Dungeness is like nowhere else in the UK. The only place in the British Isles to be designated a desert, this shingle headland pokes out into the English Channel from Kent, a world away from the soft sands of Camber just a few miles up the road.
The pebble beach here slides steeply into cooling waters, which flit from gray and roiling in winter to a deep, alluring turquoise in summer. The latter is the perfect time for a long swim, soundtracked by the clatter of small trains plying the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch narrow-gauge railway that stretches across the barren landscape. But deepest January, with a chill in the air and the sun low on the horizon, is when Dungeness revels in its own stark beauty.
Like all the best English beaches, there’s a feeling of timelessness. The Pilot Inn serves pints of local ale, while beach-side shacks are the perfect spot to gorge on freshly caught local Dungeness crab. Because things can get a touch windswept, and perhaps because a nuclear power station looms on the skyline, the number of visitors never reaches fever pitch as it does in nearby Hastings or distant Cornwall. Dungeness’s otherworldliness is what makes it so appealing.