British Beach Huts

Beach Huts under Gun Hill in Southwold, Suffolk, (photo by James Macdonald)
Beach Huts under Gun Hill in Southwold, Suffolk

Occasionally they will appear little more than brightly painted garden sheds, while others may almost resemble a small house. Beach huts can be found scattered around the British coastline and their enduring appeal as an icon of the British beach means that their image is also to be found splashed across t-shirts, towels, posters and canvas.

Forged from Victorian modesty when the hut (then on wheels) would be pulled into the breaking waves to allow discreet bathing, they have remained as a practical shelter and secluded changing area ever since, though now more firmly rooted in place.

As a child, one week every summer would be spent on a family holiday on the Suffolk coast where my parents would hire a small utilitarian hut by an abandoned pier. It was the place to store the essential buckets and spades and windbreaks as well as the towels, sandwiches and, most importantly to my parents, the daily newspapers. I have vivid memories of the sand-covered floors with swimming outfits dangling from hooks dripping onto the Daily Mirror and Telegraph.

The beach hut also provides a haven from the ubiquitous British summer downpours and sharp easterly winds. My sister and I had the same tactic; play on the beach or swim in the freezing North Sea for an hour then warm up in the hut for 20 minutes, raiding the crisp packets and biscuits (all covered with the ever present glaze of beach sand).


Beach huts have become a seaside icon


I now take my own family to the same beach and walk past the same beach huts. Some have clearly been lovingly attended with a fresh lick of paint, the smartest of folding tables, cafeterias and soft furnishings, while their neighbours remain standing seemingly out of sheer good fortune or stubbornness.

An evening stroll along the beach passes young families gathering their knick-knacks, groups of teenagers escaping their parents with a few bottles of beer and, most regularly, retired couples staring out to sea and watching the passers-by. All to the soundtrack of giggling kids and rolling waves.

Small and wooden they may be; cheap, however, they are not.  

Prices can be frankly ridiculous. The humble beach hut has become an Investment opportunity, rental rates in Suffolk are around £150 a week for an average hut. The majority of them have no running water and no electricity and most local bylaws have removed any chance to sleep overnight in one, yet a few months ago, deep in the gloom of the current economic climate a slightly fancier hut sold for £170,000 (US$269,364).

Next year I am again looking into renting one for a week, but we will need to book now - no longer can you just turn up and take the keys for the week. I just need to remember to keep my newspapers safe.    


See all of our guides to England, Scotland and Wales...