Sea glass is glass that has been worked and worn for years by the abrasive actions of the sea.
Though it is man-made, the naturalized appearance of this pebble-like smooth glass makes it a beautiful material that is collected and used in jewelry and ornaments.
You can find sea glass all over the UK.
The 10 best beaches in the UK to find sea glass
Given the UK’s strong manufacturing and maritime history, it’s not surprising that there are plenty of locations for collecting sea glass.
Beachcombing for sea glass is a great reason for getting out and seeing more of the amazing British coastline.
Here are eight sea glass hotspots in the UK.
1. The Isle of Sheppey, Kent, England
The Isle of Sheppey hugs the northern Kent coastline with a thin channel called the Swale dividing it from the mainland.
It’s under 50 miles from London via the Kings ferry Bridge and makes a great day trip if you’re visiting from the capital.
This region of southeastern England has a rich industrial and maritime history, so it’s not surprising that it is a magnet for sea glass hunters who want to pick up an unusual find.
The 18-mile circumference of the Isle of Sheppy is dotted with some excellent sea glass beaches.
In particular, beachcombers recommend:
- Minster-on-Sea: Minster Leas Beach is a pleasant shingle beach that is known among locals for its multicolored sea glass finds. You can also find beautifully smoothed and worn clay pipe fragments that can be as much as 400 years old!
- Leysdown Beach: Leysdown, on the east of the island, is a classic British seaside resort. It does get busy, but its sandy beach yields pocketfuls of well-aged frosty white sea glass.
- Sheerness Beach: This smaller pebble beach is a quieter spot but still has some great sea glass finds.
2. Seaham Beach, Seaham, County Durham England
Seaham Beach is the UK’s most famous sea glass beach.
It attracts visitors from around the world who want to load up on the massive hauls of jewelry-grade multicolored sea glass.
The powerful North Sea throws up amazing finds for beachcombers along the eastern coast of England, but the harbor town of Seaham has a unique advantage when it comes to finding sea glass.
The Seaham Bottle Works was built in the town in the 1850s and operated until the early 20th century.
It initially manufactured black bottles and expanded to include other glass works along the Burham coastline.
At its peak, the Seaham Bottle Works was the largest factory of its kind in Europe!
Broken or discarded glass from the Works was routinely discarded in the sea, added to by the sinking of the bottle boat used to transport bottles to London in 1913.
More than a century after the glass factory closed, the North Sea is still throwing up some of the world’s most diverse sea glass specimens, well-worn and perfectly smooth and round.
You’ll find these gorgeous glass pebbles just sitting on the shingle shore.
3. The East Neuk, Fife, Scotland
The eastern coastline of the ancient kingdom of Fife in Scotland is known for its rich beachcombing pickings.
This rugged peninsula is dotted with beaches that are little with sea glass, pottery, and well-worn plastic.
Pathead beach in Kircaldy is one such East Neuk sea glass haven.
This beautiful beach has amazing scenery, enhanced beautifully by the scattered sea glass pebbles and smoothed pottery that regularly washes up on the shore.
Experienced German-Scottish beachcomber and artist Nicola Lund boasts East Neuk sea glass finds that include aged marbles, whole small bottles, and even milk glass and vulcanite stoppers.
In this video, Nicola shares some of her remarkable Scottish finds:
4. Pentewan Sands, Cornwall
If you’re looking forward to a Cornish holiday, make a day of it on Pentewan Sands.
This beautiful beach with white sands and deep blue waters sits between the tourist hotspots of St Austell and Mevagissey and can be found by following the SW coastal path.
The beach is owned by a local holiday park but is open to the public, with toilets and other great amenities for a day on the beach.
This popular spot has an abundance of sea glass, with many locals encountering unique pieces that are then used in jewelry that is sold locally.
Interestingly, there used to be a working china clay harbor in Pentewan, so the area did have a reasonable amount of marine traffic, despite being quite sheltered.
Once you’ve filled your pockets or bags with sea glass, the water is great for a swim or paddle. If you do go into the water, be careful of strong easterly winds that can make bathing unsafe.
5. Yaverland Beach, Sandown Bay, Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight is known as the destination for fossil hunters, but it is also a great location to hunt for sea glass too.
In particular, the beautiful Yaverland Beach that forms part of Sandown Bay on the east of the island has had yielding terrific sea glass finds for years.
It might be something to do with one of the world’s busiest shipping channels being just offshore, but Yaverland is abundant in white, green, and blue-colored sea glass that is washed in by vigorous tides every few hours.
On warm, sunny days in Sandown Bay, it’s easy to spot the unusual colors of pieces of sea glass against the pebbles and sand.
You’ll find so much that you may end up bumping into people as you walk along looking down.
6. Cemaes Bay Traeth Bach Beach, Anglesey, Wales
Cemaes Bay on the northern coast of Anglesey in Wales is a beautiful seaside location that has an abundance of sea glass.
The two beaches in the bay, Traeth Bach (small beach) and Traeth Mawr (big beach) have liberal scatterings of sea glass which are easy to find.
Sea glass is a bit of a local industry with many souvenir shops selling jewelry and ornaments that feature this Anglesey sea glass.
Once your sea glass bag is filled, there is much more to see ad explore at this pleasant Welsh beach.
Let the kids forage and probe the numerous rock pools or stroll to the promenade for some fish and chips.
If you’re bringing a dog, they aren’t allowed on the big beach between 1st May and 30th September, but they can roam free on the little beach.
7. Glenarm Beach, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
If you’re looking for a decent beach for sea glass in Northern Island, you’ll find that Glenarm Beach in County Antrim is one of the best.
This 300-meter-long pebble beach is located by a river mouth at the foot of the magnificent Glens of Antrim with breathtaking views of this historic headland.
Glenarm beach receives a rich bounty of Northern Irish sea glass that attracts many avid collectors and jewelry makers.
One jeweler found a perfectly formed amber teardrop – a most unusual find!
You find the pieces of sea glass shining out from among the dull pebbles. There is enough on the ground to keep you motivated to look for more.
You’ll find the village at the east end of the beach. There you can find public toilets, get yourself some well-earned chips, or browse the local shops.
8. Runswick Bay, Saltburn by the Sea, North Yorkshire, England
Runswick Bay in North Yorkshire has some of the country’s best beachcombing and alongside sea glass, you’ll find a great haul of fossils and shells.
If you’re willing to brave the bracing winds of the North Yorkshire coastline, all sorts of knick-knacks await you.
This beach, located just north of Whitby, is part of Cleveland Way and can be found between Sandsend and Staithes.
It is one of the best areas of the coastline in North Yorkshire complete with quaint fishermen’s cottages.
The beach is clean and well-maintained with decent access and transport links that make it even easier for sea glass hunters to get there.
Locals assert that you will find ‘all sorts’ at Runswick Bay.
The sea glass is usually smooth, round, and well-worn. You can also pick out smoothed pieces of iron and jet that have been similarly rough and tumbled by the sea.
The shale and clay may also reveal ammonite fossils that usually disintegrate at the touch of a finger.
9. Towan Beach, Newquay Cornwall, England
Towan Beach near the surfing haven of Newquay is popular with local jewelers and artists who include sea glass in their work.
Though Cornwall is now mainly associated with tourism, for hundreds of years it was a busy industrial and shipping region, facing the huge expanse of the Atlantic Ocean.
These lively, churning waters throw out varied sea glass pieces that can be found lying on the shore and in the rockpools in and around Towan Beach.
Locals advise that the best sea glass can be found at low tide towards the Great Western Beach.
10. Brighton Beach, West Sussex, England
Brighton is a busy cosmopolitan city sitting right on the coast of southeast England, but if you want to escape the shopping, clubbing, and crowds for a few hours, you can hunt for sea glass along Brighton Beach, heading westward towards Hove Lagoon.
Sea glass hunting is popular with Brighton locals who find that their finds are usually much more coarse than those of other areas of the English coastline.
You can find clear, green, and blue sea glass of various sizes.
Along with many jewelry-grade pieces of glass that may end up for sale in a souvenir shop in Brighton’s famous Lanes.
How to find sea glass in the UK
With over 12,429 km (7,723 miles) of coastline, the UK is a world-class destination for sea glass hunting.
If you’ve not yet found one of these unusual glass pebbles, here are some tips for finding your first piece:
- Do your research: You can find sea glass on most UK beaches, but if you are looking to find a large amount, research the beaches that are known for having sea glass on them. Many collectors write blogs or contribute to forums where they share their finds. Visit recommended spots for greater success with your search.
- Head out after a storm: Storms are a beachcomber’s best friend! This is because the sea gets churned up and will through sea glass and other interesting finds onto the seashore. Head out and search for your sea glass once the rough weather has settled.
- Search during the winter months: If you’re serious about finding sea glass, you’ll have great success if you get out onto the beach when the tourist crowds aren’t around. Wrap up warm, and wear sturdy footwear with a good grip. Take a flask with a hot beverage and search for as long as you can stand!
- Keep your eyes down: Old misty sea glass won’t glint and shine in the sun. To differentiate sea glass from pebbles you’ll need to look down and hunt for it. Finding great pieces is the best motivation for searching for more.
- Tell someone where you’re going: Beaches can be dangerous, especially if you get cut off by an incoming tide, or slip and fall on rocks. Carry a phone with you and tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to return.
- Leave sea glass for someone else: Sea glass is popular and many people make money collecting and selling large quantities of sea glass online. Although picking up sea glass is not illegal in the UK, leaving pieces behind lets others enjoy finding sea glass too.
Sea glass is probably the only man-made pollution that is beautiful, and when you pick up a piece of sea glass you are helping the marine environment return to its natural state.
While you are enjoying your visit to the beach, why not take a bag to pick up a few items of litter or plastic you find while you hunt for sea glass? Every little bit helps to keep UK beaches at their best for everyone!