England and Wales Heritage Coasts were established in 1972 to conserve the best stretches of undeveloped coast in England and Wales. Many of these coastal stretches are part of larger National Parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), and the average protected area extends inland for an average of 2.4km (1.5 miles) which means these are not just about beaches but include the whole coastline.
Although not statutorily protected, they are defined by a formal agreement between the relevant local authorities and Natural England or the Countryside Council for Wales.
Officially it is said “that Heritage coasts have been established to:
- 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“
We don’t need to get hung up on the details or on what they aim to or have achieved but all of these points are a win-win for those of us who love the coastline and want to see it as near to natural as we can.
You must be wondering where did it all start?
The first heritage coast was Beachy Head (picture to the right) with its famous white cliffs. Currently a third (1,057 km) of the English coastline and nearly 50% (495 km) of the Welsh coastline, have been defined as heritage coast. South Wales, Devon and Cornwall have more heritage coastline per km than other regions, including over 50% of the coast between Cardiff and St Davids, approximately 60% of Cornwall’s and Devon’s coast.
We list the areas below with links into our main guide, in some cases we just point you at a relevant spot on the stretch of coast for you to then explore.
England Heritage Coast List
England heritage coasts clockwise around the English coastline starting from Kent:
- South Foreland, Kent
- Dover-Folkestone, Kent
- Sussex (South Downs National Park)
- Tennyson Down, Isle of Wight (east of Needles to Freshwater Bay)
- Hamstead, Isle of Wight
- Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site includes 3 heritage coast stretches:
- South Devon (Brixham to Wembury)
- Rame Head, Cornwall
- Gribbin Head-Polperro, Cornwall
- The Roseland, Cornwall
- The Lizard, Cornwall
- The Isles of Scilly
- Penwith, Cornwall
- Godrevy-Portreath, Cornwall
- St Agnes, Cornwall
- Trevose Head, Cornwall
- Pentire Point – Widemouth, Cornwall
- Hartland, Cornwall (just above Bude to the North Cornish border with Devon)
- Hartland, Devon
- Lundy, Devon
- Exmoor, Somerset
- St. Bees Head, Cumbria
- North Yorkshire and Cleveland (mostly within North York Moors National Park)
- Flamborough Headland, East Riding of Yorkshire
- Spurn, East Riding of Yorkshire
- North Norfolk
Wales Heritage Coast List
Wales heritage coasts listed clockwise around Welsh coastline starting in the south:
- Gower, Swansea (Gower AONB)
- Pembrokeshire National Park includes 6 heritage coast stretches:
- Llyn, Gwynedd (Llyn AONB)
- Isle of Anglesey AONB:
- Great Orme, Llandudno, Conwy