First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Flamborough Head, a great chalk thumb poking out from the Yorkshire coast into the North Sea, is a windy and lonely place. The resident seabirds don’t mind; they swoop and wheel around the narrow cliff ledges of the headland, bringing food back to their precarious roosts and contributing a certain metallic fishy whiff to this walk.
St Oswald’s Church stands in the fishing village of Flamborough at the heart of the headland. It contains several memorials to fishermen and lifeboat men, and a wonderful carousel of paintings by local amateur artist Alfred Cracroft honouring the men and women of Flamborough whose work in services from the Home Guard and the WAAF to the Royal Observer Corps and nursing helped to win the Second World War.
Church Lane leads to a grassy path running to the southern cliffs of the headland. The view curved away south past Bridlington’s chalk cliffs and the fast-eroding East Yorkshire coastline to the faint double hummock of Spurn Head on the horizon.
We followed the cliff path past cornfields where skylarks spiralled and sang, through forests of grasses and thistles, with fishing boats cutting the glittering sea to our right. At South Landing the Flamborough lifeboat, a big orange rib, was away from its home shed for repairs. ‘Scraped its bottom rescuing a fellow stuck in a cave,’ explained the volunteer on duty.
Flamborough Head is a treacherous place, a magnet for swirling tides and cross currents that eat caves and arches out of the chalk cliffs. As we rounded the easterly nose of the headland a great shrieking and gibbering of seabirds, along with a fishy stench, arose from their favoured nesting cliffs on the north side.
It’s a staggering sight and sound, so many seabirds in one place. Cormorants and gulls occupied the lower rocks; sharp-billed guillemots and black-coated razorbills with smart white markings lined the middle ledges, and kittiwakes wheeled round the upper storeys of the cliffs with their incessant ‘ee-wake! ee-wake!’
Along at North Landing lay the cobles Prosperity and Summer Rose, fishing boats with pointed bows and stems, a designed unchanged for over 1,000 years. Just beyond we turned inland for Flamborough, blown by wind, burned by sun and with the echoing calls of the kittiwakes still in our ears.
Start: Two Brothers memorial, Tower Street, Flamborough, Nr Bridlington, N. Yorks YO15 1PD (OS ref TA 227706)
Getting there: Bus 14 from Bridlington
Road – Flamborough (B1255) is signposted from A165/A1038 in Bridlington.
Walk (9¼ miles, easy, OS Explorer 301): South down Tower Street to St Oswald’s Church (226702). Through churchyard to south gate; right along Church Lane; in 150m, round right bend. In 100m, left (226700) down Beacon Farm drive to cliffs (225693). Left, and follow cliff path/’Headland Way’ for 500m to South Landing (231693). At lighthouse sculpture 200m beyond (233693), fork right (‘Flamborough Head’, yellow arrow/YA) for 2½ miles to Flamborough Head. Pass in front of lighthouse (255706); pass green with benches; at cresset, follow path (YA) along cliff-tops. In 2½ miles pass Thornwick Bay café (232723); in another ½ mile, left on North Cliff (224726, fingerpost, YA) on path south for 1 mile to T-junction (226710). Left (‘Flamborough’) to road at Craikwell (227708); right to Two Brothers memorial.
Conditions: Several flights of uneven steps; unguarded cliff edges.
Lunch: Seabirds Inn, Tower Street, Flamborough (01262-850242, theseabirds.com)
Accommodation: Premier Inn, Albion Terrace, Bridlington YO15 2PJ (01262-411642; premierinn.com)
Yorkshire Coast Path by Andrew Vine (safehavenbooks.co.uk)