Wednesday 10 July 2019

10 Things that Epitomise the British Seaside Trip

For many of us, childhood memories are glittered with days out at the seaside or week long caravan or chalet stays. 
For me, those are some of my favourite childhood memories and the ones I can remember most vividly. There are so many of these memories, with grandparents, with mam and dad, with siblings, before siblings, with school and who could forget those Working Men's Club trips?! 

Sundays during my childhood seemed to alternate between early mornings at car-boot sales or early mornings up and ready for what we'd call a 'ride out' or 'going off for the day'. This would usually entail a day long visit to somewhere like Scarborough, Bridlington, Whitby, Blackpool or (my least favourite) Filey. We'd also have UK caravan holidays way more regularly than trips abroad and so for me, the British seaside really was a home from home. 

Despite the odd trip here and there, the seaside trips seemed to have lessened particularly as I've grown up and moved on and away from the family home. But after a pretty hectic few months I recently decided to embark on a number of seaside trips. The first of which was last weekend in sunny old Scarborough. I decided to plan a spontaneous, last minute 2 night stay just to allow my head to vacate work mode and for some much needed chill-time and TLC. 

Immediately on arrival, I was filled to the brim with instant happiness and nostalgia as derived from those vivid childhood memories. As a child, you're just so energetically excited by all the seaside has to offer, the bright lights of the theme park and amusement arcades, the beach and all the fun it brings, the textures, the sounds, the foods, everything so fascinating. As an adult, I found myself just truly in awe at the freshness of the air, at the breath-taking scenery in front of me and at the fact that sights so beautiful belong to us, here in the UK. The trip allowed me to vacate work mode but also provided relaxation, reflection and mindfulness. 
One thing it did get me thinking about was the seaside trip itself and how we as Brits, tend to have solid rooted traditions that we fulfil when visiting one of these coastal little towns. It got me reflecting on those childhood trips and all the little things that seemed to perfectly epitomise a trip to the British seaside...

1. The car games to pass time on the journey

Don't get me wrong, they can be tedious after some time but no 'ride out' was complete without a game of I Spy, Who Can See the Sea First? or Blackpool Tower or a Pylon. This was of course until my younger sister gazumped the whole family with "I spy with my little eye, something beginning with D....Distance" many years back. The Michelin I Spy books were also a personal favourite when heading to the seaside as a child, the organised control freak in me loved ticking off all the things I'd seen. Needless to say when you visit on your own, on a train, social media is the new I Spy!

2. Making the most kick-ass sandcastles or just burying each other in the sand

Days on the beach weren't complete without trying to make the biggest, layered yet intricate sandcastles, complete with a moat which meant you had to keep trekking down to the sea edge to fill up your bucket, only to find you'd come back and the first lot would all have absorbed! Or that villainous streak that would come out when you'd sabotage your sibling's masterpiece by kicking over every castle they'd build. Failing that, you'd see which family member was daft enough to lay back and relax and subsequently cover them in sand, burying every inch of them except for the head. My favourite thing was when grandad or dad would make a 'boat' out of the sand, with a little bench for us to sit in. Again, not quite the same when visiting on your own as a 27 year old, but... you're never too old to write your name in the sand!

3. Fish and chips, ice-cream and donuts

The traditional staple diet when visiting any seaside town and arguably one of the best things about visiting the seaside. Fish and chips out of a tray or newspaper with only a two-pronged wooden fork, no knife and a one handed fight with every seagull in town whilst sat on the harbour edge, beach front or promenade. Followed by, usually, the biggest, most indulgent but structurally unsound ice-cream you could find just to melt all down your arm or to fall dramatically off the cone, causing undue tragedy. For me, the two that scream seaside are a whippy lemon sorbet-topped or a scoop mint choc chip. 
And after all of that has settled begrudgingly in your stomach for an hour or 2, out come the donuts, one for each of us and the rest for the dads, grandads and stepdads of the group. (We'll just skim over the fact that I might have eaten 8 of these myself over the course of last weekend!)

4. The amusement arcades

As a kid, it was all about saving up your 2ps over the year ready for the holiday or just going for the day and being given a few quid for the change machines before being told "make it last cause that's your lot!" The amusements would often be saved up for rainy days as it was somewhere under cover that you could easily spend hours in, particularly if it had a bowling alley in the back too. Shamelessly skulking around the joint looking for rogue coins in the cannister beneath the slots or sounding out the ones with a toy just about to drop before attempting to whoop your sibling at air hockey or the dance mat. For me, I always just played on the ones where you'd win sweets instead of coins and just fill my pockets to their limit to ensure unlimited snacks for the rest of the holiday. Or, you'd annoyingly spend ages collecting those pointless tickets you'd be excited to cash in at the end of the break, only to find that a pen or a keyring cost at least 2000 tickets.

5. The promenade/beach stroll

I think this was mainly a ploy on behalf of the adults to tire out the children with a million steps and a face-full of sea air for the ride home but every seaside trip involved this. For us it was usually so the grown-ups could admire the sea-view houses and properties on the fronts or purely because it was cheaper to park the car way up the promenade! Albeit not the favourite part for the kids but the promenade walks could be made marginally better with a number of things. At Scarborough, it was the prospect of a Peasholm Park or SeaLife Centre visit at the end. In Bridlington, it was slightly more tolerable with the promenade story running down the path and the little paddling pools half way down towards the Spa. And Blackpool felt like the longest walk of any child's life but at least the rollercoasters of Pleasure Beach provided some relief at the end. As an adult, you definitely appreciate the serenity and peace of the promenade walk a lot more!

6. Buying a stick of rock

That ever familiar seaside novelty but, it was never actually that nice, was it? We'd often buy a bag of rock to take back for our class at school or we'd get a sugar dummy that would last us ages and be found stuck to the sofa arm for at least the next two weeks. One thing we loved as a kid was the visit to John Bull rock factory when visiting Bridlington for the week. It was all very Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, allowing you to create your own stick of rock complete with initials running right through the middle and this was again, a cheap and cheerful solution to that inevitable rainy day on the holiday. 

7. The rides

Possibly the only bit you were genuinely interested and invested in as a kid. But due to the ridiculous prices of tokens/tickets, you'd always end up finding one cheap thing and going on it about 4 times or just giving up and spending all your time at the Hook a Duck because your greed and materialistic tendencies would get the better of you. No? Just me? My family have far too many photographs of me and my siblings on the one and only ride we'd ever go on, which was sort of like a road with different vehicles on it that just went round and round. We once ventured onto the big kid rides that fling you up and down and backwards but again, that stopped when I went on with a massive bag of 2ps in my pocket which naturally exploded everywhere and forced the operator to stop the ride and everyone to get off.

8. Big pencils and other random souvenirs

This one could just be a Terri-ism but every seaside has the gaudy souvenir shop and as a nipper, I loved them. One thing I always bought was stationary but in particular, always seemed to end up with these abnormally large pencils adorned with pictures of whatever the seaside destination was. I definitely had one or two of these and could never actually write with them so they were entirely pointless. Failing that it'd be a pen, pencil, rubber or postcard that would serve little purpose as you'd be home by the time it arrived. 

9. Listening to the top 40 on the way home

Again, possibly one just synonymous with my family but one of my favourite memories of seaside visits when we were younger was that although I hated going home, I loved being able to listen to almost all of the top 40 charts on the car radio on the way home. I remember not caring if we hit traffic because it meant that I'd get to listen to more of it. I remember telling dad to turn it up when my favourites would come on and desperately longing for the ones I loved most to be number 1 because it meant they'd interview them for 2 minutes before playing their number 1 track. For some weird reason, particular charting songs that stick in my head from those trips are I'll Be Missing You by P Diddy and Faith Evans, Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve and The Bad Touch by Bloodhound Gang which as a 7/8 year old, I naively nicknamed 'the sexy song' because I knew it was about all manner of rude things but was thankfully innocent enough to not know the full extent!

10. The unavoidable car sleep

The sea air, promenade walk, questionable nutrients consumed and overall excitement takes its toll and no matter how hard you try to keep it at bay, the car nap always happens. Obviously, I'd try to fight it off as much as possible so as to not miss any of the chart rundown but it always occurred and then I'd be fuming if I'd missed my best song. You'd wake up covered in saliva and red hot with one of your siblings arms stuck to yours and the other sibling uncomfortably sprawled across the three of you and then you would either need carrying from the car straight to bed or would wake up just before arriving home and consequently be awake all night.

The novelty and nostalgia of these towns never really wears off and the views are truly breath-taking and something to be proud of. Long live the Great British Seaside!


  1. I live about 15-20 minutes from the nearest beach and I can relate to this on another level! Although I must say I can't warrant buying a stick of rock everyday hahaha. xx
    El // Welsh Wanderer

    1. Ah you’re so lucky to live so near to the beach! What a dream 😊

  2. I miss British seaside life so much! And chip shop chips with curry sauce and way too much salt and vingar! What a great post!

    1. I agree! One of my students recently opened my eyes to the treat that is curry sauce on a field trip and I have not looked back since! 👌🏻

  3. Even as a French I can relate to some of those points... It was a lovely read, brought up a lot of nostalgia and made me google "stick of rock", I had no idea what that was :D

    1. Thanks 😊 haha if you should ever stumble across one, try it!

  4. The Big Pencils!! I traveled with an Irishman and he was obsessed with big pencils I found it so hilarious

    1. Haha they are hilarious 😂 Utter nonsense!

  5. This brings back many memories too! There's nothing quite like fish and chips out of newspaper.. i'm feeling hungry just thinking of it! :-)

  6. Seaside childhood holidays are now a little like Christmas, if you concentrate hard enough you can get those emotions back for a second of two, they're unique. Just around the corner from the clock tower in Skegness there was a shop with rows and rows of bits and bobs and toys, that place was heaven and if I closely my eyes I can briefly recapture that buzz. Sadly as you get older it gets harder - I worry that the day will come when it's gone forever.

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