Top universities for gorgeous beaches
Do you like to be beside the seaside? If so, a number of UK universities are ideally placed for spending your weekends and summer evenings on the beach – or even nipping down between lectures. Your ideal location will depend upon which stretch of the UK’s fine and varied coast takes your fancy – as well as the usual things to consider when choosing a university, of course.
Aberystwyth is a market town of 15,000 people; the nearest good-sized city is Swansea, over 70 miles away. But if Aberystwyth isn’t the king of urban pizzazz it’s the queen of cliff-top walks with – on a clear day – mountain views to the north and west, and there in front of you Cardigan (Ceredigion) Bay. It’s the biggest bay in Wales dotted with treasures such as the fishing port of Aberaeron (a bus ride away to the south), and the occasional school of dolphins. The coastal railway north from Aberystwyth has stunning views.
Car-owning Bangor students (with spare cash for petrol) will have the pleasure of miles of incredible coastline, as will their car-sharing friends. This is Wales, where the view of the sea often includes a view of the Snowdonia mountains. Drive south to Porthdinllaen down the Llŷn Peninsula and sup at the Ty Coch Inn, possibly the pub with the best view in Britain.
But bus connections to the main, local coast towns are good and on the doorstep of the university is the Menai Strait – a narrow stretch of tidal water between mainland Wales and the island of Anglesey. The view back to the mainland from coastpath around the latter is superb.
Bournemouth is at the posh end of Britain’s seaside resorts. Within a hop, skip and a jump of the town centre is a sandy beach whose length and width gladdens the heart of any owner of a four star B&B – or a student wanting to lounge around. Majestic flower beds lead to it.
Bournemouth also has a number of chines – these are steep-sided river valleys that lead to the shore. Nearby are the wildlife haven at Hengistbury Head and the sand dunes of Studland Bay on the largest natural harbour in Europe.
University of Chichester
An ailing King George V may have said no to the benefits of West Sussex sea air but, sadly, his final words weren’t ‘Bugger Bognor’.
But why be rude about this small, traditional seaside town – dominated by Butlins Holiday camp and now home to one of the two campuses for the University of Chichester? It’s just a five minute stroll from the university to the where the waves make that great sound as they break on the pebble beach.
If wide sands and windsurfing are more to your liking, not far from the Bognor campus and the main Chichester campus is West Wittering beach, which comes up in most ‘Best UK Beach’ reports.
South Cornwall has quiet, lovely beaches; North Cornwall has TV chefs, Atlantic swells and a near seamless stretch of craggy coastline owned by the National Trust. Falmouth is ideally located to explore both. It’s 24 miles south of surfing mecca Newquay but only a 15-minute walk from the town centre to Gyllyngvase, a long crescent of golden sands and one of the most popular beaches in Cornwall.
And you’re very close to the Roseland Peninsula, whose shores tick all the idyllic boxes: pale sands, cool and clear waters, and enough cute coves to have you oohing and taking pictures of for hours.
University of St Andrews
Check out a map of the Scottish sea town of St Andrews in the county of Fife and you’ll see that its world famous golf courses cover a larger area than the town itself. It’s said to be the home of the sport.
But if, like the American writer Mark Twain, you think that golf is a good walk spoiled, there are plenty of proper strolls to be had along the three long, wide, sandy and dune-backed beaches right next to Scotland’s oldest university.
If you fancy a remote ramble and rougher terrain, walk the coast from town to Fife Ness – but there are good views along the whole stretch of the Fife coastal path.
University of Sussex/University of Brighton
Brighton’s pebble beach has been ‘upgraded’ with millions of tons of sand imported from Barbados. The council call Brighton ‘London by the sea’ but the showy and arty café culture that stretches along the shore makes the place feel like Barcelona too. And the police get around on roller blades just like they do in San Francisco – the other place with which Brighton’s been compared.
Brighton has two universities: The University of Sussex and the University of Brighton. The campus for the University of Sussex is in Falmer, seven kilometres away on the outskirts of Brighton. Public transport is very good from there to the seafront by train or by bus. Its location is the easier one for driving to other coast resorts, unless you want to take the slower coast road. The University of Brighton is in Brighton and you can walk to the beach. This university also has centres close to the shores of the neighbouring resorts of Eastbourne and Hastings.
East of Brighton, the chalk hills of the South Downs meet the English Channel at Edwardian beauty spots such as Ditchling Beacon and Seven Sisters. If you wanted to sit by the coast wearing a straw hat and eating from a hamper you couldn’t wish for a nicer spot.
In Swansea terms, the Mumbles isn’t an attack of talking inaudibly; it’s just one of the many breathtaking stretches of Swansea Bay there for students to enjoy. And it’s a short ride from the campus by bus.
Its key feature is an epically wide and long sandy shoreline whose otherworldly scale is such that you may be on a beach on Saturn – if that planet was good for paddling. It’s little surprise that the BBC unit in Cardiff has popped to Swansea Bay to shoot emotional scenes for Dr Who.
To the west is Rhossili Bay, rated by Tripadvisor as Best British Beach and among the website’s top ten beaches in the world. There is public transport from Swansea to Rhossili but it’s far quicker to get to by car. At forty-five degrees to Rhossili is the Worm’s Head, a sea-serpent-shaped promontory. From the top there are great views along the beach, where the hills swoop down to meet three miles of glorious sands.