Beach shacks call to mind strings of seashells, pastel-coloured clapboard, lobster pots and the feeling of sunshine on the skin. The freshest seafood can be found right on the sand as these joints prove, serving up grilled lobster with garlicky butter, hot crab claws, oysters and tiny fried whitebait. But there are plenty of tempting outdoor dining spots further inland as well as by the coast. Here are 10 of the UK’s best, from a a whitewashed café in the Hebrides to a walled garden in Somerset. In all cases, Bell Tents and Yurts are not included (but should be).
The Hidden Hut, Porthcurnick Beach, Cornwall
This much-loved Cornish dining spot is tucked away on a coastal path on the remote Roseland Peninsula. Serving fresh food in the freshest sea air, you can choose from a simple daytime menu or book one of their popular feast nights. Like a big family picnic, you bring the plates, cutlery and wine, they provide the food and fire. It’s all outdoors and every feast is different, from the produce they cook to the people you might meet. Make sure you book early.
The Ethicurean, Wrington, Somerset
Set in a bountiful Victorian Walled Garden with the Mendip Hills as a backdrop, The Ethicurean serves food mostly found on its doorstep: smoked deer loin, succulent breaded ox tongue in duck stock, goat bacon and other oddly named delicacies such as hairy bittercress. Sip apple juice from the orchard and admire the view of the ever-changing hills beyond.
Riley’s Fish Shack, Tyne and Wear
This no-bookings seafood restaurant is well worth queuing for. It’s a rusty shipping container on the rocks above the beach at Tynemouth, with a tarpaulin-covered terrace. Watch the waves over a daily-changing menu of the day’s catch cooked in the wood-fired pizza oven, and served in brown cardboard boxes with wooden cutlery. Seafood at its simplest and with one of the best views in the North East.
The Newt, Somerset
The is a West Country rural idyll in its most spectacular form. A newly renovated working estate that includes a hotel, gardens, orchards, farm, produce, cider, apple juice, bakery, gelateria, buffalo herd, restaurant, cafés and garden museum. It’s where contemporary design sits happily alongside honeyed Georgian stone and where husbandry becomes an art. Every Saturday in August and September they host a summer supper series using the abundance of produce spilling out of their vegetable beds whilst you watch the sun set over the gardens.
Crab House Café, Chesil Beach
With its spiky greenery, nets and fringed pink parasols ruffling in the breeze, this café beside Chesil Beach resembles an octopus’s garden. At low tide, you can see the oyster beds that provide your dinner, unless you order a whole crab, which comes served on large wooden boards with a hammer, nut-crackers, various picks, forks and a bib.
Walled Garden Cafe, Mells
Originally the site of a monastery belonging to Glastonbury Abbey, this small rural walled cottage garden in the heart of Somerset is split between a non profit community nursery and a delightful rambling garden. Indulge in a cream tea or stay for dinner and one of their delicious wood fired pizzas.
Café Canna, Isle of Canna
Sailing boat is the best way to arrive at Café Canna on the remote Hebridean Isle of Canna. There are 10 moorings for visitors, or you can catch the ferry from Mallaig. The island’s clear waters are perfect fishing territory. At lunchtime simple café fare is elevated by exceptional local ingredients: crab sandwiches and wild-rabbit sausage rolls. In the evening, pre-order the seafood platters to feast on lobster, crab, langoustine and octopus served with salad, homemade bread and aioli.
The Griffin Inn, East Sussex
This is an old-fashioned restaurant with rooms and its own cricket team. There’s a large terrace perfumed by the contents of the wood-fired oven and a garden looking towards the South Downs and Ouse Valley, where the smooth lawn contrasts with the busy sizzle of a brick barbecue serving lobster, burgers and everything in between.
Barricane Beach Café, Devon
This tiny Beach Café is tucked into the rocks near Woolacombe. At 5pm every evening (weather dependent) it turns into a Sri Lankan restaurant, serving up delicious, fresh, homemade curries on the beach. Head down there early as they get snapped up quick, as do the best spots to watch the spectacular sunsets.
The Drunken Duck Inn, Ambleside
Perched high on a crossroads seemingly in the middle of nowhere, the Drunken Duck appears at first glance to be an unlikely candidate for one of the Lake District’s most popular restaurants. The small seating area outside has far-reaching views of the fells, the food is serious but not pretentious, whilst the bar with it’s own brew-beer is still a local’s favourite.
Hive Beach Café, Burton Bradstock, Dorset
An excellent fish counter has made this unfussy café, below the cliffs at Chesil, famous. It is right on the National Trust beach, so you can walk off delicious treats (blueberry and white-chocolate muffin; gooseberry and elderflower cheesecake) from their own bakery, or wade out with a snorkel and spy on the spider crabs that are then cooked to sweet succulence in a special boiler.