Flamborough Head: An Ultimate Guide + Things to Do (2022)

Flamborough Head Yorkshire Coast Photography Guide blog cover; Text overlaying an aerial image of the white chalk cliffs of Flamborough Head.

The Flamborough Head coastline is quickly becoming a favourite UK travel destination for landscape photographers, wildlife enthusiasts, hikers, or for family getaways. This stunning stretch of Yorkshire coastline boasts some of the most unique seascapes found anywhere in England.

In addition to the remarkable scenery, it is also home to a bevvy of seals, countless bird species, and most notably, it is a seasonal nesting location for puffins in Yorkshire!

Perhaps one of the most underrated photography destinations in the UK, the Yorkshire coast and Flamborough Head offer a variety of spectacular seascapes to be explored and photographed.

This photography and travel guide to the Flamborough Head Heritage Coast describes the best times and locations to capture the area. We also provide insight on the many hiking trails and vistas that even casual visitors should consider adding to their itinerary.

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FAQs

Sunrise at the Flamborough Head Lighthouse
Sunrise at the New Flamborough Head Lighthouse

If you are here for more information on the region, start with these frequently asked questions. If you are a photographer or seascape-minded visitor, continue onward for recommendations on the best times and places to photograph Flamborough Head.

Where is Flamborough Head?

Flamborough Head is located in the northeast of England along the Yorkshire coast. It is comprised of 8 miles of rugged chalk cliffs between Filey and Bridlington. The imposing, sheer cliffs stand an impressive 400ft above the North Sea.

While they may not be as famous as the White Cliffs of Dover or Beachy Head, the cliffs at Flamborough have a different aesthetic which is just as spectacular.

Flamborough Head is easily accessible by car from Hull, (1 hour), York (1 hour 20 mins), Leeds (1 hour 40 mins) and Middlesbrough (2 hours).

When is the best time to see puffins at Flamborough Head Yorkshire?

Puffins are seasonal visitors to Flamborough Head.
Puffins are seasonal visitors to Flamborough Head.

The best time to see the puffins at Flamborough Head is in July. Most years, you can start spotting them as early as late April and as late as August. However, by August, sightings become extremely rare as the young puffins migrate onward to the North Sea.

Discover everything you need to know in our comprehensive guide about puffins in Yorkshire.

Where is the best place to see puffins at Flamborough Head?

A puffin at the RSPB Bempton Cliffs north of Flamborough Head.
A puffin at the RSPB Bempton Cliffs north of Flamborough Head.

Puffins can be spotted along the Yorkshire coast between the RSPB Bempton Cliffs and Flamborough Head. Both of these locations offer incredible opportunities to spot puffins as well as over half a million other seabirds, including gannets and kittiwakes. Find out more in our guide to puffins in Yorkshire.

What are the best things to do in Flamborough?

  • Moody photography of Flamborough Cliffs

Most visitors of Flamborough Head will be seeking beautiful coastal scenery along the Flamborough Heritage Coast Trail and/or the seasonally nesting puffins.

Puffin peepers will want to start their time at the RSPB Bempton Cliffs where there are many informative trails and viewing platforms for both the puffins and thousands of other seabirds. Flamborough Head is also a great place for spotting puffins and the most I saw on my visit were near North Landing. If you’re looking to spot puffins here, check out our guide to puffins in Yorkshire for everything you need to know about these small birds and where to see them.

There are countless miles of stunning coastline that visitors can explore by foot via the Flamborough Heritage Trail. There are multiple access points, but we recommend starting at the New Flamborough Lighthouse parking lot and heading north around Selwicks Bay.

If you prefer to drive, this should still be your first stop. Explore the headlands, being sure to visit “The Drinking Dinosaur”, and even access the shoreline of Bridlington Bay. Your next stops should be North Landing, followed by Thornwick Bay. If the weather is nice and you are a beach-goer, consider South Landing as well.

An aerial view of the incredible Flamborough Head.
An aerial view of the incredible Flamborough Head.

Where are the best places to stay near Flamborough Head?

While there are some hotels and cottages available on the headland itself, the options are somewhat limited. You will find there are more holiday homes and cottages than hotels available in the area. You can check for pricing and availability here.

Availability can be scarce in high season and you may need to be prepared to head further north and stay in Scarborough.

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Flamborough Head Photography Guide

Photographing sunrise colours over Selwicks Bay.
Photographing sunrise colours over Selwicks Bay.

Being landscape photographers ourselves, we spend most of our time in a region finding the best scenes and foregrounds to photograph for sunset, sunrise, and if possible, the night sky.

Even if you are not into photography, we hope this guide will still inspire you and provide you with some insight into the most beautiful places in the area for hikes and sightseeing.

Map for Flamborough Head Photography

All of the pins in the map below are described in further detail below. Simply click on the map for an interactive version to help you plan your visit!

Flamborough Head map describing the best landscape photography locations.
Click this map for an interactive version.

What to Photograph at Flamborough Head

What makes the Flamborough headland so striking is the chalk-white, rugged cliffs that stretch across this part of the Yorkshire coast. We found the sea stacks, caves, and other geologic formations all made for compelling subjects.

The Flamborough Cliffs

  • Long exposure photography of the Flamborough Head Cliffs
    Long exposure photography at the Flamborough Head Cliffs.

Realistically, you will be shooting these throughout your time. Google Maps identifies them near North Landing, but they run throughout this stretch of coastline and are what make the region so unique and photogenic.

The Drinking Dinosaur

The Drinking Dinosaur at Flamborough Head was our favorite subject for photos.
The Drinking Dinosaur was our favorite subject for photos.

In particular, we loved “The Drinking Dinosaur” at the edge of Bridlington and Selwicks Bay. The intriguing shape of this seastack makes it an obvious and pleasing subject for any photo.

Seascapes at Selwicks Bay

Photographing the incredible seascapes at Selwicks Bay.
Photographing the incredible seascapes at Selwicks Bay.

While the Flamborough Cliffs are beautiful all over, we found the scenery and seascapes of Selwicks Bay particularly photogenic. You are able to explore this region from up high on the bluffs, or from the shoreline when the tide is out.

New Flamborough Head Lighthouse

The New flamborrough lighthouse on a moody day.

We recommend parking in the lighthouse car park and making it your starting point, regardless of whether you plan to explore mostly by car or mostly by foot. Explore the bluffs and look for compositions that include the New Flamborough Lighthouse rising up as the mid-ground, or even a primary feature, in your shots.

North Landing

  • North Landing Flamborough Photography Golden Hour
    Gorgeous light shines through at North Landing.

This is either a short drive or about a 2-mile walk from the lighthouse but is definitely worth a visit. Colourful boats make for interesting subjects if you want to photograph the cliffs here.

There is also an easily accessible beach if you have a sunny day. Otherwise, hit the trail in either direction for some more interesting seascapes from the cliffs.

Thornwick Bay

A long exposure photo of the emerging sea caves at Thornwick Bay.
A long exposure photo of the emerging sea caves at Thornwick Bay.

The last stop on your walk or drive should definitely be Thornwick Bay. This area is similar to those that you have already seen, but different enough to be worth the time to explore.

It is especially notable at low tide as some of the most fascinating textures and colours become exposed and accessible.

Low tide at Thornwick Bay reveals some fascinating shapes and colours.
Low tide at Thornwick Bay reveals some fascinating shapes and colours.

Bridlington Beach

While not exactly the most stunning beach we’ve ever visited, Bridlington Beach does have just enough around it to create some fairly interesting compositions. If nothing else, it’s a great place to get your toes in the sand if the weather is favourable!

Fading light on a quiet Bridlington Beach.
Fading light on a quiet Bridlington Beach.

Wildlife

And, of course, there is no shortage of wildlife to photograph! The Yorkshire coast is renowned for its impressive abundance of wildlife. The seals seemed particularly intrigued by our presence and appeared to come ever closer to the shores to get a closer look at us silly humans!

  • Seal pops up at Flamborough Head

In addition, a variety of local birds are often quite willing to swoop by and model for you.

A gannet in flight over the Yorkshire coast.
A gannet in flight over the Yorkshire coast.

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Where to Photograph Sunrise at Flamborough Head

As most of the Yorkshire coast is east facing, sunrise at Flamborough Head should be the nicest time to photograph. However, unfortunately, we were doomed with mostly cloudy skies. Still, we got just enough breaks to capture a few shots we really liked!

Sunrise Photography at The Drinking Dinosaur

Sunrise at The Drinking Dinosaur is a must-do for UK Photographers.
Sunrise at The Drinking Dinosaur is a must-do for UK Photographers.

Without a doubt, we recommend photographing sunrise at The Drinking Dinosaur. It is easy to find and only takes about 10 minutes to walk to from the car park at Flamborough Head.

What makes this location so appealing for photography is the interesting shape of the sea stacks there, as well as its easterly composition. Depending on the time of the year, the sunrise should occur somewhere behind it, or at least near enough to the natural frame to add some vivid colors to your sky.

Unfortunately, we had to scrap our favoured composition as a thick marine layer blocked most of the colour, and the best we could get was a patch facing south. Still, it makes for a gorgeous frame!

Sunrise Photography at Selwicks Bay

This sunrise facing toward the lighthouse was our Plan B shot.
This sunrise facing toward the lighthouse was our Plan B shot.

Because there were two of us and the horizon looked suspect, Adam shot sunrise instead from one of the bluffs just a short walk down the Flamborough Heritage Trail looking back at Selwicks Bay and the lighthouse.

This composition was the “Plan B” as it was facing the wrong direction of sunrise. Fortunately, it coincided with the area of sky that received the most colour. We also loved the way the light came in angularly onto the lighthouse.

Where to Photograph Sunset at Flamborough Head

Sunset photography location at Flamborough Headland Heritage coast.
This shot was taken at sunrise, but it is the best composition we found for sunset photography if you are lucky enough to get one!

While we didn’t get much of a sunset, it was clear that the best place to shoot it with a somewhat westerly view was from the bluffs straight down the trail from the Flamborough car park, looking back at Selwicks Bay. On any evening when the sky wasn’t completely cloud covered, this would have provided the best possible view of the western skies while also adding a pleasing foreground for our image.

Where to Photograph Night Skies at Flamborough Head

Blue hour photography at flamborough head.
These thicks clouds prevented us from getting the night photos we wanted, but this scene presents some amazing opportunities on a clear night.

We were unable to enjoy any night photography at Flamborough Head on our visit, but we did a lot of research prior to going. The best compositions we found were all using the New Flamborough Lighthouse as the primary subject and shot from the beach at Selwicks Bay.

You will need a lot to line up to get this shot, including low tide, clear skies, and the right time of year. Still, this scene offers a gorgeous composition for those who have the patience and/or luck to make it work.

Drone Photography at Flamborough Head

Drone photography provides a new perspective on the incredible scenery of Flamborough.
Drone photography provides a new perspective on the incredible scenery of Flamborough.

The seemingly constant wind can make drone photography at Flamborough Head a tricky endeavour, as can the nesting birds, so it is generally not a recommended place to drone from.

If you have your license, get favourable conditions, you’re not visiting during nesting season, and know what you are doing, there are some interesting views you can capture from out at sea looking back at Flamborough Head.

  • Aerial photography of the Flamborough Head
    Looking down at the Flamborough Cliffs

We found only one opportunity to safely and politely fly ours, but we sure enjoyed the views! In addition to looking back at Selwicks Bay, we also found some of the textures interesting looking down toward the various seastacks.

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Photographing Low Tide

When the tide recedes, a unique opportunity to photograph presents itself. There are two places we recommend seeking for low tide as the increased access from these two spots provides some distinct compositions you will not get otherwise.

The Shoreline at Selwicks Bay

Exploring the shoreline at Selwicks Bay
Adam waits for the tide to go out from the shoreline of Selwicks Bay.

While you will nearly always be able to access the shoreline, you will be extremely limited during most of the day in terms of your freedom of movement. During low tide, however, you can walk a great distance out and capture some interesting textures from within the cliffs.

Low Tide at Thornwick Bay

Otherworldly greens and purples show up during low tide at Thornwick Bay.
Otherworldly greens and purples show up during low tide at Thornwick Bay.

What makes Thornwick Bay such an interesting place to visit during low tide is the strange colours and textures that present themselves in the tide pools. There are also a variety of sea caves and slots that become accessible. Some of these photograph well, while others are more of an experience than a photograph, but it is worth making time for regardless!

Camera Gear for Photographing Flamborough Head

While it is possible to capture some great photos nowadays with smartphones, for the best possible photos you may want to consider a few key pieces of photography gear:

  • Camera: We use the Sony a7riii and have been in love with it ever since the first photo we took with it. However, for beginners you may wish to consider an entry level DSLR. This will allow you to start getting to grips with manual settings and decide whether photography is something you enjoy enough to invest in.
  • Lens: The lens we use most frequently is the Sony FE 24-105mm F4 G OSS as the zoom lens allows for the most diversity. We also often use the Laowa 15mm F2 for shots that require a wider angle.
  • Tripod: A tripod is essential if you are shooting in low light, at night or for any other long exposure photography. When traveling, we use the Manfrotto Be Free as it’s lightweight and easy to carry on longer hikes. For times when we require something more stable, we use the Artcise Carbon Fiber Tripod.
  • Filters: A Circular Polarizing (CPL) filter (CPL) or Neutral Density (ND) filter are very useful for allowing slower shutter speeds and for cutting glare on reflective surfaces, helping to bring out the colors. The best CPL and ND filters we have found are the quartz line from Polar Pro.

Where to Stay near Flamborough Head

The town of Bridlington is only 15-20 minutes drive from Flamborough Head, making it an ideal base for exploring Flamborough Head. You’ll find more accommodation options here than other places nearby. However, it is not a huge town so you may need to book in advance to guarantee accommodation.

If you’re unable to find accommodation in Bridlington or prefer a more central base to explore the Yorkshire coast, Scarborough is another good option. The drive from here to Flamborough Head is longer, taking about 45 minutes but you will have a shorter drive to other destinations further north such as Robin Hood’s Bay, Whitby, Runswick Bay, Staithes and Sandsend.

bedroom at Manor Court Hotel in Bridlington.
Our bedroom at Manor Court Hotel in Bridlington.

On our first visit to Flamborough Head, we stayed in a basic BnB which was fine for a night but not somewhere I’d recommend! On my second visit to Flamborough, when I went to spot puffins in Yorkshire with my dad, we stayed at Manor Court Hotel in Bridlington as it was recommended by a family friend and we loved our stay here.

We were thoroughly impressed with our stay. We had an executive twin room which was huge, the bed was comfortable, the staff were incredibly welcoming and the food was delicious. Additionally, the bar has a great gin selection which we worked out way through! The only slight downside was the shower, which we agreed wasn’t very powerful, took a long time to get hot then got scorching! It wasn’t a huge issue and hasn’t stopped my dad from rebooking to stay there again later in the year!

Click here to check for current availability and prices.

Final Thoughts

A moody day is still a good day at Flamborough Head.
A moody day is still a good day at Flamborough Head.

We have no doubt that Yorkshire and the northeast coast of England is going to become a popular destination for UK travellers looking to get away for a bit. We paired our trip to the Yorkshire coast with a city break in York and found it to be the perfect staycation from London.

Those with a weekend or more should consider this as just the first stop as part of an unforgettable road trip spanning one of England’s most beautiful stretches of coast. With Scaborough, Robin’s Hood Bay, Whitby, and North York Moors National Park just a short drive north, Flamborough Head is the ideal starting point for your next England road trip!

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