Here’s a cool thing to do if you want to see awesome scenery, spectacular wildlife and meet some incredibly friendly and helpful people – go and have a walk around RSPB Bempton Cliffs nature reserve.
People have been telling me for years that I need to visit Bempton Cliffs in spring to see one of the UK’s busiest ‘seabird cities’ at its vibrant best, when a squawking rabble of 250,000 puffins, gannets, kittiwakes, razorbills and more gather along the chalk cliffs near Flamborough Head. And wow, am I glad we finally made it.
The RSPB have invested a big wedge of money to turn Bempton Cliffs into one of their flagship nature reserves, and it’s easy to see why. Even if you aren’t remotely interested in birdwatching, you can’t fail to be impressed by the natural spectacle on show here. From the slick new visitor centre you only need to walk a few hundred metres to a large section of decking called the Grandstand that juts out from the clifftop over the North Sea, and you’ll hear the birds before you see them.
You don’t need to try hard to spot them either – they’re absolutely everywhere. Skimming above your head, spiralling through the air below you, dive-bombing into the choppy sea waters, and nesting on the cliffs in their tens of thousands. And the noise is like nothing else I’ve ever heard before. This is the UK’s largest mainland seabird colony and the residents want you to know all about it.
The whole place is easy to explore because the trails are well maintained, and even more importantly the clifftop sections on the reserve are fenced off to stop you tiptoeing too close to the edge. The first section of trail (known as the Grandstand Trail) is fully accessible for pushchairs so it’s no problem to take young babies along, but if you want to explore the entire reserve – from the viewpoints at Jubilee Corner at the northern limit to Staple Newk in the south – a decent child carrier is your best bet because the terrain is a little uneven.
Typically for us, Sonny was interested in the birds for around 10 minutes then fell fast asleep for the rest of the hour or so that we spent wandering around the reserve. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt because we’d had a long journey, it was weirdly hot and breezy, and he hasn’t spent a lot of time in the sea air, but that didn’t stop us enjoying every second.
The RSPB staff and volunteers couldn’t have been more helpful, popping up at various points along the way to point out the elusive puffins and pass on their amazing wealth of knowledge to anyone who wants a few nature tips. Once you’re done, the visitor centre has a great little café and gift shop, where you can pick up some mementoes from your trip, and by the time you leave you’ll already be planning your next visit.
All this for £4 an adult and £2 a child, or £10 for a family ticket. What a place.
Pushchairs: stick to the Grandstand Trail if you’ve got a pushchair and you’ll still be able to get great views of the cliffs from two wooden viewpoints that hang over the cliffs. For the rest of the reserve, carriers are your best.
Dog owners: well behaved dogs are very welcome as long as they’re kept under control and don’t bother wildlife own visitors.
Download the route: click here to download this route for free in the ViewRanger app, then follow it on your phone, smartwatch or tablet using the app’s active GPS features.