UK Beach Metal Detecting is a complicated affair regarding where you can and can’t go, and caution must be on the top of your mind when finding a beach location as you legally cannot metal detect on the vast majority of UK land without permission from the owner. As the metal detector, you are responsible for ensuring that you comply with the law.
Which UK beaches allow metal detecting?
In England and Wales, beach detecting is allowed on beaches owned by the Crown Estate. Likewise, beach detecting is allowed in Scotland on beaches owned by Crown Estate Scotland. No permit is necessary to metal detect Crown Estate beaches between the MHW (mean high water) and MLW (mean low water) marks.
Although we say you can detect on the Crown Estate, there is an exception where a beach is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). It would be best if you assumed that detecting on an SSSI is not permitted as they are protected areas. However, you can check with Natural England or NatureScot to clarify whether detecting is allowed.
The National Trust looks after 780 miles of the UK coastline, and unfortunately, they have a blanket ban on metal detecting.
In addition to the above, you then have private beaches or beaches leased from the Crown Estate, where you will need to contact the owner to understand if they do or don’t allow detecting on their beach. Private beaches are sometimes owned by nearby holiday parks or other hospitality businesses, and that should be your starting point for finding someone to ask.
Where on a beach to metal detect?
We give some hints here on where to detect on a beach, but remember to consider the local permissions as some areas may not be allowed.
- Dry Sand Area
The first area is the dry sand part of the beach, where digging is easy since it is not wet, and you can sift it quickly with your beach scoop. When looking for the best spot, look for disturbed sand or shaded areas where groups may have camped out for the day.
- The Towel Line
The towel line is where seagoers sunbathe as they break between entering the water. As the tide comes in, visitors who misjudge may need to make a quick move, and this area can mean great finds, although you can also get a lot of rubbish.
- Wet Sand Line
The wet sand line is the default permissible area between low and high tide water lines. This area is typically compact wet sand and can be harder for detectors, although as the tides come in and out, the beach can change significantly from day to day.
- Storm Damage
This is a particular case in that winter storms can cause damage to cliffs or significant shifting of the sand. This can expose areas unseen for years, although care should be taken under unstable cliffs.
A beach’s dry and wet areas will have salt content, which can be challenging for an entry-level detector set-up where you may need to settle with the dry sand areas with lower salt impacts.
When metal detecting on a beach, the most critical element is understanding the tide times as you want to attend at the best time that balances the beach’s accessibility but with fewer holidaymakers. On Coast Radar, to help with your planning, our beach search pages give you seven-day tide times and a seven-day weather outlook.
What to be aware of when beach metal detecting
Don’t forget to check the tides before any visit, as you don’t want a beach underwater or have a chance of being cut off as the tide comes in.
It would be best to hold appropriate public liability insurance, report significant findings, and, most importantly, leave the beach as you found it by re-instating any holes. You will want to remove your finds, but if you collect rubbish, please take this to a local bin.
Always wear headphones on the beach to block out external sounds like the wind, waves, radios and beachgoers. Others on the beach will also be saved from your constant beeping. In addition, we also need to respect others and their personal space, so we suggest arriving early in the day before other visitors or as they pack up and go home.
If you find anything while metal detecting, you should report your findings to the landowner and with their agreement to the Portable Antiquities Scheme.
For further information, please check with the National Council for Metal Detecting NCMD), especially their Code of Practice.
Metal detecting as a hobby is all about enjoyment and the possibility of finding that unique item. There is no point in putting yourself in a bad position with landowners. However, as hard as this may seem, you can metal detect on a lot of beaches. Below we add some useful links to help you get more details:
- Crown Estate allow, and they have a Foreshore and Estuary Ownership Map.
- National Trust bans metal detecting, and you can check NT coastal information.
- Cornwall metal detecting beaches cornwall.gov.uk
- Devon metal detecting beaches eastdevon.gov.uk
- Isle of Wight metal detecting beaches iow.gov.uk
- For Wales, see detectingwales.com
- For UK Beach information, see our UK Beach Guides.