Exploring the North Yorkshire Coast


Megan Stoker and Florence Head 'set sail' from York to explore Yorkshire’s coastline

Article Image

Image by Barry Jones

By Florence Head and Megan Stoker

York is surrounded by beautiful landscapes and has plenty of transport connections into the grassy hills and bustling cities like Manchester and Leeds. But sometimes, when the weather is perfectly clear, the seaside is the only place that scratches that particular itch. Here are some choice seaside destinations that are easily accessible via coach, train and car from York; so that you can travel there and back in one day whilst getting to explore a bulk of what all these seaside destinations have to offer. These are most certainly not all the beaches surrounding us, but they are some of the most recognisable.

Nothing was more surprising than wading into the North Sea only to find it warm! Granted, my trip occurred during a particularly hot summer spell. Filey, a small beach destination, sports a series of independent stores ranging from beach apparatus to fish and chips or ice cream —the beachside essentials. The journey to Filey is swift and only an hour — which in good company flies by, with only one three-minute change. With a railcard and off peak, it’s about £16 return which in retrospect is cheaper than many bus excursions that can be taken out of York.

The beach itself is spotless and doesn’t allow dogs onto the main stretch. A sand beach rather than pebble, whilst the water isn’t a vibrant blue like many in South Wales or the Cornish Coast (instead the waves carry a lot of the sand) it is perfectly swimmable. Heading straight down the road from the station and down a steep hill, it leads to a large promenade with seating, mini golf, water fountains and other eateries.

Yet, the beach isn’t the only place you can spend your time. After a few hours at the seafront, you can head back up the hill and enjoy a few of the old-fashioned amusements. These include activities such as throwing the hoops. There is also a small paddling pool ring with a few pedal boats which is a good time killer — if you’re interested.

All in all, Filey is a great place for anyone to go and a great Fresher location. Situated not too far from York with easy and regular transportation you can’t go wrong. More so, it is only a stone’s throw away from Scarbrough or Sheffield via the train. For a summer sun-bathe or an atmospheric winter’s day out, a group trip or solo adventure; I’d recommend Filey for its simplicity and cleanliness. Ultimately Filey may not possess the ‘chocolate box’ beauty of places like Robin Hood’s Bay, but has its own kind of special traditional beach-side charm that can make a fantastic day out.
In terms of beaches and sightseeing, Scarborough certainly has a lot more to offer than Filey but this isn’t a competition. With traditional sea-side amusements, fairground rides and donkeys pottering along the beach, Scarborough plays into its rich history as a popular seaside destination.

From the bustling South Bay and the quieter, more serene North Bay, there is a place for all kinds of beach goers. Whether you enjoy the entertainment of the amusements, the cotton candy stalls and boat rides, the south bay easily accommodates for this. Whereas, if you would like to surf for the first or fiftieth time, enjoy some cocktails overlooking the sea or have a look around Scarborough aquarium — perhaps you would enjoy the North beach more. Yet, Scarborough doesn’t have to be enjoyed as a place with two halves, as bus connections easily travel between the two and the walk only takes 20 minutes.

Despite being a seaside destination, Scar-borough also has fewer aquatic interests. Peasholm park, a 20th century oriental style garden with its wooded and pruned gardens, is a break away from the sea. There are also two cinemas at Scarborough as well as the main high street to explore, plus much more.

For 19th century literature lovers, a more macabre pastime is searching for Anne Bronte’s grave at St Mary’s Graveyard, which sits dramatically overlooking the South Bay and is below Scarborough Castle (a National Trust property). The Agnes Gray author died in Scarborough in1849 from advanced tuberculosis, shortly after the death of her sister Emily Bronte. According to Scarborough Archaeological Society, she requested that in death to not be transported back to Haworth, as Scarborough was a place close to her heart and that the journey would be more emotionally taxing on her surviving family. It’s a place with a beautiful view of the seaside destination but can also be a quiet place of reflection, as it is a lot less busy than the sea front.

Scarborough is a great beachside day out, with a quick 40-minute train journey with no changes. As a whole, it is a navigable and bustling place throughout the Summer and generally warm and sunny days. Easier to travel to than the likes of Whitby, so it is always a pleasant enough place to travel to when deciding to head to the beach on a whim.

Whitby is a go-to, famous for its thrilling connections to the immensely popular text Dracula. Inspiring a host of films and books with it’s gothic architecture; Whitby also further added to the history books by breaking the world record for largest gathering of vampires in celebration of Stoker’s 125th anniversary of Dracula earlier this year.

Going to Whitby does mean a little more preparation like making sure you get your coach or train tickets potentially in advance and be ready to wake up early to get there with enough time to spend a full day. Especially as the journey is over two hours long and by train contains multiple changes. One of the best views is at sunset from the abbey as it overlooks the more period style streets and out into the sea and cliffs. The beaches are obviously good places to start but the markets of Whitby are also amazing to explore. From alternative, jewellery and antique shops there’s plenty to have a look around. But be prepared to tackle the narrow cobbled streets that eventually lead up to the 199 steps and the gothic ruined abbey that overlooks the town. There is also the lighthouse, the Whitby Museum and the Museum of Victorian Science — just to name a few. When it comes to finding a place to eat, Whitby leaves you spoilt for choice. There’s more to the Whitby culinary scene than just fish and chips and an ice cream by the beach... even though that is quite the classic combination!

Ultimately, it is an amazing place to visit but definitely a bit more of a struggle to get to, with the long train journey and three changes. But by coach and car it is a little quicker. A place imbued with the spirit of the sea and a uniquely gothic twist, it’s one that should definitely be on the list to visit.

A stones throw from the town of Filey and an easy hour drive from York lies the head of Flamborough. Whilst being one of the most important homes for seabirds in Europe such as puffins and gannets, it also boasts a large number of seals which can be spotted playing in the cliff sides. Moreso, the soft sand beach and the two lighthouses (one of which is the oldest complete lighthouse in the UK and one of the oldest in the world) lie in Flam-borough, making it a spot for all to enjoy.

I visited in late January, a cold morning with an early start of 4am made us hopeful for what was to come. As the sun crept over the horizon, we spotted a herd of seals below us and we were also met with the ‘drinking dinosaur’. When I first heard this name, I assumed it was a pub. Instead, it is a rock formation home to life-long pairs of gannets, whilst taking the remarkable shape of a dinosaur dipping its head into the ocean. This can also be seen on the coastal walk from Flamborough Head to the RSPB reserve Bempton Cliffs.

Less than a five-minute walk from an accessible car park, Flamborough Head makes for a great spot lying on the East Yorkshire coast at any time. 365 days of the year, it is dotted with rock pools and coves to explore and in May it hosts The Puffin Festival. Hundreds of people gather to watch puffins dive under the surface for sand eels, look after their young and spot the changing colour of their beaks as they become multicoloured during the summer months. To make a day of it, why not take a trip up the 119 steps of the lighthouse, which costs £5 for some spectacular views. If you stay roughly 40 minutes after sunset, the lighthouse is illuminated, adding to the spectacle. Flamborough has something for everyone. It definitely should be on your list during your time at York.

Whichever seaside destinations you travel to in the end all guarantee an entertaining day out. These four destinations are only a few to choose from; yet are some of the most accessible from York.