The Belgian coast may be crowded and short, the weather unreliable and the North Sea decidedly chilly, but it does boast a superb sandy beach, stretching – with very few interruptions – from Knokke-Heist in the north to De Panne, 70km to the south. The Belgians make the most of it, descending in their thousands every summer weekend to play beach sports and build sandcastles – but not just any old sandcastle. Right along the coast, ardent enthusiasts (helped by JCBs and tractors) apply themselves with industrial zeal, creating enormous, imaginative edifices from spaceships to sculpted tableaux of Belgians in some metaphysical mess or another, all cheered on by an appreciative crowd. Almost every resort has at least one sandcastle-building competition each summer, with one of the best held in the tiny resort of Zeebrugge in late August.

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