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Heritage Coasts: What are they and why do people visit?

    Heritage Coasts are an integral part of Britain’s tourism industry. What what are they and why do we have them? All is explained in this article…

    What are Heritage Coasts?

    Heritage coasts are stretches of the most beautiful, undeveloped coastline in England. They are managed in order to conserve their natural beauty and, where appropriate, to improve accessibility for visitors. 

    ‘Heritage Coast’ is a definition rather than a designation. This means there is no statutory process when it comes to deciding on a Heritage Coast. They are defined by an agreement between the relevant maritime authorities in that local area, and Natural England.

    Thirty-three per cent (1,057km) of scenic English coastline is conserved as Heritage Coasts.

    The first Heritage Coast to be defined was the famous chalk-white cliffs of Beachy Head in Sussex and the latest is the Durham Coast.

    Now much of the English coastline, such as the sheer cliffs of Flamborough Head and Bempton, with their huge seabird colonies, is protected as part of our coastal heritage.

    Why were Heritage Coasts first established?

    England has so much incredible coastline. It is beautiful, and provides a piece nature to be enjoyed by all.

    Some coastlines are tourist attractions in themselves. Many create jobs because of the need for hotels, restaurants and shops for those that visit, demonstrating the positive economic impacts of tourism.

    Heritage Coasts are important for maintaining wildlife, too!

    The listed purposes of Heritage Coasts are:

    • conserve, protect and enhance: the natural beauty of the coastline; their terrestrial, coastal and marine flora and fauna; their heritage features
    • encourage and help the public to enjoy, understand and appreciate these areas
    • maintain and improve the health of inshore waters affecting heritage coasts and their beaches through appropriate environmental management measures
    • take account of the needs of agriculture, forestry and fishing and the economic and social needs of the small communities on these coasts

    In short, Heritage Coasts were established so that the English coastline could continue to be utilised and enjoyed by generations to come.

    Nature and the country’s beauty are very important – for recreation, for study and for the socio-economics of local communities.

    What does Natural England do to help?

    Natural England is a body who’s purpose is to protect and improve England’s natural environment and encourage people to enjoy and get involved in their surroundings.

    They partner with local maritime authorities in order to define Heritage Coasts.

    They then go on to support these coastlines by:

    • advising government on national planning policy and the link between terrestrial and marine spatial planning.
    • encouraging local authorities to adopt local planning policies to conserve, protect and enhance heritage coasts.
    • promoting the integration of heritage coast purposes and management within AONB and national park management plans where these areas coincide with heritage coasts through their role as a statutory consultee.
    • encouraging local authorities to proactively plan management where heritage coasts are outside of those designated landscapes.
    • working with coastal AONB partnerships and national park authorities to meet its statutory responsibilities and support the conservation and enhancement of those areas.
    • working on the England Coast Path which will create a new national trail around the entire coast of England.

    List of Heritage Coasts in England

    Here is a list of all of the Heritage Coasts in England:

    • North Northumberland Heritage Coast
    • Durham Heritage Coast
    • North Yorkshire & Cleveland Heritage Coast
    • Flamborough Headland Heritage Coast
    • Spurn Heritage Coast 
    • North Norfolk Heritage Coast
    • Suffolk Heritage Coast
    • South Foreland Heritage Coast
    • Dover-Folkestone Heritage Coast
    • Sussex Heritage Coast
    • Tennyson Heritage Coast
    • Hamstead Heritage Coast
    • Purbeck Heritage Coast
    • West Dorset Heritage Coast
    • East Devon Heritage Coast
    • South Devon Heritage Coast
    • Rame Head Heritage Coast 
    • Gribbin Head Heritage Coast
    • The Roseland Heritage Coast
    • The Lizard Heritage Coast
    • Isles of Scilly Heritage Coast
    • Penwith Heritage Coast
    • Godrevy-Portreath Heritage Coast 
    • St Agnes Heritage Coast
    • Trevose Head Heritage Coast
    • Pentire Point Heritage Coast 
    • Hartland Heritage Coast (Cornwall)
    • Hartland Heritage Coast (Devon)
    • Lundy Heritage Coast
    • North Devon Heritage Coast
    • Exmoor Heritage Coast
    • St Bees Head Heritage Coast

    Why should you visit a Heritage Coast?

    There are so many reasons as to why you should visit a Heritage Coast.

    As you can see above, there are so many to choose from too. So if you’re planning a staycation in the UK, be sure to check out some of the reasons for visiting…

    First of all, Heritage Coasts are often the most accessible coastlines.

    Because they have been defined as Heritage Coasts, those with the title are supported in becoming easy to access so that they can be enjoyed by as many people as possible. This means planning a day out is easy!

    Heritage Coasts tend to have their own websites, like this one. This makes it so simple to find public transport options and car parks for wherever you want to go.

    TIP: if you can avoid driving to these areas, then do. Using public transport to visit these beauty spots means less congestion, and it is overall better for the environment

    There is simply so much to see! Heritage Coasts are generally very long stretches of coastline. This means multiple beaches, various different areas to sit and enjoy, long walks to get your heart pumping. Take a book, a picnic or your camera and spend a whole day enjoying whichever coast you choose!

    All of the Heritage Coasts are different, too. Whether you want somewhere to go fishing, somewhere to surf, white cliffs or grassy banks – you can have it all, depending on which coastline you opt to visit.

    The Durham Coast offers fantastic cycle paths, while the Suffolk Coast is home to quaint villages and sandy beaches. The amount of variety when it comes to English coastlines is incredible. No matter what you’re interested in, you’ll find a Heritage Coast that suits you.

    You will often find rare and interesting wildlife at Heritage Coasts around England. There is the opportunity to learn about these animals and birds, too!

    TIP: if you have binoculars, take them with you when heading out to one of the Heritage Coasts. You never know what you might be able to spot…

    Visiting one of these stretches of coastline ultimately contributes to a local economy. Whether it’s a night in a Dorset B&B or fish and chips on the beach in Penwith, a bucket and spade from a colourful stall at Flamborough Headland or an ice cream at Tennyson, you’re participating in tourism.

    A staycation is a brilliant, and often more affordable, way of travelling and there are lots of options for domestic tourism, including a trip to a Heritage Coast. England has so much to offer, and its Heritage Coasts are just a small (and breathtaking) part of that.

    Ultimately, the main reason for visiting a Heritage Coast is that they are beautiful. Some of the best views can be found at one of these spots. They are just amazing places to admire the lush bits of nature that England has to offer.

    The best Heritage Coasts to visit

    Each one of the Heritage Coasts has something different to offer. But there are some that are just a must-see, if you can. Here are some of the best places to go…

    Beachy Head

    Heritage Coasts
    Beachy Head, Sussex

    The very first Heritage Coast, Beachy Head is a chalk headland in East Sussex. It forms part of the Sussex Heritage Coast on the above list. With pure white cliffs that contrast against azure skies in summer, this is a truly breathtaking area. The views are incredible and there is some fascinating history in the area.


    Heritage Coasts
    Tennyson, Isle of Wight

    On the Isle of Wight, Tennyson is ideal for country walks. The views over the rippling blue waters are an added bonus! With all sorts of wildlife and nature to explore while walking along the coast, this is the perfect place for springtime jaunts.


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    Cornwall has some of the most beautiful English beaches…

    Sparkling turquoise waters and waves good enough for surfing? This is the place for you. Cornwall is stunning and has so much to offer, and Penwith is a brilliant part of the region. With lovely beaches and the opportunity to engage in plenty of water sports, you’ll never get bored if this is your Heritage Coast of choice!

    St. Bees Head

    Located in Cumbria, St. Bees Head supports the only cliff-nesting seabird colony in the northwest of England. Moody scenic views and red sandstone bluff make up this dramatic area of coastline. It is the only Heritage Coast between the Welsh and Scottish borders! It is also Site of Special Scientific Interest, and there is so much natural life to admire and examine here.

    South Foreland

    Heritage Coasts
    South Forteland, Kent

    With more breathtaking white cliffs and rocky beaches, South Foreland lies on the coast of Kent. There are history trails and cycle paths as well as the iconic lighthouse. This part of the country is stunning and ideal for long walks in pure fresh air.

    To conclude: Heritage Coasts

    As you can see, that are plenty of reasons to visit a British Heritage Coast! Whether you are an international visitor to the UK or a domestic tourist, you will be sure to love these beautiful areas. Be warned though- England isn’t known for its warm weather, so pack a jumper!