Yorkshire Heritage Coast

Beauty and history celebrated on 60 miles of coastline

Yorkshire's beauty can be explored all along its coastline, which includes three sections defined as Heritage Coast by Natural England.

Together there is a total of 60 miles of Heritage Coast in the region and there's plenty to see along the other sections of our North Sea shoreline as well.

North Yorkshire and Cleveland Heritage Coast

The northern section stretches 36 miles from Saltburn-by-the-Sea to Scalby, near Scarborough. This is the coast of the beautifully scenic North York Moors National Park.

The whole of this coastline can be walked by footpath, a part of the 110-mile Cleveland Way national trail from Helmsley to Filey Brigg. Along the way are the picturesque fishing village of Staithes, a favourite haunt of artists, beautiful Runswick Bay with its red roofs and thatched cottage, and the delightful fishing village of Robin Hood's Bay with its tales of smuggling and houses that seem to cling to the cliff.

This is Yorkshire's Jurassic Coast, where rocks dating back between 150 to 200 million years are exposed on the sea shore and cliffs. Ammonites can easily be found and occasionally there have been finds of bones from large marine reptiles and dinosaurs. The wonderful seaside harbour town of Whitby stands in the middle of this section of heritage coastline.

Flamborough Heritage Coast

Another section of heritage coast is around the spectacular chalk cliffs of the Flamborough headland, north of Bridlington, where there is one of the most important colonies of seabirds in Europe.

Through the spring and summer the cliffs are alive with around a quarter of a million nesting birds. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has an accessible nature reserve at Bempton Cliffs with cliff edge viewing platforms and a seabird centre.

The Flamborough headland's chalk coast features include stacks, caves and coves. The headland also has an early 19th century active lighthouse and an old chalk tower from the 17th century which is the oldest full lighthouse remaining in the country.

Spurn Heritage Coast

The third Heritage Coast is Spurn, where a three-and-a-half mile long spit of sand, shingle and boulder clay washed from the shores of the Holderness coast of the East Riding stretches into the Humber estuary. Constantly being reshaped, Spurn was formed from deposits washed southwards by the coastal drift, while also facing the erosion and currents of the fast-flowing River Humber and tidal lashings from the North Sea.

The headland includes the Spurn National Nature Reserve, run by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. Spurn can offer a spectacle of migrating birdlife in the spring and autumn and deer and grey seals can also be spotted.

While a century ago there was a railway along the headland and more recently a road, there is now no vehicle access for the public other than by cycle or the Spurn Safari tour by ex-military vehicle. Victorian sea defences have crumbled and tidal surges have washed over the headland at times to temporarily form Yorkshire's only sea island.

It is still possible to walk to  Spurn Head though, where there have been a succession of former lighthouses. For around 200 years it has also been home to lifeboatmen and their familes. The point is the location of the Humber lifeboat station, the RNLI's only lifeboat station with a full-time crew. From its strategic position stretching way into the estuary, crews have been able to save more than 1,500 lives since the first station opened in 1810.

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