Burnham on Sea is a traditional seaside resort on the Somerset Coast with seven miles of sandy beach joining the sand dunes up to Brean Down to the north. The long promenade has views towards Bridgewater Bay and out to the Bristol Channel, and the town is also located at the mouth of the River Parrett. There is a good choice of family holiday parks in and around Burnham-on-Sea as well as B&B and hotel accommodation. Burnham has its own mini-pier and traditional donkey rides on the beach. The beaches are excellent for kite flying, sand yachting or just relaxing and making sandcastles. Burnham is also famous for its High and Low lighthouses.
There are eight beaches from Burnham-on-Sea up to Brean Down. Burnham’s Main Beach is the focus for family entertainment. The esplanade runs along its edge where you’ll find the Tourist Information Centre, cafes, food kiosks, the pier and access to the beach. The Pier is halfway along the esplanade and has an amusement arcade and rides for the kids. It is actually Britain’s shortest pier but is very much like a mini Grand Pier. It was built between 1911 and 1914 and is one of the UK’s oldest illuminated seaside piers. It almost fell into ruin in the sixties until it was bought privately and restored.
The Main Beach is great for swimming and paddling and you can take donkey rides along the shore. Kids entertainment is held here in the summer. There is a separate area here for boats and jet skis to launch. Burnham’s North Beach is a mix of sand and mud where it is dangerous to walk out to the sea at low tide. The seawall is a favourite seating and viewpoint for families enjoying the sandy beach. There is a natural sea water boating pool which provides safer water fun for children.
Birdwatching at South Beach
Burnham’s South Beach stretches down to the River Parrett where the sand gives way to marshland. It’s a good birdwatching point with seabirds coming in from Steart to the south part of the Bridgwater Bay National Nature Reserve. The Reserve consists largely of tidal mudflats, saltmarsh, sandflats and shingle ridges, some of which are vegetated. It is internationally important for its numbers of wintering and passage waders and waterfowl who feed in the mudflats and saltmarsh. One hundred and ninety species have been recorded on the Reserve including whimbrel, black-tailed godwit, dunlin, wigeon, curlew, redshank, teal and shelduck.
There is a car park in Steart village where you’ll find an interpretive sign with leaflets about Bridgwater Bay. There is an excellent observation tower that gives panoramic views of the Reserve as well as five bird hides. In Burnham itself there is a car park opposite the Tourist Information Centre on South Esplanade. Dogs are not permitted on the South Beach between 1 May and 30 September. As the sand soon turns to mudflats offshore it is dangerous to walk too far out at low tide.
The River Parrett Trail
The River Parrett Trail is a 50 mile, long distance hiking trail that extends from Crewkerne to Combwich near Steart, just south of Burnham-on-Sea. You can complete the whole trail over 3 or 4 days or break it up as a series of shorter walks during your holiday in Somerset. The trail follows the River Parrett from the Dorset Hills where it starts through the Somerset Levels countryside and characteristic Somerset market towns, ending at its mouth at Bridgwater Bay. The going is relatively easy as most of the walk is on flat ground. If you want more of a challenge along the way you can have a go at canoeing on the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal or hire a bike from the Langport Visitor Centre and explore further afield.
The Round Tower lighthouse is the oldest in Burnham-on-Sea built in the eighteenth century. It was originally four storeys tall with a castellated top. You can see it on The Esplanade. Local history tells that the lighthouse became established after the wife of a sailor put a candle in the window of her cottage one stormy night to help him home. It saved his life and grateful sailors paid her money from then on for her to keep a candle alight to guide them on their journeys home. Later, the sexton of the church gave the fisherman’s wife five pounds for the rights to place a light on the church tower which was higher and more obvious. The Round Tower was later built as a more formal lighthouse.
The Pillar (High) Lighthouse was one hundred feet high and used to be a tourist attraction where you could gain some excellent views of South Wales and North Devon. You’ll notice it on Berrow Road as you come into Burnham-on-Sea from the north. The lighthouse became inactive in 1933 and has remained so since. There is no longer access to it as it is a private house, but this is let out for holiday accommodation in summer.
To the north of the beaches in Burnham you’ll see the unusual lighthouse on stilts on the foreshore, the Low "Lighthouse on Legs" at 9 metres tall on 9 timber pilings. It was constructed in 1832 after it was found that the Pillar Lighthouse was at too low a vantage point for the great rise and fall of the tides. It is still an active aid to navigation and is a focal point for walkers on the beach.
Burnham-on-Sea Somerset Carnivals
Burnham-on-Sea is on the circuit for the Somerset Carnivals. These are usually held between September and November. It’s well worth timing your visit to coincide with one of the carnivals that are held at a whole host of towns throughout the county. The Somerset Carnival tradition dates back to the 1600s when many places in Somerset commemorated the Gunpowder Plot. Street entertainment, fireworks and special events throughout the town add to the fun and carnival atmosphere.