Walk from Hornsea to Withernsea (25km)

Introduction

This beach walk explores the Holderness Coast from Hornsea to Withernsea. I started my Holderness journey in Bridlington and walked from there to Hornsea. This walk is very similar in scenery and nature. The coastline on both of these walks is characterised by low clay cliffs and sandy beaches. The cliffs offer little resistance to the sea and are eroding rapidly. The result of this is that many clifftop paths, roads and even whole villages have disappeared over the years.

There are lots of caravan parks on the clifftops where there is no right of way. So, the only feasible option is to travel along the beach. This is possible, but given the length of the walk, it needs to be very carefully planned with the tide timetable (Check tide times). At high tide, the sea reaches the cliffs at numerous points and there are very few places where you can easily (and safely) get off the beach.

Beach Walk – Hornsea to Withersea

This then is a long beach walk, with a promenade at the start and finish. At my pace, the walk took over 6 hours, so it must be timed perfectly with the tides to get to Withernsea safely. I recommend leaving Hornsea about three and a half hours before low tide. This gives 6 or 7 hours where there is enough room for walking between the sea and the cliffs. Along most of the walk, the further away from the cliffs you are, the better and easier the walking. The sand near the cliffs is often soft and/or shingle which can make the walking heavy going.

Also given the state of near collapse of the cliffs along much of the route, I’d always recommend keeping a safe distance from them.

If you time it right you can have an excellent beach walk. This stretch of coastline is far away from any major towns or villages and is very isolated. This together with the limited access points means you’ll see very few people as you walk along. Perfect if you enjoy peace and quiet.

Coastal Erosion

This coastline here was once 5 kilometres further out to sea. It is the fastest eroding coastline in Europe with an average of two meters of cliff disappearing every year. Over the last two thousand years, over 30 villages and towns have been destroyed on this stretch of coast between Bridlington and Spurn Head.

Map

The Ordnance Survey Explorer OL 292 covers most of this walk except for the couple of miles south of Hornsea. This includes the area around Withernsea and Spurn Head. 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.

Dogs

This makes for a wonderful dog walk as long as your dog is fit enough for the distance. 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 Hornsea and the finish in Withernsea. 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.

If you are walking the full route be sure to take plenty of water for your dog, there aren’t many freshwater streams along the route.

Getting to Hornsea

Hornsea is located in East Yorkshire, 12 miles northeast of the town of Beverley and 13 miles northeast of the city of Kingston upon Hull. Hornsea is connected on bus routes to Hull, Beverley, Withernsea, Bridlington and Hessle. There is plenty of car parking close to the beach areas.

Withernsea also has plenty of car parking and has bus connections to Hornsea and Hull.

Walk Directions Hornsea to Withernsea

I normally split my walks into sections so that they can be completed in stages by people who prefer a shorter walk.

This is very difficult to do on this route as there are only a few places where you can get off the beach and at the same time catch a bus. The only two places where this is possible are Mappleton and the Sand Le Mere Caravan Park. Both of these places are served by the 129 Withernsea to Hornsea bus service which only runs four times a day.

So the walk needs to be carefully planned with the bus and tide times considered. I have split the walk into three sections, a short walk from Hornsea to Mappleton, a long walk from Mappleton to Sand Le Mere and to finish a short walk from Sand Le Mere to Withernsea. If you are planning to do the walk in one go, note that there are not many places where you can get any refreshments, so travel prepared with plenty of food and water for the journey.

Walk from Hornsea to Mappleton (4.5 km)

Start the walk at the Trans Pennine Trail marker on the seafront promenade. Hornsea beach has lots of groynes so it’s easier to walk on the promenade than on the beach. Head south and walk past the boatyard and onto the beach at the end of the promenade. Walk around South Cliff and onto Rolston Sands.

As you leave the town behind you meet the boulder clay cliffs which will be with you all the way to Withernsea. This is one of the problems with walking this stretch of coastline. The cliffs remain constant and don’t change very much. This means there are few visual references along the cliffs to give you any clue as to where you are exactly.

Navigation isn’t a problem, just keep walking south along the beach, following the endless line of cliffs.

For this section, the best references are looking back to Hornsea to gauge how far you’ve come and in front of you, the steeple of All Saints Church at Mappleton is visible above the cliffs.

Rolston Sands lead to Mappleton Sands. The pipeline at Mappleton should now be visible up ahead. At Mappleton there is a concrete ramp down to the beach and if you climb up to the cliff top there are public toilets, a small car park and in the village a dog-friendly cafe at the Old Post Office.

Walk from Mappleton to Sand Le Mere (16 km)

Head back onto the beach and continue southwards. Just before the beach, there is a brightly coloured warning sign about unexploded ordnance on the beach. Apparently, the RAF sweep the beach weekly as ordnance still keeps turning up. So, be very careful what you touch.

Cowden Beach

Mappleton Beach soon turns into Cowden Beach. This is actually marked on the OS Map as a danger area. The cliffs above are the source of the unexploded ordnance as it used to be a firing range. Operations stopped in 1998 and it finally closed in 2013.

The beach is littered with lots of pill boxes and observation towers which presumably used to be on top of the cliffs.

If you are walking in summer time keep an eye on the cliffs which are home to swifts and sand martins that build their nests in the cliffs.

Aldbrough

Leaving Cowden Beach you’ll notice up ahead some sort of tower just out to sea. This is something to do with the SSE gas terminal near Aldbrough. This is about 9km from Mappleton so it is a good reference point. Before the tower is a road to the cliffs from Aldbrough but this now comes to an abrupt end where the cliffs have “slumped”. There is no longer any safe access to the beach here.

Once you pass the tower there are hardly any landmarks for about 9 km. This section is really isolated and probably your only company is the sea on one side, a big beach with few if any footprints and the boulder clay cliffs on the other. There are only a few settlements along this stretch of the coast, just a handful of farms. Likely as not you’ll have the beach to yourself, very few people walk along here.

Tunstall Beach

Just before Sand Le Mare is Tunstall Beach. If the tide is low(ish) there is a row of concrete blocks in the sea. At roughly the same point there is The Tunstall Bunker on the cliff top. This might soon disappear as it looks perilously close to the cliff edge. Shortly after passing these, the cliffs become very low for a short stretch and it is here where there is access to the Sand Le Mare Caravan Park. If it’s the holiday season there are usually a few people on the beach here.

Walk from Sand Le Mare to Withernsea (4.5 km)

As you leave Sand Le Mere behind the beach again becomes devoid of people for a couple of kilometres. Up ahead you should now be able to see the buildings at Withernsea and the beach groynes. When you reach Withernsea, climb over the first Groyne and there are some steps (hardest part of the walk!!) which lead up to the promenade. It’s now only a short walk to the town centre.

Withernsea

Withernsea is a small town about 10 miles north of Hull with a population of just over 5,000 people. It’s a popular tourist destination due to its attractive seafront and sandy beaches. The town has two beaches, North Beach and South Beach. As you expect from a seaside resort there are plenty of shops, cafes and restaurants where you enjoy some well-earned refreshments after your long walk.

If you have some energy left, the inland lighthouse is worth visiting. This was built in 1892 and originally would have had sand dunes and mud flats in front of it. It is no longer active and has been turned into a museum for the actress Kay Kendell who was born in the town.

Cliff Safety

Cliffs are changing all the time. Falls and landslides can happen at any time and without warning. Please stay well back from the cliff edge when walking along coast paths, and stay away from the undercliff on beaches.

Disclaimer

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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Walking the Holderness Coast from Hornsea to Withernsea

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