Hit the tourist trail
PUBLISHED: 09:00 26 July 2014
Home to the shortest pier in Britain and no less than three lighthouses, Burnham-on-Sea is a key tourist town on the Somerset coast
In recent months, the town has been gaining accolades for its appeal to holidaymakers. It won the Seaside Award from Keep Britain Tidy for a fantastic beach and was named one of the friendliest places in the country for coach trips.
We’ve taken a look at how to spend a tourist day out in Burnham-on-Sea.
No holiday would be complete without grabbing a bucket and spade and heading to the beach.
Burnham-on-Sea has one of the longest stretches of glorious golden sand in Europe with its seven miles of beach. The main beach is sandy and great for swimming and paddling as well as offering the traditional donkey rides. There is also an area for boats and jet skis to launch.
The north beach is sand and mud and has a natural sea water boating pool, so perfect for children.
If you prefer to avoid sand in your sandwiches, then the perfect picnic spot is just up the road in Apex Park. The park is a haven for wildlife and there are places to fish, a children’s play area, a skate park, a BMX trail and lots of level walks suitable for pushchairs, wheelchairs, bikes and scooters.
The 42 acre park was created from excavated clay pits, which were flooded and the lakes are now home to a plethora of wildlife. There are plenty of ducks and geese to feed, grassy banks to roll down, trees to climb and space to fly kites.
For those who like an active holiday, you can try anything from golf to sailing. There are several golf courses including a championship course at Burnham and Berrow Golf Club.
Burnham-on-Sea is noted for its kitesurfing, as well as other water sports, and has its own sailing club.
If the sea proves too cold for a full swim, Burnham Pool is not far off the seafront.
For a more relaxing afternoon, check out pottery painting or test your luck on the bingo or tuppeny falls in the amusement arcades.
Events to look out for
The Burnham on Sea Food and Drink Festival is a free bi-annual, one-day festival with something for the whole family. Held in the town centre, there are more than 80 stalls showcasing the best food and drink from across Somerset. There are six markets offering everything from stone baked pizzas and award-winning pies to homemade dog treats, bison street food and goat’s milk chocolates.
Many of the town centre shops offer deals to coincide with the festival. Festival organisers also run a variety of competitions including The Great Burnham Bake Off and the UK Chilli Cook Off. The next festival will take place on 25 October.
The town is also part of the West Country Carnival circuit. Thousands of people line the streets to see the illuminated show. Dozens of giant carnival floats parade through the streets, with music filling the air and hundreds of thousands of brightly coloured lightbulbs creating scenes from films, books or just someone’s imagination. It is a magical evening, especially for children.
The origins of the carnival lie in Bridgwater, where people commemorated the day that Guy Fawkes tried to blow up Parliament with a parade through the town. There is now a circuit for the carnival which starts in Bridgwater and takes in North Petherton, Shepton Mallet, Wells, Glastonbury and Weston-super-Mare, and some floats cost up to £20,000 and hundreds of hours of work to produce.
These days the carnival raises money for local charities. This year the Burnham carnival will take place on 3 November from 7.30pm.
Historic and artistic lighthouses
There have been many shipwrecks on the Gore Sands, just off Burnham beach, which have prompted lighthouses to be landmarks in the town.
The town’s first lighthouse consisted of a light kept burning on the top of the tower of St Andrew’s Church to guide fishing boats into the harbour.
This was replaced by the Round Tower Lighthouse. A levy was introduced to pay for the maintenance of the light. The lease for the levy and the lighthouse was sold in 1829 to Trinity House, which operated it until 1832 when it became inactive and replaced by the High and Low lighthouses. It is now a private dwelling.
The High Lighthouse or pillar lighthouse was built by Joseph Nelson in the 1830s and stands 30 meters tall.
It was deactivated in the 1990s and sold to the Rothschild family, who in turn sold it at auction in 1996. It is now a Grade II listed building and although the red stripe on the building is still used as a day range, the building is a private dwelling.
It was used in conjunction with the Low Lighthouse, which is the only one still active.
Now also a Grade II listed building, the low lighthouse or Lighthouse on Legs, is whitewashed with a vertical red stripe. It is now operated by Sedgemoor District Council.
Artists from Highbridge and Burnham Artists have organised the Burnham Lighthouse Trail, which involves 33 mini lighthouses being painted and placed around the town. The six foot high replicas of the Low Lighthouse are hoped to attract even more visitors to the town and raise money for cancer charity Petal.