There is nothing quite like a bracing stride besides a north-east shore to blow away those winter blues. Speeton Sands offer dead-flat walking along an impressive stretch of the Yorkshire coast, where the sandstone of Filey Brigg gives way to the towering chalk cliffs of Bempton, some of the highest on the east coast of England.


This is a fascinating stretch of coastline and, while the geological transition is interesting, there is also much to discover from more recent human history. It is always wise to plan your visit either side of low tide, but there are opportunities to join or leave the beach at Filey, Hunmanby Gap and Reighton Gap.

Bird in flight
Bempton Cliffs and Speeton Sands is home to the largest mainland gannet colony in the UK/Credit: Kneon Light, Getty

History of Speeton Sands

The beach is peppered with the remains of coastal defences from the Second World War and that is entirely due to the gap between those chalk and sandstone cliffs. This area was at risk from a seaborne invasion and much evidence remains of hastily prepared defences, from the concrete tank traps known as ‘dragon’s teeth’ to lozenge-shaped pillboxes, some of which have slumped on to the beach due to coastal erosion.

In the event, these defences were never tested, but this is a coastline that has still seen its fair share of drama; the Yorkshire coast is littered with shipwrecks. There are some remarkable remains of the steam collier Laura on the beach, including the huge boiler barrels, parts of the hull and propeller housing, which are all visible at low tide. This Austrian steamship ran aground in dense fog in November 1897 while carrying coke from Newcastle to Trieste in northern Italy.

It is amazing that these huge sections of the wreck have survived the ravages of the North Sea for so long.


Visiting Filey

Once you have finished the geology and history lesson, it is a simple stride back to Georgian Filey, where you can’t beat strolling along the promenade with a wrap of traditional fish and chips. If you have energy to spare, it is worth exploring Filey Brigg, which sends a protective arm out around Filey to shelter it from the worst winter storms and offers excellent views to Flamborough Head on the opposite side of Filey Bay.

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Chris Gee is the author of Walking the Yorkshire Coast: A Companion Guide.