The Yorkshire Nature Triangle is an area of East Yorkshire stretching from the coastal headlands of Scarborough, Filey and Bridlington, down through the Holderness coast of Hornsea and Withernsea to Spurn Point, and across the inner Humber towards the Vale of York and the Wolds. Within the area sit some of the UK’s most popular wildlife-watching destinations including on the coast the magnificent 400ft high chalk cliffs of Bempton and Flamborough, two of the best and easiest viewpoints for seeing great colonies of gannets and puffins anywhere in England.
Around 250,000 seabirds make their home along this Yorkshire stretch of coastline each spring and summer. These headlands feature coastal carpets of wildflowers and orchids, and are also superb vantage points for spotting seals and porpoises. In summer there are regular sightings of dolphins and even minke whales! A great place to start exploring and learning about these and other sea creatures is the recently extended Living Seas Centre at South Landing, Flamborough where great family friendly rock pooling and safari boat trips are on offer.
TOP 5 SPECIES:
Puffin, kittiwake, pyramid orchid, razorbill, fulmar and spot the diving gannets in spring/early summer!
Flamborough Head just north of Bridlington on the East Yorkshire coast is one of Europe’s most important seabird colonies. Come summertime, the cliffs here are a haven for tens of thousands of breeding little auk, gulls and gannets. The Flamborough Cliffs are the best place on the UK mainland coast to see little auk including puffins, and vast colonies of guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes from easy vantage points on the cliff top. Down on beaches at low tide fascinating sea caves are revealed and family fun rock pooling is on offer at North Landing and Thornwick Bay. There are three different sections in the Flamborough Cliffs nature reserve – Breil, Holmes and Thornwick, all with their own unique character, and each an important site for seabird colonies who nest high up on the sheer chalk cliffs.
Visit in Spring and early summer and see thousands of seabirds here nesting on the chalk cliffs including Flamborough’s famous resident puffins as well as kittiwake, razerbill and guillemot. Look out for diving gannets – sometimes they will dive for fish from 50 feet up! During summer the cliff top salt loving grasslands are in full bloom like the bright pink pyramid orchid and blue harebell. Spot the breeding yellowhammer and linnet around hedgerows and scrub, and species of butterfly like painted lady, tortoiseshell and peacock. Autumn sees the arrival of rare passage migrants like the small and beautiful auk, the redstart and red backed shrike. Just offshore expect to see passing shearwater and skaus. Don’t miss a visit in winter to see fieldfare and redwing amongst the Holmes Gut shrub – their source of shelter and food. Other species here in winter include the barn owl, weasel and stoat, and from January the gannet and fulmar return to the cliffs. Whatever time of the year you visit, there’s always lots to see on the spectacular Flamborough Cliffs.
Living Seas Centre & Safari Boat Trips, Flamborough
The free entry Living Seas Centre at South Landing, Flamborough (with ample parking adjacent) is where to head for information on the area. The centre runs Seashore Safaris on South Landing beach which are great for families. Inside you can watch videos of underwater scenes and follow a storyboard trail around Flamborough Cliffs. During summer Living Seas Safari boat trips are available (pre-booking essential via the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s website). Boat trips offer visitors the opportunity to get up close to the chalk cliffs and seabirds, and learn more about the sea caves and underwater reefs around Flamborough. For families holidaying in nearby Bridlington during the summer months, the centre is just minutes away and promises a fun and fascinating day out.
RSPB Bempton Cliffs
TOP 5 SPECIES:
Gannet, puffin, brown hare, bee orchid, corn bunting
RSPB Bempton Cliffs is just north of Flamborough, easily reached via the Flamborough to Filey B1229 road, or a short scenic walk from Bempton village railway station. Bempton is a real family favourite RSPB reserve and one of England’s best places to view a variety of seabirds and spot adults bringing food to their young chicks nested in the cliffs. Look out for young chicks undertaking their first faltering flights. The PUFFINS are in residence at Bempton between April and July, always a popular time to visit. Expect to see huge numbers of guillemots, diving gannets, razorbills, fulmars and kittiwakes too! Family events feature in the year round programme, including very popular Backpack Activity days. The redevelopment of Bempton’s visitor centre is nearly complete. The new look centre is due to re-open in April 2015.
Michelle is an experienced travel writer with iknow and has travelled extensively across the UK, Spain, Portugal and the USA. When she’s not busy writing for iknow she enjoys spending time touring museums and art galleries and seeking out the best independent shops in Manchester and Leeds.