Britain is so bracing! Visitors shun Europe and flock to our traditional seaside resorts

Almost a quarter of us will take a break within the UK this weekend, lured by good food, sandy beaches and sea air
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The Independent Online

Bye bye Barcelona, so long Sorrento: Britons are rediscovering the joys of mini-breaks in the nation's revitalised resorts. A combination of good food, sandy beaches, the absence of airport hassle and the bracing air of fashionability means that this weekend seven times as many Britons will be heading to the seaside as are jetting to foreign climes.

Bye bye Barcelona, so long Sorrento: Britons are rediscovering the joys of mini-breaks in the nation's revitalised resorts. A combination of good food, sandy beaches, the absence of airport hassle and the bracing air of fashionability means that this weekend seven times as many Britons will be heading to the seaside as are jetting to foreign climes.

And just in time to reinforce the trend, airport baggage handlers and check-in staff have voted to strike in a pay dispute. Unions warn of chaos at the UK's biggest airports after GMB members backed industrial action in protest at a 2.5 per cent pay offer. Weymouth and Whitby have never looked so beguiling.

This weekend 23 per cent of Britons are planning to take a domestic holiday, according to the tourist organisation Visit Britain. Between us we took 135 million holiday trips at home last year and spent more than £20bn.

So many of us are taking to the nation's roads that the AA is predicting 50,000 breakdowns over the holiday period. Even more traffic will be around in some areas because of the West Coast Main Line's biggest closure in 40 years.

These travel problems are unlikely to deter holidaymakers from visiting seaside resorts. For many Britons, a trip to the seaside is more relaxing than a long weekend in a European city - whatever the travel chaos on road or rail.

As Malcolm Bell, chief executive of South West Tourism puts it, a holiday in the UK means "you can be at the seaside before you would have taken off".

It's certainly an angle they're pushing in Whitstable. The "pearl of Kent" has seen a 10 per cent rise in visitor numbers this year. In recent years the area has boomed, culturally as well as economically. The town has become a favourite haunt of Jarvis Cocker and Jamie Oliver - the latter no doubt attracted by its numerous oyster restaurants.

According to Jane Lovell, the region's tourism development officer, Whitstable has become popular with the "down-from-London crowd". "That seaside feeling still sells. It's the mixture of arts, food, culture, architecture and that sea shanty feel. It really is very Dickensian."

Brighton and Hove has traditionally been seen as the Londoners' ideal seaside getaway. This weekend, the city expects 100,000 people each day. At the other end of the south coast, Padstow and Rock in Cornwall are also booming. A combination of good surf and fine food has seen the two towns pick up 15 per cent of Cornwall's visitors.

The picture is similar in the north. In Whitby, tourists are set to outnumber locals three to one over the Bank Holiday weekend. "Whitby has a maritime heritage, an ecclesiastical heritage with the Abbey, and we're also the gateway to the North York moors," said Steve Hollingworth, head of tourism for Scarborough Borough Council.

The town has retained its old charm, claims Mr Hollingworth, rather than being modernised. "The café society associated with places like Brighton and Bournemouth hasn't come to Whitby yet."

Brighton

What it was like: Bolt-hole of Prince Regent that became London's seaside getaway venue with saucy "dirty weekend" reputation.

What it is now: Parts look like Croydon-on-Sea but it is a bustling city with trendy independent clothes shops and a thriving gay scene.

Who you're likely to see: Fatboy Slim, comedians Steve Coogan and Julian Clary, and artist Tony Hart.

Padstow and Rock

What it was like: Cornish fishing villages surrounded by holiday homes and retirement bungalows much favoured by ex-Navy types.

What it is now: It has built a huge restaurant business off the back of its fresh seafood. Rock has turned into Chelsea-on-Sea.

Who you're likely to see: Rick Stein, Princes William and Harry larking about with posh mates on the beach in Rock.

Whitby

What it was like: Family seaside resort and fishing port based either side of river mouth.

What it is now: Still has arcades and first-class chippies. South of the river there are good shops and galleries. It has a new attraction - the HMS Bark Endeavour, a replica of Captain Cook's ship.

Who you're likely to see: Gwyneth Paltrow has filmed there, while Mick Fleetwood is a regular at a local pub.

Whitstable

What it was like: Traditional fishing port famous for its oysters, and a great beach for shell collectors.

What it is now: Achingly trendy artist community, beach huts now sell for more than £100,000; lots of fine seafood restaurants, vibrant cultural scene.

Who you're likely to see: Jamie Oliver, Jarvis Cocker, and Tracey Emin in nearby Margate.

Bournemouth

What it was like: The UK'S largest retirement home, and home to many a political conference.

What it is now: Restyled as "BoMo', clubbers' paradise, mecca for international students and proud owner of the UK's best beach.

Who you're likely to see: Radio 1 DJ Sara Cox is often around, plus actress Martine McCutcheon.

Weymouth

What it was like: Where George III became first monarch to use a bathing machine. In 1950s became chintzy boarding house resort.

What it is now: Home to top-quality seafood restaurants and lots of sailing, all set amid one of the best-preserved and restored Regency seaside resorts in Britain.

Who you're likely to see: Lots of people use it as a base for walking. Martin Clunes and Billy Bragg live nearby and are regular visitors.

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