Perfect sand and solitude mark out Britain's best beach

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At last, summer is on its way. As temperatures yesterday nudged 20C and Britons cast their minds forward - in hopeful spirits - to a long, hot summer, a guide to England was launched naming the country's 10 best beaches.

The majority of those singled out by the new Rough Guide to England are in the South. Par Beach in St Martin's on the Isles of Scilly took the top spot. As well as being scenic and having "perfect sand", the lack of visitors that keeps this beach quiet and pristine was highlighted by the guide. But Rough Guide's plaudits may change all that.

Cornwall claimed second and third spot with Porthcurno and Polzeath. The former's attractions include an open-air theatre, while Polzeath is popular with surfers.

Another surfer's delight, Woolacombe in north Devon, came fourth, and south Devon's Blackpool Sands was fifth, although the guide warned of overcrowding in summer.

Sixth position went to Studland Bay in Dorset, where three miles of sandy beach are a haven for rare birds and home to two nature reserves. The National Trust's only designated naturist area, Shell Bay, is also here.

England's largest resort, Blackpool, also made it on to the list. Over the past decade, local authorities have cleaned up the seven-mile beaches which, along with donkey rides and amusements, were praised by the guide.

Whitby in North Yorkshire, with its rockpools, lighthouse, piers and prom, was commended as a top spot for families, coming 10th on the list.

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