Contestable though it may be, we choose our 5 best beaches in Europe, based on many summers of arduous research.
What makes a beach one of ‘the best’?
Having spent a disproportionate amount of my childhood shivering behind a windbreaker next to Southsea pier – a place that lacks all the necessary ingredients, including sand – I decided early on that clement weather, the relative scarcity of semi-clad English people and water temperatures above freezing are all high on the tick list.
Some years later, Dr Dimitiros Buhalis, a senior lecturer in tourism at Surrey University, devised a mathematical formula to answer the question. He probed the public for factors they considered essential, and created a formula. The resulting list included all the old favourites, from the Tuscan Riviera, to Tarifa in Spain, St Ives in Cornwall, and Las Salinas in Ibiza.
Mathmatically speaking, that’s an end to it. But we can’t help thinking that (A x W) + 2 [E x C x V] + v [ F x S ] divided by (T)+(TC),* slightly kills the joy of it all.
This is our unashamedly subjective list.
5 of the Best Beaches in Europe:
Scarista, Isle of Harris, Scotland
The Hebrides. It’s not an obvious choice, but that’s the beauty of it. This empty beach is lapped by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, and has three (usually) deserted miles of sand. With views of heather-clad hills and the Isle of Taransay, this is a perfect place to cosy up under clear skies and watch a fiery sunset. Stick to August and September unless you want to sunbathe in a cagoule.
Image via Conde Nast Traveller.
Plage de Saleccia, Corsica
This tiny, wild and secluded 1km curve of opal-white sand is very hard to get to. Perfect. That means you’ll probably find yourselves alone, snorkelling across a stretch of gin-clear sea that does blue hues on a par with the tropics. Take a boat from St Florent to Plage du Loto, from which it’s a 30-minute stroll; or hire mountain bikes and bump down the track from Casta. The impressive backdrop of dunes and rocks are great for exploring.
Baia delle Zagara, Puglia, Italy
The Gargano coast is not short on postcard bays, but this one is our favourite by far. So the limestone cliffs mean it’s propelled into shade for much of the morning and you have to go through the eponymous hotel to get to it (unless you’re on a boat, of course), but it’s worth it to stroll, swim and chill out on this long, slim stretch of pristine pebbled beach.
Image via Hotel Baia delle Zagara.
Falsterbo, Skåne, Sweden
Sweden does either kitsch or chic beach, and this one falls firmly into the latter. On the southwestern tip of Sweden, Falsterbo has icing sugar sand which perfectly sets off a string of brightly painted beach huts. No motorboats or jet skis are allowed so the place is quiet and calm, perfect for a laid back family adventure.
Image: John Sander/Imagebank Sweden
With an extensive coastline and plethora of islands, Croatia has beautiful beaches ad infinitum, of which Bol on the island of Brac is the best known. But, like many things, it’s shy, quiet Brela just over the water that holds far more appeal. Without the crowds, families can sail, swim and picnic on the beach as well as exploring the private coves, clambering over rocks and climbing pine trees.
Image via Brela Tourist Board
GETTING READY FOR SUMMER?
Lydia Gard is editor of Mr Fox. She has two boys aged 3 and 6. If, like her, you’re a sucker for a formula, you’ll want to know that the best beach equation relies on: A=quality of beach, W=weather, E=entertainment, C=culture, V=activities, F=familiarity and friendliness, S=shopping, T=time to destination in hours, TC=total cost as a percentage of annual income. Lydia tweets @mrfoxmag. Find her on Instagram @mrfoxmag.