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Travel North - 28: Keep Your Head on 'the Head'! Walk Flamborough's Cliffs Near Filey

Updated on May 21, 2019

These cliffs have witnessed millennia of change...

The tourist's view of the south landing, Flamborough Head
The tourist's view of the south landing, Flamborough Head | Source
Flamborough Head East side
Flamborough Head East side | Source

A bracing walk that will suck the cobwebs from you and put the bounce back in your stride!

Catch an earful of the sea's roar below you on the massive chalk headland that is Flamborough Head. This is where the sea 'carves' caves, arches and isolates stacks of rock from the cliffs close by. Listen also to the high-pitched scream of gulls that wheel around above you, dive steeply into the green-blue vastness in the near distance and show again with silvery-white fish struggling in their strong bills.

Flamborough Head, the chalk headland juts eight miles out into the North Sea from the coast of the East Riding. Two lighthouses guard the coast at the eastern end of this natural monument. One, built in 1806 and still in use, emits four light fashes every fifty-five seconds. The old - chalk-built - tower stands only a few hundred yards away. It is the oldest surviving lighthouese structure in England, built in 1674 and was meant to have been topped with a fire beacon. There is no evidence this older tower was ever used in anger, however.

Start off from the car park and walk to the right of the newer of the lighthouses towards the fog signal station and aerial masts. There is a Headland Way sign where you turn right and follow the path towards the South Landing, which is parallel to the cliff edge. In 1779 crowds took to the cliff to watch the naval battle off the Head between a Franco-American fleet - led by john Paul Jones on his flagship the 'Bonhomme Richard' - and a British fleet under the command of Constantine John Phipps, 2nd Baron Mulgrave. Two British vessels were captured in the engagement.

There is a sign after a board bridge that points you along the coast and by steps across two gullies. The path takes you inland a little way, where you come across a piece of sculpture on part of the South Landing Sculpture Trail that was opened in 2002. You are at the 2 1/4 mile stage. Bear left, following the track and turn right up the wooded dale at a junction near the viewpoint. Turn left at a fork in the pathway, take a left again over the bridge - dedicated to whales and whalers - and pass through the car park onto the road. Turn right and stride into flamborough village, taking a route straight on at a crossroad. A green, once the village mere, is on your route. Bear left at a signpost in the High Street that leads you to the North Landing. Go right, following the street northward and cross a junction after which continue along North Marine Road to a signposted footpath at the end of the houses on the left past Thornwick Cottage.

At the four mile point follow the hedge on your left to a path beside a fence. You are at a Holiday Camp now, where you follow the road on past Reception. Where the camp road goes left turn right to pass behind the farmhouse here and continue on a waymarked path between fencing. At the next crossroad crossroad pass straight through and carry on left along a path that takes you downhill to the coast. Take a right turn up some steps and follow the cliff path... On behind bungalows, the cliff path again and over a stile where you take the path. over another stile and then there is a bridge over the dale and the 5 1/2 mile stage of your walk.

Climb some steps to the car park at North Landing. along with south Landing this was one of few safe anchorages on Flamborough Head, famous for many caves that were used once by smugglers. It was also once used by the Flamborough village fishing fleet. There are a few of the local Yorkshire Cobles to be seen on the slipway. These cobles are the 'direct descendants' of Viking ships, built using the same clinker method of boatcraft. Make your way towards the large building ahead of you and passing it to the left. Follow the Headland Way sign with the fence on your right to its end. Turn right here, following the clifftop path towards the lighthouses, by the golf course and back to the car park, six and a half miles (10.5km) from where you began your walk. Not that you should time yourself, but the walk is moderate and you could complete it in two and a half hours.

The terrain is mostly clifftop paths, some stepped descents and climbs, and a short way over roadways through the village of Flamborough. The South Landing Sculpture Trail is also accessible to people with pushchairs and wheelchairs. you can park at South Landing.

Getting there by road: public transport routes from Scarborough or Hull via Bridlington are by East Yorkshire Motor Services bus 510 to flamborough Village or North Landing. Flamborough Head lies to the north-east of Bridlington on the east Riding coast. Flamborough Village is reached by the B1259, signposted as 'Flamborough Head'. The car park is next to the lighthouse.

By rail: Bridlington is on the Yorkshire Coast railway route from Hull to Scarborough, continue from Bridlington by bus.

The Headlands Cafe is at Flamborough Head, YO15 1AR, ph. 01262 851020;

Cliff End Cafe is also at Flamborough Head, YO15 1AN, ph. 01262 859671;

Copperfield's Restaurant is at 4 Chapel Street, Flamborough Village, YO15 1LH, ph. 01262 850495

There are several public houses available in Flamborough: www.innway.co.uk , such as The Seabirds Inn, The Viking Inn, Queens Head, The Caravel, The Rose & Crown and the Royal Dog & Duck. Your choice...

For finding your way about refer to Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 301, Grid reference: TA 255 706

Search: Yorkshire Coast and Countryside www.discoveryorkshirecoast.com ;

as well as Yorkshire Tourist Board www.yorkshire.com ;

and for Forge Valley near Scarborough visit: www.naturalengland.org.uk

*See also the Hub TRAVEL NORTH - 10: 'Seafarers and Smugglers on the 'Yorkshire Main'

Additionally you could visit Bempton Cliffs to the north-west of Flamborough Head. This area is a haven for seabirds. Shags, Guillemots, Herring Gulls, Gannets by the thousand, Shearwater, Skua, Puffins (the seaside clowns), Razorbills and Fulmar.

See description below
See description below | Source

David Brandon takes you on sightseeing and historical walks along the Yorkshire coast from the Tees Bay to the Humber Estuary, points out places of interest and great beauty as well as majesty. Impressive cliffs such as Hunt Cliff south of Saltburn, Cat Nab at Staithes with its deep creek bed and Bempton, wide bays between Teesmouth and Saltburn, Sandsend to Whitby, Robin Hood's Bay and both bays at Scarborough with its castle promontory as well as Bridlington Bay.

Flamborough Facets

Ever heard of the expression, "Greedy gannet"? Watch them feed, and learn!
Ever heard of the expression, "Greedy gannet"? Watch them feed, and learn! | Source
Here's one seabird that won't scoff your chips out of your hands - waste wood turned into sculpture along the cliffs at Flamborough
Here's one seabird that won't scoff your chips out of your hands - waste wood turned into sculpture along the cliffs at Flamborough | Source
The chalk cliffs at Flamborough Head, sculpted by wind and tide over centuries
The chalk cliffs at Flamborough Head, sculpted by wind and tide over centuries | Source
Aerial view of Flamborough Village looking seaward
Aerial view of Flamborough Village looking seaward | Source
North Landing, Flamborough Head from seaward
North Landing, Flamborough Head from seaward | Source
The location of Flamborough Head - from York via Driffield by road along the Yorkshire Wolds
The location of Flamborough Head - from York via Driffield by road along the Yorkshire Wolds | Source
Selwicks Bay, Flamborough Head resembles worn old gravestones, don't you think?
Selwicks Bay, Flamborough Head resembles worn old gravestones, don't you think? | Source

Safety first

The old chalk lighthouse at Flamborough Head - unlikely as it sounds, to build a lighthouse of chalk material
The old chalk lighthouse at Flamborough Head - unlikely as it sounds, to build a lighthouse of chalk material | Source
The new lighthouse looks the bees knees, and more permanent, although it hasn't stood for half the time!
The new lighthouse looks the bees knees, and more permanent, although it hasn't stood for half the time! | Source
RAF 'Sea King' Air-Sea Rescue Helicopter on duty. These aircraft had stood the test of time
RAF 'Sea King' Air-Sea Rescue Helicopter on duty. These aircraft had stood the test of time | Source

From Spurn Head to Bridlington...

The East Riding coast is under threat from the sea. Soft rock on its seaward-facing cliffs have allowed the North Sea to eat into farm and residential land. Some places have been allocated a protection order at the expense of others, measures such as concreting the seafront only lasting a few years, even with reinforced concrete and ferrous cross-hatched bars to resist the forces of nature. Ordnance Survey maps have to be regularly re-drawn to accommodate change. This book shows the coast as it was before publication. Even during the production process it may have changed noticeably.

Bird colony on Bempton Cliffs

Bempton Cliffs near Flamborough Head is a wildlife nature reserve monitored by RSPB
Bempton Cliffs near Flamborough Head is a wildlife nature reserve monitored by RSPB | Source

History in the making:

When Lord Cornwallis and his Redcoats were fighting George Washington's 'Continental Army' in North America, John Paul Jones brought the struggle to Britain. The Battle of Flamborough Head was a victory for Jones, although it could easily have proved disastrous for him. The British naval commander was doughty in the defence of his small fleet, although not imaginative. That was the difference.

"The Yanks are coming!"

A Gilkerson painting of the Battle of Flamborough Head. The British ships guarding a convoy of merchantmen were commanded by Captain Richard Pearson
A Gilkerson painting of the Battle of Flamborough Head. The British ships guarding a convoy of merchantmen were commanded by Captain Richard Pearson | Source
At 3pm on September 23rd, 1779 Commodore John Paul Jones aboard Bonne Homme Richard engaged Pearson aboard 'Serafino' '
At 3pm on September 23rd, 1779 Commodore John Paul Jones aboard Bonne Homme Richard engaged Pearson aboard 'Serafino' ' | Source

© 2012 Alan R Lancaster

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    • JKenny profile image

      James Kenny 

      11 months ago from Birmingham, England

      Fantastic article Alan. I absolutely adore Flamborough Head, Bempton Cliffs and even Bridlington has its charm. In fact, just a little over 24 hours ago I was actually sat on the South Landing Beach watching seabirds pass by and I aim to return there at least once before the year is out. I actually never knew about the Battle of Flamborough Head so very much enjoyed learning about that.

    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      3 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Vellur, it's easy: fly in to Leeds-Bradford Airport, hire a car, take the M62 east to Hull, A165 north to Bridlington, B1255 to Flamborough (easy route, you'd need a compass otherwise).

      Why not try TRAVEL NORTH 27: Follow the Infant Nidd (west from L-B Airport, a lot closer) or 29: Eskdale Railway from Middlesbrough-Whitby (Durham-Tees Valley Airport, train to Middlesbrough, no parking problems).

      You know it makes sense - happy 'travelling'!

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      3 years ago from Dubai

      Flamborough looks stunning, you have described the place so well with great images. Enjoyed reading and hope to visit one day.

    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      6 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      I know someone who had a stroke several years ago. He's got a few other issues now, but by and large he's mobile if not able to walk distances. He's just a year or so younger than me, and was an RSM in the Grenadier Guards before taking a similar job in Oman and motor-cycling as far afield as Route 66 and Australia, so he's had a good innings so far. He drives around in a small car these days.

    • John Holden profile image

      John Holden 

      6 years ago

      No, not wheelchair bound (yet). Since I had a stroke a couple of years ago I've just lost all my staying power. It's slowly coming back but I fear it will never fully return.

    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      6 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Just keep taking the Hubs. Hello John, enjoy the visits even if you can't go there walking - all the same, it's mostly accessible by wheelchair if that's the problem.

    • John Holden profile image

      John Holden 

      6 years ago

      Unfortunately even six and a half miles would prove too much for me these days so thanks for the virtual walk.

    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      6 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Thanks Sommer, it all adds to the effect but I can't take plaudits for the pictures - especially not the painting!

      Maybe one day you'll come across the'Pond' and see these places for yourself. We get lots of US tourists up that way (they like the golf courses around Yorkshire as well). Spend a week getting some ozone-rich North Sea air into your lungs!

    • SommerDalton profile image

      Sommer Dalton 

      6 years ago

      Wow! This is so detailed and informative. Looks absolutely amazing and i loved all your beautiful photographs! Voted up and more!

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