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, 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. A clifftop footpath connects all these beaches – the 18-mile-long Headland Way. The Headland Way is a long-distance footpath connecting Filey to Bridlington.
The Ordnance Survey Map of Scarborough, Bridlington and Flamborough Head covers this section of the coast. The OS Explorer Map 301 covers the east coast of Yorkshire around Scarborough, Bridlington and Flamborough Head. With this map, you also get a code for use on your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet. The explorer map is available in both the standard paper version and the weatherproof ‘Active’ version.
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 offseason or mid-week as the car parks are not very large and can get quite full.
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 Little Thornwick Bay.
Return to Danes Dyke Car Park
Walk uphill for a short distance and look for a signposted path that runs away from the cliffs along the field edges. This will take you to Flamborough Village. The path enters the village near Craikwells. Turn right onto the main road into Flamborough. Follow the road as it bends round to the right at St Oswald’s church. Pass the church to head out of Flamborough along Bridlington Road. Look on the left for a tree-lined access road to Home Farm. This runs past the entrance to Home Farm and then you’re back at Danes Dyke car park.
The total distance walked is about 10 miles, assuming you’ve made no diversions to a beach or two! I describe the full route of the Headland Way from Bridlington to Filey in a separate post.
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, you can admire the beaches and bays from cliff height.
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 mapping out Flamborough Head for boats and ships travelling between 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 beachfront cafes and eateries along the promenade. A range of traditional seaside activities makes 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 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 clifftop, 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 beach lies on the south side of Flamborough Head, just over 3 miles northeast 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 rock pools 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 it is possible to see guillemots, gannets, fulmars and sand martins and in the winter 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. This is 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 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 rock pools. 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 you’ll find the best views. 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. The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust (Flamborough Cliffs Nature Reserve) manage this section of cliff. This is one of the best places 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 your dog be careful as there are quite often seals on the beach.
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 signposted from the road down to North landing, or just go to North Landing and walk along the clifftop.
Follow the clifftop path from North Landing across Holmes Gut inlet. From here you can see many of the caves, as well as 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 East Coast’s largest cave, Thornwick Cave and Church Cave. Access down into Thornwick bay is via steep steps. Admire the stunning views from the clifftop if you don’t want to walk down. Thornwick Bay has a magnificent sea arch in the cliffs.
Little Thornwick Bay and Chatterthrow Bay
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 your 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.
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