The name Flamborough is thought to come from ‘Flaneberg’, possibly from the Saxon word flaen meaning an arrow – which when you look at the area on a map it certainly resembles. It is a promontory of eight miles on the Yorkshire coast and Britain’s only northern chalk sea cliff. It is famous as a nesting site for thousands of seabirds and, as the most easterly headland in Yorkshire, it is a great spot to see migrating birds too.
Flamborough Head is a Local Nature Reserve (LNR) as well as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), protected for its wildlife and its geology – the spectacular cliffs are formed from chalk deposited 70-90 million years ago. In August 2006, a lightning bolt hit one of the cliffs and sent 100 tonnes of rock crashing into the sea.
Crystal clear water
As soon as you start to explore this bracing and exposed chalk headland you can see that it’s special. Flamborough Head is home to one of the most important seabird colonies in the whole of Europe and in summer, tens of thousands of birds come here to breed, filling the skies with an epic sight and sound. But look to the ground and you’ll discover the chalk grassland is rich with flowers that attract many species of butterflies and uncommon moths.
The beach at North Landing has some of the best rockpooling around, with crabs, starfish and marine molluscs to be discovered by young explorers. In fact, the area is a European Marine Site (EMS), because the seas around the headland are crystal clear, with distinctive reef and cave habitats, and rich in marine life.
Great for birding
The Nature Reserve at Flamborough has three distinct habitat areas each with its own character and resident bird life. On the 100-foot-high sheer cliffs, seabirds nest precariously – take binoculars and you’ll see fulmars, herring gulls, razorbills, guillemots and kittiwakes. In the grassland fields inland, nesting skylarks and meadow pipits can be seen in large numbers, thanks to improvements to the habitat. Among the gorse scrub in the Holmes section of the cliffs, you may see yellowhammers.
If you’d like to see puffins, the RPSB reserve at Bempton Cliffs on the north of the headland is the place to head for. A different way to get close to Flamborough Head’s bird life is to book a place on an RPSB-organised Gannet and Puffin Cruise. These three-hour round trips run from Bridlington Harbour and have commentators from the RSPB’s East Yorkshire Local Group.
In autumn, the birding focus switches to migration, when all four of the piratical skua family can be seen around the coast, as well as more common seabirds, grebes, wildfowl and divers. There’s even the possibility of seeing the short-eared owl in the cliff top fields. The wooded areas around the steep sided valley of Holmes Gut attract migrating thrushes, finches and warblers.
This bird activity is made all the more dramatic as Flamborough is recognised as one of the most treacherous stretches of water in the British Isles – and the birds are often almost engulfed by the mighty North Sea as it crashes into the chalk cliffs.
Over the years, close to 200 vessels have met untimely ends on this coastline. Ships weren’t completely safe along these shores until 1806, when the present lighthouse was built by a local Bridlington builder to the design of architect Samuel Wyatt. It was first lit on 1 December 1806, and the current light warns shipping 24 miles out to sea of the dangerous lands nearby.
There are guided tours of the lighthouse on certain dates. While exploring it on a clear day, you’ll get spectacular views of Bridlington, Filey and far out
into the North Sea.
HOW TO GET THERE
Flamborough is four miles northeast of Bridlington along the B1255 then the B1259, which leads to Flamborough Head pay-and-display car park. The 510 bus from Bridlington stops at Flamborough village,
a 1.2 mile walk to the Head. More direct services run in the summer months.
Flamborough village has a range of places to eat, one of the best being The Seabirds Inn, which has an open fire.
The Seabirds Inn
Tower Street, Flamborough, North Yorkshire YO15 1PD
Marton Grange Country House
North Yorkshire YO15 1DU
Georgian country house a five minute drive to Flamborough.
Flamborough, YO15 1AR
Contact in advance for details.
Gannet and Puffin Cruises From Bridlington Harbour, advance booking essential.