To Filey for birdwatching and photography, 12-14 June 2018

We had been wanting to visit the RSPB bird reserve at Bempton cliffs in East Yorkshire to see the breeding seabirds for quite some time and this June we finally made it. We decided to make Filey our base, the seaside resort about 12km south of Scarborough, and close to Bempton. I was also keen to do some photography of the cliff scenery in particular. We drove from home to see and have lunch with my father at his nursing home in Threshfield, Grassington first and then across country to Filey arriving about 5pm.

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Filey, Bempton and Flamborough Head

Filey used to be a fishing village but the industry has all but died out now; it was developed as a seaside resort in the nineteenth century and has seen several distinguished visitors including Frederick Delius and Charlotte Brontë, who stayed in the town in an attempt to improve her health. We duly booked two nights bed and breakfast at the excellent Esmae House, right in the centre of town and close to the seafront. Initial impressions of Filey on the day we arrived were very positive; it is quite small, has a fairly relaxed air, loads of gardens, independent shops and good restaurants. On that first night, we decided to eat Italian and patronised the excellent Bella Italia restaurant; not one of the chain Bella Italia eateries!

Filey, with the 19th century Royal Parade towards the top right of the picture

The next day, we headed first to the RSPB reserve at Bempton cliffs and spent around three hours walking between the various viewing platforms on the cliff tops and observing the huge numbers of sea birds. These were in such numbers as to take your breath away, the main ones being kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills, fulmars and gannets. We were also pleased to see some puffins, although they were distant views and quite hard to spot. In all, we probably saw about a dozen of them. I think the gannets were my favorite birds; they look almost prehistoric and are of impressive size. We were fortunate that the weather was fine and sunny with the sun illuminating the birds.

Fulmar at Bempton Cliffs


Gannet at Bempton Cliffs


Just some of the thousands (millions?) of gannets at Bempton Cliffs

After lunch at the reserve’s visitor centre, we drove the 5km or so to North Landing near Flamborough Head, so we could walk along the clifftops to the Head itself. The coastal scenery hereabouts is spectacular; chalk cliffs – the only ones in the north of England, sea stacks and natural arches all being evident; my camera was very busy despite the fact it had clouded over. Having had our fill of natural splendour, we headed back to Filey and with being at the seaside, dinner that night had to be fish and chips!

Flamborough Head

For our final day before driving home, we were slightly anxious as to how Storm Hector might affect what we wanted to do. However, the day dawned fine and it didn’t even appear to be that windy. We decided to spend the morning walking to Filey Brigg, a long narrow peninsular just north of Filey and marking the northern limit of Filey Bay (Flamborough Head marking the southern limit). Filey Brigg has steep cliffs on both sides and descends at the end onto a rocky foreshore, covered at high side, that projects out into the sea. It was fascinating to clamber over the rocks and explore the various rock pools, after which it was back into Filey for a coffee. Although it had been windy on Filey Brigg, it hadn’t been enough to deter us.

The rocky end of Filey Brigg

Following coffee, we drove to Flamborough for lunch and through Trip Advisor found a fantastic cafe – Copperfields Restaurant – serving two course meals for £5.95. We both had steak pie and a pudding, which were tasty and good. Afterwards, we decided to explore Flamborough Head in more detail and walk along the south side cliffs towards South Landing before cutting across fields to reach the road back to Flamborough Head. We passed some amazing cliff scenery of natural arches and rock stacks and again my camera was very busy. By now, the weather was glorious; the sun shining strongly and the wind had dropped. We had sandwiches for tea before setting off for home in the early evening with the feeling that it was a place we would be returning to.

Rock arch at Flamborough Head
Flamborough Head lighthouse, open to the public on certain dates during the summer

2 thoughts on “To Filey for birdwatching and photography, 12-14 June 2018

  1. It’s very lovely there, definitely my favourite coastline. I often visit Scarborough with a friend and we went to Bempton Cliffs last year to see the puffins but it was slightly late and there were only a few left. It was a great experience and I will be visiting again.


  2. Thanks for your comment Ncky; it was our first time to Filey, but we’ve been to Scarborough quite a few times. I think we’ll be going back to Bempton cliffs again; it’s such a thrilling spectacle.


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