The Beaches of Flamborough Head

The coastline around Flamborough Head boasts stunning chalk cliffs, magical coves with rock pools, caves, sea stacks and archways, as well as pebble and sand beaches. The chalk here is millions of years old. It was laid down when dinosaurs were still wandering the earth.

At the southern end of the cliffs lies Bridlington and at the northern limit Bempton’s famous RSPB reserve. At Bempton, the 400-foot high chalk cliffs provide nesting sites for large numbers of seabirds and it is definitely a birdwatcher’s paradise. The reserve houses the largest and most accessible mainland nesting colony of gannets. You can also see puffins, razorbills, guillemots and many other seabirds.

Starting from Bempton cliffs and walking in a clockwise direction the beaches around the headland are: Chatterthrow, Little Thornwick Bay, Thornwick Bay, North Landing, Selwicks Bay, South Landing, Danes Dyke Beach and finally Bridlington North Sands. All of these are connected by a cliff top footpath, which is part of the 18-mile-long Headland Way. The Headland Way is a long distance footpath running from Filey to Bridlington.

Car Parking.

All the beaches and bays have car parking so it’s possible to drive around the headland to visit them all. The best way to do this is to purchase an all-day parking ticket, which is valid for all car parks. This costs £5.40. If this is your intention I would suggest doing this off season or mid-week as the car parks are not very large and can get quite full.




Circular Walks.

There are lots of possibilities for circular walks around the headland. My prefered route is to start at Danes Dyke Nature Reserve car park. This walk will enable you to visit all the beaches and bays except Bridlington North Sands. From Danes Dyke car park, find the track which leads down to the beach. When you see the beach, you’ll also see a series of steps climbing the cliff to your left and heading in the direction of South Landing. You can then follow the well signposted coastal route, all the way around the headland.

Essentially keep the sea on your right-hand side and you won’t go wrong. On the northern side of the headland, continue past Thornwick Bay and just before Bempton cliffs you’ll come across Danes Dyke. Danes Dyke is an ancient bank and ditch which runs from North to South, effectively separating Flamborough Head from the mainland. There is a path alongside the Dyke, follow this to return to Danes Dyke Nature Reserve, where you started your walk. Total distance walked is about 10 miles, assuming you’ve made no diversions to a beach or two!

The coastal route follows the cliff top and is quite close to the edge in places. If you are taking your dog, you might want to keep them on a lead. The scenery from the cliffs is quite breathtaking. If you don’t want to make any beach visits, the beaches and bays can be admired from cliff height.

Lighthouses.

As well as stunning scenery the area has two lighthouses. The first one, built in 1669 is a chalk tower. This is a grade II listed building. It is the oldest complete lighthouse structure in the UK and one of the oldest in the world. This was restored in 1996 and stands just inside a golf course. This is not normally open.

Constructed in 1806 and standing 27 metres high, the other newer lighthouse stands closer to the water. It still guides ships safely around the headland as well as marking out Flamborough Head for vessels heading for Scarborough and Bridlington. Light from the 1000 Watt bulb installed in 1992, is powerful enough to be seen from the Marine Drive in Scarborough, 27 miles away. The lighthouse is open in the spring and summer for visitor tours. The coastguard station and fog station are located nearby.

Bridlington North Sands.

Bridlington North Sands stretches over two miles from the harbour to Sewerby, where the white chalk cliffs start. From here the chalk runs south, deep underground to surface again at the chalk cliffs of Kent, Sussex and Dorset. The beach is an award winning Blue Flag sand and shingle beach with wide Edwardian promenades. Low tide exposes a large area of beach, which makes it perfect for a dog walk. From 1st May to 30th September, dogs are not permitted on the beach. This is the only beach on the headland with a dog ban.

You can check tide times at UK Tide Times. Lifeguards patrol the beach during summer. If you are visiting in your car, free and pay and display parking is available. As much of the beach is within the resort town there are plenty of beach front cafes and eateries along the promenade. A range of traditional seaside activities make this a popular family beach.

Danes Dyke Beach.

Danes Dyke Beach is located on the southern side of the Flamborough headland, just under a mile west of South Landing. The pebble beach, flanked by rocks and backed by cliffs, is sandier closer to the water.  Low tide exposes areas of rockpools, making this a good place to hunt for marine wildlife. From the beach there are views across Bridlington Bay and further down the coast.

There is a car park at the Danes Dyke Nature Reserve with a toilet and kiosk, which is open in the summer months. To get to the reserve follow the road sign off Bridlington Road (Post Code: YO15 1AA). Inside the reserve there there are a number of paths through the woodlands, one of which leads down to the beach, 5 minutes walk away. The descent to the beach is quite steep. Negotiate the area of large chalk stones and  boulders to get onto the beach. Dogs are permitted access throughout the year.

At the point where the path from the Nature Reserve meets the beach there are two sets of steps up the cliff on either side. One leads to Sewerby along the cliff top, so its possible to include a visit to the famous Sewerby Hall and gardens. The other steps lead eastwards along the cliff top, and about a mile away, South Landing. Along the cliff top, there are stunning views south towards Bridlington and beyond. At low tide you can walk from Danes Dyke beach to South Landing along the chalk shoreline.

South Landing.

South Landing beach lies on the south side of Flamborough Head, just over 3 miles north-east of Bridlington. Grassy, chalk cliffs back the shingle and pebble beach, these offer a degree of shelter from sea breezes.

Low tide exposes a number of rockpools around the chalk-reef. These are teeming with crabs, small fish and other wildlife. South Landing is also a good place for bird watching. In the summer guillemots, gannets, sand martins and fulmars can all be found here. In the winter there is a chance of spotting eider ducks.

The Yorkshire Wildlife Living Seas Centre is nearby. Here you will find a wealth of information about Yorkshire’s fascinating marine and coastal wildlife. The Centre runs events across the year for all ages.

Next to the Living Seas Centre is a car park with a picnic area, which can be found just off South Sea Road (Post Code: YO15 1AE). Public toilets are located in the Living Seas Centre. From the car park it is a steep descent, down 75 steps, past the RNLI Flamborough Lifeboat Station, to the beach. The RNLI maintain an inshore lifeboat here.

Dogs are allowed all year round.

Selwicks Bay.

Selwicks Bay lies right at the end of the Flamborough headland, just above the most easterly point. This is a good six miles out from the mainland. It is often the first landfall for many migrant birds.

Set in a bay at the foot of high cliffs, this sand and pebble beach stretches for around 3/4 mile. Low tide reveals a rocky shoreline with many rockpools. There are a number of deep cut caves to explore.

There are stunning views out over Bridlington Bay, from the cliffs above the beach. The area between the fog station and the lighthouse is where the best views can be found. From here look across Selwicks Bay to Stottle Bank Nook and beyond to the cliffs at Bempton. Enjoy and photograph the best views in the early morning or late summer evening when the sun’s light illuminates the chalk cliffs.

If you are walking on to North Landing the chalk cliffs around Cradle Head, Breil Head, Breil Nook and Carter Lane are home to a large seabird colony. This section of cliff managed by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust (Flamborough Cliffs Nature Reserve). This is one of the best place in Britain to see puffins. The clifftop here is also home to a large and varied selection of coastal plants, many of which flower in the spring and summer.

Facilities at the beach include a car park (Post Code: YO15 1AR), toilets, cafe and gift shop. Access to the beach is down a series of wooden steps next to the lighthouse.

Dogs are permitted throughout the year. If you’re taking you dog be careful as there are quite often seals on the beach.



North Landing.

Flanking the small, picturesque beach of North Landing are stunning chalk cliffs. The Landing sits in a natural cove on the north side of the Flamborough headland. Rusty, old tractors haul traditional Yorkshire cobbles in from the surf onto the beach and up onto the slipway. The cobbles are mainly used for crab and lobster fishing, but also offer tourist trips around the headland in summer.

The beach here is a mixture of soft sand and pebbles. Low tide exposes rockpools, making the beach a good place to hunt for marine wildlife.

Access the beach from the car park (Post Code: YO15 1BJ) at the end of the B1255. The cafe next to the car park is open during the summer months. The descent to the beach from the car park is via a steep winding slip-road.

Dogs are permitted throughout the year.

Thornwick Bay, Little Thornwick Bay, Chatterthrow Bay.

These beautiful and rugged bays on the north coast of Flamborough Head have beaches strewn with rocks. Thornwick Bay is sign posted from the road down to North landing, or just go to North Landing and walk along the cliff top.

From North Landing, follow the cliff top path across the inlet known as Holmes Gut. You can see many of the caves from here, along with a small brick construction set near the top of the cliff. This was a gunpowder store for the two forty pounder guns that were once kept at Flamborough for the defence of the area.

You soon reach Thornwick Bay. Thornwick Bay Cafe sits on top of the cliff and overlooks the bay. From the cafe there are excellent views of the three large caves: Smugglers Cave, the largest on the east coast of England, Church Cave and Thornwick Cave. Access down into Thornwick bay is via steep steps. Admire the stunning views from the cliff top if you don’t want to walk down. Thornwick Bay has a magnificent sea arch in the cliffs.

Little Thornwick Bay sits next to Thornwick Bay. You can walk between the two bays, through the large sea arch. This is only possible at low tide. Check the tide times at UK Tide Times as this is the only entrance and exit. You cannot climb up the cliff and you will be stranded until the tide goes out again, if you are not careful.

From Little Thornwick Bay it is possible to walk around to the next bay, Chatterthrow Bay. The same note of caution applies to Chatterthrow, it is not possible to climb the cliffs. So, if you are not careful you’ll get stranded.

Dogs are permitted throughout the year. If you’re taking you dog be careful as there are quite often seals on the beach.

Sorry! Another note of caution. Several large caves can be explored but be careful and make sure that you know where your children are. The tide comes into the caves from behind cutting many people off every year. Sadly, some people have drowned.


Chatterthrow picture: Pauline E / Chatterthrow / CC BY-SA 2.0

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The beaches of Flamborough Head

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