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Bamburgh: Villagers in UK’s ‘best beach resort’ say it’s victim of its own success

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Villagers living in the UK’s ‘best beach resort’ have said it is the victim of its own success as an influx of tourists has left it plagued by traffic jams, littering and drunk holidaymakers.

The tiny Northumberland village of Bamburgh topped a Which? poll that ranked each destination on its beaches, value for money, food and drink, and tourist attractions.

With a population of just 414, Bamburgh attracts more than 150,000 visitors each year and is famed for its castle and spectacular golden beaches.

But despite being crowned the UK’s top seaside hotspot for the second year in a row in April’s poll, proving it was ‘unbeatable once again for its sheer beauty’, residents have made the extraordinary claim that it is the victim of its own success.

A severe lack of parking spaces and strict planning laws have led some locals to say the village has been ruined by tourists and day-trippers.

Bamburgh, with a population of a little over 400, was named Britain’s best seaside destination in Which?’s annual survey. Above is the ‘imposing’ Bamburgh Castle overlooking the beach 

With a population of just 414, Bamburgh attracts more than 150,000 visitors each year and is famed for its castle and spectacular golden beaches

With a population of just 414, Bamburgh attracts more than 150,000 visitors each year and is famed for its castle and spectacular golden beaches

One resident and business owner, who did not want to be named, said: ‘It might be an unpopular thing to admit but the village is just too popular now.

‘When it was named the best seaside resort in the UK, you could almost hear a collective groan from residents and businesses.

‘Of course we need tourists and want them here but the village is so packed on sunny days no one looks like they’re having much fun.

‘It’s not unusual to spend an hour in your car as traffic crawls through the village.

‘What I fear is that a few more ridiculous busy summers and people will give Bamburgh a miss altogether in a few years’ time.’

Another business owner added: ‘A friend of mine summed up the problem quite well the other day when he said it’s like over-fishing.

‘Pubs and hotel owners might be enjoying the money rolling in but the more people who come here, the more damage is done to the environment.

‘I’ve noticed a big increase in litter being dumped in the sand dunes below the castle which is a really sad thing to see.’

Respondents to the Which? poll, released on April 30, said the village’s sweeping sandy beach overlooked by clifftop Bamburgh Castle was ‘spectacular’ and ‘imposing’. 

In 2021, when Bamburgh also came out on top, respondents suggested word had spread about Bamburgh’s appeal, with some encouraging visitors to reserve tables in the restaurants in advance as places were often booked up, and to arrive at the castle early to secure a parking space

Now, locals have complained about groups of rowdy revellers holding late-night boozy parties in the sand dunes.

Resident John Graham, 60, said: ‘When the sun is out the place can be overrun.

‘In the day, you get the icecream brigade leaving their rubbish everywhere and in the evenings the drunken louts have their fun.

‘On an average morning in the summer I pick up five or six burnt out disposable barbecues and half-a-dozen or so bin bags full of bottles and cans.’

The village drew huge crowds last year as millions of Brits were forced to holiday in the UK as a result of strict Covid rules limiting foreign travel.

To meet the demands of more visitors, emergency temporary planning laws were introduced to free up land for extra parking.

But now, the rules are being tightened meaning the village has fewer parking spaces this year while still expecting the same number of visitors.

Despite being crowned the UK's top seaside hotspot for the second year in a row in April's poll, proving it was ‘unbeatable once again for its sheer beauty’, residents of Bamburgh have made the extraordinary claim that it is the victim of its own success

Despite being crowned the UK’s top seaside hotspot for the second year in a row in April’s poll, proving it was ‘unbeatable once again for its sheer beauty’, residents of Bamburgh have made the extraordinary claim that it is the victim of its own success

Tables by Which? show the ranking of coastal towns and villages across Britain. The consumer champion asked thousands of holidaymakers to rate coastal resorts they have visited across a range of categories

Tables by Which? show the ranking of coastal towns and villages across Britain. The consumer champion asked thousands of holidaymakers to rate coastal resorts they have visited across a range of categories

Bamburgh Parish Council chairman Barbara Brook said: ‘We had dispensation last year to open the Glebe Field beside the church for 56 days and now that is going to be impossible because the directive is 28 days.

‘We asked for more yellow lines – and I can understand that more yellow lines are not wanted across Northumberland – but we’re now in a dilemma because over the Easter period we had huge car parking problems in the village.’

The village has also seen an increase in litter and fly-tipping, with locals blaming a pilot scheme allowing motorhomes to park overnight.

Councillor Brook said there had been ‘an enormous amount more litter’ since the scheme was introduced.

Despite calls to prevent traffic jams building up in the village, Northumberland County Council has refused to increase the amount of parking space available.

Local services director Paul Jones said: ‘We aren’t proposing any additional parking capacity within Bamburgh.

‘We’re happy to have further dialogue to see what we can do to support you and the local landowner in terms of the use of seasonal overflow arrangements and what can and can’t be done to stay on the right side of the law.’

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