Bridlington is where the Holderness Coast begins. This beach walk explores the first part of the coast as far south as Hornsea. The coastline here is characterised by low cliffs and sandy beaches. Sadly, it also has a rapidly eroding coastline, evident along much of the walk.
The soft clay cliffs are the problem along this stretch of coastline. Erosion has taken away clifftop paths and rights of way have gone. In many places farmland on the clifftop is often cultivated right up to the cliff edge as farmers try to maximise their harvest from what remains of their fields before they disappear.
Along the coast are numerous caravan parks where there is no right of way. There are some sections of clifftop path remaining but these quite often end abruptly. If there is then no route down to the beach, the only option is to retrace your steps.
The England Coast Path project aims to create a continuous walking route along the Holderness Coast. However, there is no permanent pathway along the cliffs at the moment. The other problem is there are only a few places where there is access to the beach from the cliffs.
This then is a long beach walk, with a promenade at the start and end. The walk must be timed perfectly with the tides in order to get to Hornsea. I recommend leaving Bridlington about three hours before low tide. This gives six or seven hours where there is plenty of room for walking between the sea and the cliffs. Along most sections, the further away from the cliffs you are, the better the walking. Close up to the cliffs the beach is often soft sand and shingle which is heavy going. In some places, the sea does actually reach the cliff line at high tide and there are only a few places where escape from the beach is possible.
However, if you time it right you can have an excellent beach walk. Outside of the holiday season when the caravan parks aren’t busy you can often find yourself walking with long sections of beach to yourself.
This stretch of coastline was once 5 km further out to sea. It is the fastest eroding coastline in Europe with on average two meters disappearing every year. Over the last two thousand years, over 30 villages and towns have been destroyed on the 40 mile stretch of coast between Bridlington and Spurn Point. Follow the link to see a map of East Yorkshire with the coastline shown in Roman Times and the location of the lost villages.
A number of roads have been blocked off as they now abruptly end with a drop onto the beach. Sadly, not everywhere has sea defences, the village of Skipsea which is passed on the walk is now uncomfortably close to the sea. Some places such as Hornsea are luckier, being protected by sea defences. Unfortunately, it is too expensive to install these along the whole coastline.
The Ordnance Survey Explorer OL 295 covers this part of the coast. This includes the area around Bridlington, Skipsea and Hornsea. With this map, you also get a code for use on your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet. The OS Explorer Map is available in both the standard paper version and the weatherproof ‘Active’ version.
Bridlington is a traditional family seaside resort. It has two sandy beaches which straddle either side of the harbour. The North Beach has a blue flag award and leads to the chalk cliffs around Flamborough Head. You can walk north from Bridlington along The Headland Way to eventually arrive in Filey 32 km away.
This walk heads in the opposite direction, southwards, leaving the town from the Spa along the South Beach.
Bridlington is well connected and is easy to get to on public transport. It is linked to Scarborough and Hull on the rail network. East Yorkshire buses go to Bridlington from Scarborough and Filey. They also run a regular service from Hull, Beverley and Driffield. Should you be thinking of returning to Bridlington from Hornsea, Skipsea, Barmston or Fraisthorpe there are only two buses a day from these stops to Bridlington.
There is plenty of car parking in Bridlington if you are driving. The town also has a park and ride service. If you are thinking of parking in Bridlington, doing the walk and returning by bus. I would suggest parking in Hornsea instead and catching the bus to Bridlington to start the walk. The Hornsea to Bridlington bus service is not very frequent and most services are earlier in the day.
This is a wonderful dog walk. Your pet can enjoy the freedom of the beach nearly all the way along this walk. There are two seasonal dog bans in place at the start in Bridlington and the finish in Hornsea. These are in place from 1st May to 30th September. If you are walking during the summer with a dog, you’ll have to start and finish on the beachfront promenades.
Walk from Bridlington to Fraisthorpe (Auburn Sands)
The walk starts south of the harbour at the Spa, both of which are well signposted in the town. There is a promenade here, heading south, which runs for about a kilometre and a half to the Belvedere Cafe. Here there is a flagpole marking the end of the Princess Mary Promenade.
The south sands can be busy on a sunny day in season. However, the crowds are soon left behind as you leave Bridlington.
At the end of the promenade, drop down onto the beach and pass the beach chalets.
You are now on Wilsthorpe Sands where the large Pay and Display car park is located. This is a designated bathing beach and there is a concrete slipway giving access to the beach. There aren’t really any cliffs here, just sand dunes. Because there aren’t really any cliffs, it can be windier here than along other parts of the walk. Hence, this beach tends to be very popular with kite flyers and windsurfers.
After walking past the car park, the Royal Yorkshire Yacht Club and a small row of houses the clifftop becomes farmland.
There are some remnants from World War II on the beach, concrete blocks, and a pillbox. During the war, this part of the coastline was considered highly vulnerable to invasion and was on the front line of England’s defences. These structures are encountered all the way along this walk. However, many of them are now in pieces on the beach having fallen from their original positions.
After passing the line of concrete blocks you arrive at Auburn / Fraisthorpe Sands where the is a car park, toilets and a cafe. This is also a designated bathing beach. The beach here is littered with lots of debris from sea defences and WWII structures.
The village of Auburn is one of the “lost” villages. The farm which was on the outskirts of the village is the only thing left.
Walk from Fraisthorpe to Barmston
There is not much along the cliffs on this part of the walk, just farmland. The beach though is quite extensive, especially as you approach Barmston. There are no real navigational features along this beach. Look out for a caravan park just after the place where the cliffs become almost non-existent. This is Barmston Beach Holiday Park.
There is one feature on the beach which might cause you some difficulty. Halfway between Fraisthorpe and Barmston is Earl’s Dike. Depending on recent rain this can be quite a large stream. If it’s been raining, the stream is too wide to jump across and quite deep. The only way across is to remove your socks and shoes, roll your trousers up and wade across. By contrast, when it’s been dry the stream soaks into the sand before it even reaches the sea.
At Barmston it is possible to leave the beach. Either climb up the very low cliffs before the holiday park and follow the clifftop path. Alternatively, look for a path up the cliff just after the park. There is a bus stop at the Holiday Park where you can catch one of the two buses a day to Bridlington, or Hornsea. The village is a short walk from the cliffs and boasts a pub, the Black Bull which serves food. There is also a cafe and takeaway in the holiday park. If you are thinking of doing this walk in shorter stages, there is some limited car parking in the village.
Walk from Barmston to Skipsea
Leaving the Holiday Park behind the clifftops once again revert to farmland. Barmston Beach is a wonderful stretch of sandy beach. The beach is a designated bathing beach and it has also won a Rural Beach Seaside Award. The beach is frequented by several species of seabird and between April and September, Sand Martins nest in the sandy cliffs.
Barmston Drain has an outflow across the beach just past the village. This is covered over forming a spit which is easily crossed at the point where it emerges from the cliffs. This is part of an extensive drainage system developed as far back as 1798.
Once you’ve scrambled over the drain, the sandy beach and farmland continue for a while until you reach the Seaside Caravan Park at Ulrome. Shortly after there is another caravan park, the extensive Skipsea Sands Holiday Park. The cliffs at Skipsea are quite high and there is no beach access, other than a precarious climb with the help of a rope.
Walk from Skipsea to Hornsea
Once you’ve walked past the caravan parks, look out for a row of old caravans and shacks. Just past these is an obvious gap in the cliffs. This is Withow Gap, where a path leads up to Mr Moo’s Ice Cream parlour. This is about a kilometre away if you fancy a detour for a snack, drink or ice cream.
Continuing along from Withow Gap you pass a golf course. Then two very large caravan parks, Far Grange and Skirlington. The large unsightly pile of rocks you can see protects the access path to the Far Grange Holiday Park.
In the distance now you should just be able to make out the buildings on the clifftops at Hornsea. The scenery doesn’t change much now until Hornsea is reached. The cliffs are quite tall and made of clay and the beach seems to have a lot more shingle patches.
The clifftop is again farmland until the outskirts of Hornsea are reached where there are a number of caravan parks.
As you approach Hornsea, the beach has a series of wooden sea defences placed at intervals along the beach. Once the town is reached there is a promenade running along the seafront. This is a lot easier to walk along than the beach with its wooden sea defences, which have to be climbed over.
The award-winning promenade area is a recent addition to the town and is very pleasant to walk along. Hornsea is a traditional seaside resort and along the seafront, you’ll find a selection of cafes and shops. There are also toilets and plenty of places to sit and enjoy a well-earned rest after your walk. Look north from Hornsea and in the distance, you can just make out the chalk cliffs of Flamborough Head and Bridlington where you started out.
Whilst I take every care to ensure the accuracy of the route description, I cannot accept responsibility for errors or omissions. The route described may be pleasant for walking in fine weather but can become slippery and dangerous in wintry or wet weather. On days when visibility is impaired by fog, rain, cloud or mist, some landmarks used as direction aids in the route descriptions may not be visible.
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