the winner will take home a not-too-shabby £1,000 prize.
Image source: EEPaul