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 bevy of seals, countless bird species, and most notably, it is a seasonal nesting location for puffins!
With so many people seeking options for domestic travel in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, we wanted to shine a light on one of our favourite (and often forgotten) options.
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.
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.
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?
The best time to see the puffins at Flamborough Head is in May. Most years, you can start spotting them as early as late April and as late as the end of July. By August, sightings become extremely rare as the young puffins migrate onward to the North Sea.
Where is the best place to see puffins at Flamborough Head?
The Bempton Cliffs are the best places to spot puffins, as well as numerous other bird species including the gannet.
What are the best things to do in Flamborough?
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 likely spend most of their time at the Bempton Cliffs. However, 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.
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
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!
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
In addition, a variety of local birds are often quite willing to swoop by and model for you.
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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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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!
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!