For those of us without our own home swimming pool,surely the next best thing is a trip to the beach! How convenient then, would it be to have your very own indoor space whilst you’re there? Over 20,000 British beach hut owners have prioritised exactly that. Many UK coastline destinations have options for hiring beach huts. A creation that mimics all the home comforts you could need, is literally a short walk across the sand.
What is a Beach Hut?
Essentially a beach hut is a glorified shed that sits in a row with others permanently along the coast line. Beach huts can be used for all manner of things from storing wetsuits, to hosting a table and chairs to eat at, to shelter from the rain or for making a cuppa after your swim in the sea.
Where Do Beach Huts Come From?
Despite most people thinking that beach huts were originally thought up in Victorian times, the concept of a portable ‘room’ or ‘bathing machine’ as they were known actually began in the 1700s.
Prior to that the only folk who spent time at the seaside were generally fishermen, smugglers and pirates.
Thanks to new medical advice that sea swimming was inherently good for you, people began visiting the beach and recognising how enjoyable it could be too.
The early bathing machines were essentially a horse drawn shed, deliberately portable so that bathers could travel from the top of the beach down into the sea and retaining their modesty whilst taking their naked dip.
Famously, King George III insisted that his own ‘medical bath’ would need not only the bathing machine but also a full quartet playing ‘God Save the King’ whilst doing so.
By the time Queen Victoria was in power, visits to the beach and swimming in the sea in general was widely acceptable, but men and women would be kept separate. Queen Victoria had her very own beach hut built at Osbourne House in her beloved Isle of Wight in the 1840s.
By the 1900s, both sexes bathing together, along with wearing swimwear, had become the norm. That meant there was no longer a need for bathing machines to be moveable, and so the static beach huts we know and love today were born.
Since then, demand has steadily risen for beach huts. No less so than during the pandemic, as Brits got accustomed to the potential loveliness and ease of a staycation.
These picture-perfect mini houses by the sea are not just the ideal choice for a convenient, low maintenance staycation.
They have become a statement of personal expression too.
The smartest pastel-hues to the vibrant paint-box beach huts are just the outsides.
Inside, they’re often fitted out to allow for all kinds of enjoyments, from comfortable beach sleep-overs to charming summer evening dinner parties, with the sea air and sound of the tides setting the scene.
The Cost of Hiring Beach Huts
These apparently unassuming huts are fast becoming one of the most desirable retro getaway opportunities.
So as you’d expect, the increased demand plus the modification of beach huts means a rise in prices too.
Whilst back in 1980 you could buy your very own beach hut for just £100, in 2021 it’s feasible to pay a whopping £300,000 for a ‘high end’ luxury beach hut.
Expensive Bournemouth, Brighton or Christchurch in the sunnier south or Wells-Next-The-Sea and Southwold on the spectacular east coast are some of the most desirable locations, which all ooze the unique andchilled, pure British ambience.
Denisons, a specialist estate agents in the Christchurch area, confirm that prices have increased by 10% or so over the last year.
In fact, of the 400 or so beach huts in Christchurch, Denisons tend to sell approximately five annually – sothe waiting lists can be long.
Bearing in mind that the average UK property price is approximately £230,000, these prices are very steep, but beach hut converts wouldn’t change their lifestyle for a thing.
In fact these low-maintenance little homes tend to remain in families for generations.
Traditional beach huts are usually made of timber, each with its own individual colour theme and modern or retro styling.
The most beautiful can include sea-view decking, a barbeque or even a hot tub outside… but itâ€™s on the inside that the 21st century has made the biggest impression.
Some incorporate two, or even three-level living. Cosy mezzanine bedrooms, Wi-Fi, fully equipped solar-powered kitchen, hot water, toilet and maybe a cosy wood-burner and sofa, are all encased within classic whitewashed walls and wooden floorboards.
Perhaps the ultimate luxury vision has been achieved by specialist architects Jak Studio.
The Spy Glass beach hut at Eastbourne, combines nostalgia for this iconic symbol of Britishness, with a completely new physical form.
Incredibly, the whole structure sits on a sleek timber turntable, allowing it to be rotated at will to track the movements of the sun. Owners can literally switch between the sand and the pier as their backdrop of choice!
Of course not all of our beach-life aspirations run so high.
In many cases the beach hut contains little more than a set of deckchairs and the ubiquitous kettle and a game of boules. A simple yet charming way of bringing the whole family together at the beach, making the special memories that will last a lifetime.
The Beach Hut Checklist
Thinking about buying your own beach hut?
Be sure to check out all the facilities, such as car parking, bathroom availability, power sources (which may be solar or calor gas) and standpipes – remember there will be no mains water, and beach hut life is essentially camping with benefits!
It’s also wise to consider whether local facilities will be adequate when the sun does decide to disappear – cafes and restaurants, cinemas and play centres, zoos and castles are all worth investigating.
As they are outside, beach huts can of course be liable to erosion, flooding and even vandalism – so insurance is a must. A specialist company such as TL Risk Solutions, can provide comprehensive beach hut cover, with annual premiums from around £150 up to £400 or more.
Maintenance should be minimal, but it’s sensible to budget for a repaint every three or four years too.
Beach hut owners are effectively renting land from the local council, and this will incur an annual licensing charge that can reach £2,500 a year.
Thoroughly investigate any additional local authority restrictions, for example around daytime-use only of beach huts, whether access to the beach itself is seasonal or year round, whether dogs are allowed, and whether the all-important barbecue will be permitted!
Remember that there may be options to rent out your beach hut at times when you just can’t get away. Rental is often by the day or week, and may be managed with a minimum of fuss by a local agent. Prices achieved will of course vary with location and facilities – from £1,375 a week for a three-bedroom, chalet-style beach hut in Tresco, Isles of Scilly, to £150 a week for a traditional wooden hut at Alum Chine, Bournemouth.
2021 may be the year of the staycation – but British beach huts have the style, situation and sheer ease of lifestyle which can be enjoyed for a lifetime.