This was another outstanding walk along an extremely beautiful and very varied section of the Yorkshire coast. I was fortunate to have a perfect spring day for this walk and a lot of wildlife interest too. It was a great walk and it also marks the end of another county as I cross into North Yorkshire, completing the East Riding of Yorkshire (well actually, for reasons I’ll explain I started in North Yorkshire and walked south into the East Riding of Yorkshire).
I was doing this walk as a (long) day trip from home. A couple of months earlier I had booked a train ticket from London to Filey (for £14) and returning from Bridlington also for £14. Due to the more limited bus service from North Landing, I was doing this walk in reverse, as the timings for the bus worked better going south.
I managed to catch an earlier than expected train from my local station to London Waterloo. I then took two tube trains to reach London Kings Cross. As a result of catching an earlier train I had about 20 minutes before my train onwards. Rather than hang about in the station, as it was such a nice morning I headed out to take a few photos of the beautiful London St Pancras station next door.
The front of the station is actually the Midland Hotel I think, which had been derelict for some years but has since re-opened. Trains from this grand station depart to such diverse stations as Paris, Brussels, Sheffield, Nottingham, Folkestone and Margate, amongst others. However I was departing from the station next door, at the less attractive London Kings Cross station.
I took the 8am train from London Kings Cross to York, arriving 2 hours later. At York I had a 35 minute wait for my onwards train. York station is one of the few major stations that does not have those infernal “ticket barriers” meaning I could leave the station (my ticket did not permit a “break of journey”, but with no barriers there was no one to tell me off) and explore a bit of York, rather than wait around in the station.
I had a pleasant walk around the outskirts of York and some of the city walls before returning to the station.
I then headed back to the station for my onwards train. I took this as far as Seamer and finally another train from there to Filey, which I reached just before 11:45am. The station at Filey was also quite nice, with a roof over the whole station.
Another feature I liked is the fact the two National Trail walking routes that pass through here were mentioned on the station sign – a good idea that more stations should adopt.
A 10 minute walk or so and I had reached the beach.
Filey has a nice sandy beach though with wet sand right to the promenade I could see that the beach must disappear at high tide! In the distance was the rocky headland of Filey Brigg. However today I was turning right, away from it.
As the tide was out I headed down onto the beach and followed the hard sand south – it is always far more pleasant to walk on the beach with the fresh air, sound of the waves and a more comfortable surface to walk on than tarmac.
The flat promenade soon ended, to be replaced with low (and very soft-looking) cliffs.
The town was soon receding behind me and the beach becoming much quieter. You never have to go far out of a town to find a quiet spot on the beach.
After about a mile or so of lovely beach walking I had reached the village of Hunmanby. The village was once largely occupied by the huge Butlins Filey holiday camp. At it’s peak this huge holiday camp provide accommodation for 11,000 people at any one time and even had it’s own railway station to bring holiday makers here. The camp closed in 1983 and was largely demolished, though a large caravan park now occupies much of the land. Thankfully I could not see most of this from the beach. What I could see were the houses of the village, which had been built part way down the cliffs.
The cliffs looked very soft and I thought the houses looked to be very precarious. A lovely view, but I’d not want to live there with the threat of the sea eroding the cliffs on which the houses stand.
Soon I was passed Hunmanby, though the beach showed some evidence of the remains of buildings presumably victims of erosion, with a few bricks and bits of concrete visible on the beach (at the bottom left below).
The back of the beach was now becoming covered with pebbles and shingle at the high tidfe line, but there was still plenty of firm sand further out. At the village of Humanby Gap I came across steps up leading to the White House (the steps on the photo below lead to it). This was the retreat of the owner of Butlins, Billy Butlin, but is now a holiday home you can rent.
I continued south along the beach, past a couple of World War II concrete pill boxes now on the beach, presumably having been washed off the cliffs.
I was glad the tide was out because there isn’t a path along the top of the cliffs and I’d otherwise be walking on roads some distance from the coast.
This stretch of coast made for easy and beautiful walking, just sticking directly to the beach, with the headland of Filey Brigg becoming increasingly small.
However ahead in the other direction I could see the imposing Flamborough Head, where I was heading.
Walking along the beach I had a few streams and small rivers flowing out onto the beach to negotiate, but only one of them even needed me to take my shoes off and even that was only a few inches deep.
More World War II concrete defences were visible at the back of the beach.
I continued past another holiday park village, Reighton, where there is a large caravan site.
Ahead I now had the imposing white chalk cliffs of Flamborough Head. I could see that I was going to have to leave the beach now, as soon the waves were reaching the base of these near vertical cliffs.
Just ahead I was therefore pleased to see there was access up to the cliff tops, where the footpath (The Headland Way) begun.
I climbed up steps from the beach briefly through some woodland and then emerging near the top where I could see the welcoming finger post of the Headland Way pointing left, my onwards route.
(I’m not sure if the path I used to get off the beach still exists – it is not marked as a right of way on the map now and may have been lost to erosion, there is an incomplete dotted line on the maps now).
Having made it up to the cliff tops I could follow this good coastal path, The Headland Way the rest of the way to North Landing, which hugs the cliff tops.
The view from the top of these high cliffs was magnificent and I could see a line of white pebbles from the chalk has formed at the base of the cliffs.
Looking back, Filey was now only just visible in the distance, whilst I could also clearly make out the line of old World War II defences I had been walking past on the beach.
After the steep climb to the top of the cliffs the Headland Way was now fairly flat, running right along the top of the cliffs and after about 1 mile, I reached an important milestone.
This was the point that marked the border between North Yorkshire (where I had started) and the East Riding of Yorkshire, where I was headed. This means by the time I reach North Landing (where I ended the last walk), I’ll have completed another country, the East Riding of Yorkshire.
The border also seemed to mark broadly the point where the beach at the base of the cliffs ended. Now the cliffs dropped right down to the crashing waves, far below.
The path made it’s way along the gently undulating chalky cliffs of this magnificent headland. It was wonderful walking.
I soon became aware of a lot of sea birds visible flying close to the cliffs. Ahead I could see a few people standing on the cliffs looking at something.
As I got closer the birds became much larger in number and soon I realised what the people were looking at. I had forgotten, but Flamborough Head is famous for it’s bird life. Many thousands of sea birds nest on the narrow ledges of these vertical chalk cliffs. As I was here in spring this was a particularly busy time for the birds.
It was incredible to watch these birds somehow coming to a near dead stop and landing on these narrow ledges. How they don’t fall off I don’t know. It was an amazing sight, which was completely unexpected to me.
The noise too was quite something (though the smell, less pleasant!).
Looking ahead, the birds continued to nest on the cliffs for several miles ahead. This is now an RSPB nature reserve (RSPB Bempton Cliffs). Here the RSPB has erected wooden fences along the coast along with some viewing platforms from which you could see the spectacle of the birds below. As I headed east, these viewing areas became more numerous and more crowded.
Soon the crowds became so numerous it was hard to find a gap beside the cliff edge to see over, as there were people lining the fences.
Camera and binoculars were a common sight and it was nice to see people enjoying the beautiful birdlife and natural beauty of the coast. Having said that, I hadn’t expected to find so many people on this walk! There were also some staff from the RSPB about to help explain what you were watching and the different types of birds that could be seen, too.
The geology too was impressive, with a few rock arches visible in the base of the cliffs, where some of the softer chalk had been eroded.
Everywhere I looked on the cliffs there were birds. I don’t think I have ever seen so many sea birds (sorry, I can’t remember now all the different types that there were). They seemed to be clinging to every ledge and every slightly less steep part of the cliffs.
I didn’t see any puffins, but I did see this wooden carving of one. Not sure if (natural) puffins can be seen here at times though.
Soon the cliffs were getting lower and I could see all the rest of Flamborough Head laid out before me, with two lighthouses visible on the cliff tops some distance ahead, and some very pretty coastline ahead.
Now the sheer cliffs had become rather more rugged, with numerous caves and inlets having been created by erosion.
Some had formed very narrow headlands and a few remains of rock stacks. This is Thornwick Bay and it was very beautiful.
I was especially lucky that I got to see it as the sun was getting lower in the sky, creating a nice warm light that was lighting up these lovely chalk cliffs and seemed to make the colours even brighter.
Just before I reached Thornwick Bay I had to turn a bit inland around a stream, as the more coastal path and it’s bridge had been lost to erosion, as the wooden slats of the bridge were all missing (or perhaps they had been removed to deter usage if it had become unsafe).
However it was only a short diversion and I was soon around it and back on the cliff tops.
Thornwick Bay is a beautiful place with the white chalky cliffs and a beach that is a mixture of rock, pebbles and coarse sand.
There was access down to the beach, but for now I stuck to the coast path, keen to reach North Landing.
The path rounded one more small headland (High Holme) and then I rounded the corner to reach North Landing.
This too is a beautiful beach. It is a little more developed than Thornwick Bay, with a lifeboat station and an area of concrete on which boats are hauled up. That looked like a hard job, because the concrete area was at an angle of almost 45 degrees!
Nevertheless a number of boats had been pulled up it, presumably where they are safe from storms.
I rounded the corner to soon reach the back of the bay. Here a rather run-down old boat house had an exhibition of bird photographs. I had reached North Landing around 35 minutes before my bus was due. This meant I had time to head down onto the beach and rest after this wonderful walk.
The wooden fishing boats on the beach displayed the White Rose of York on the front, a nice touch I thought.
It was nice to have time to relax and rest at the end of the walk, listening to the restful sound of the waves breaking on the beach. I also stopped for a quick paddle, the cold water being lovely and refreshing on my tired feet!
Sadly I soon had to drag myself away from this idyllic spot in order to catch the bus onto Bridlington.
As I headed up to the cliff top I saw this unusual “pirate” ship go past (I’m sure they were not really pirates!).
I soon reached the bus stop where I took a bus onwards to Bridlington. Bridlington had a station and I could take the train home from here, so there was no need to return to Filey where I had started.
As before I had a bit of time to explore Bridlington too before heading for the railway station. From the sea front I could look back to the lovely chalk cliffs of Flamborough Head where I had been earlier. It had been a memorable place and I had very much enjoyed my walk around it, and the wonderful bird life that I saw.
Soon it was time to head back to the station for my train home. First I had to take a train to Hull. From there I took another train to Doncaster. Unexpectedly, this second train gave me a nice view of the Humber Bridge at sunset, the photo below being taken through the train window.
It was a lovely way to end what had been an extremely enjoyable day. From Doncaster I changed again for the last train of the evening back to London, which arrived at 22:47. It was around midnight when I got home, but it had been worth it for such a beautiful and enjoyable walk. I always find myself feeling a bit out of place to be travelling back on the tube through central London on a Saturday night with a rucksack and muddy shoes, surrounded by those who are returning from a night out in London!
This had been a really wonderful walk. Everything had gone to plan. I was pleased I was able to follow the beach south from Filey so far. Then I was able to join the lovely cliff top path of the Headland Way along the spectacular chalk cliffs of Flamborough Head, packed with nesting birds to finish at beautiful North Landing. This was one of the best walks on the east coast and had certainly made a brilliant introduction to North Yorkshire (and, spoiler alert, the rest of North Yorkshire turned out to be wonderful, too).
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk. To get between North Landing and Filey requires two buses or a bus and a train. First take the bus to Bridlington then a train or bus from there to Filey. Details are below.
East Yorkshire Motor Services (EYMS) bus route 14 : Bridlington (bus station) – Sewerby – Flamborough – Thornwick Bay – North Landing. Hourly Monday – Saturday. No service on Sundays. It takes around 25 minutes to travel between North Landing and Bridlington.
East Yorkshire Motor Services (EYMS) routes 12 and 13 : Scarborough – Cayton Bay – Cayton – Filey – Hunmanby (12 only) – Primrose Valley Holiday Village (13 only) – Reighton Sands (13 only) – Reighton – Bridlington. Hourly during the winter (seven days a week). Increasing to twice an hour during the summer. It takes 45 – 50 minutes to travel between Filey and Bridlington.
Northern Rail – The Yorkshire Coast Line : Scarborough – Seamer – Filey – Hunmanby – Bempton – Bridlington – Nafferton – Driffield – Beverley – Cottingham – Hull (Paragon). 10 trains per day Monday – Saturday and 6 on Sundays. It takes just over 20 minutes to travel between Filey and Bridlington.