Let’s face it, we all love puffins and it’s one of the main reasons visitors head to the RSPB’s Bempton Cliffs, East Yorkshire in spring.
Just like we did one beautiful Saturday in April. Sadly for us, not a puffin in sight. We were told they were here the day before, but not today and the guides couldn’t say where they had gone to today. Quite the enigma!
Were we disappointed? A little of course, but there’s so much else to see and do there, that I’d still whole heartedly recommend you visit Bempton Cliffs for an afternoon out.
The Bempton chalk cliffs rise from the North Sea and are home to 250,000 seabirds and according to the RSPB “one of the best places for wildlife in the UK”. We drove there from Spring Cottage (37 miles) via the A64 to Filey and then down the coast although an alternative and picturesque route is over the Yorkshire Wolds, the route we took on our return to the cottage.
At Bempton Cliffs the visitors centre has been reburbished since our last visit. You’re met by friendly volunteers keen to share their knowledge with you and ensure you get the most of your visit. The gift shop is very well stocked (and no surprise there’s a puffin and wildlife theme to the items for sale). There’s also a craft area for kiddies to make puffin masks (sadly mine are too old for that), a small cafe and very clean toilets. You can hire binoculars here too. I promised myself a browse in the shop after we’d been to the cliff tops.
The paths are clearly marked and so are the viewpoints, on the map handed out on arrival. We decided to head to the viewpoint furthest North called Jubilee Corner then work our way south down the cliff. Two men walking towards us dressed in camouflage with enormous cameras over their shoulder caught my attention. Firstly it made my camera and our small pair of binoculars feel very inadequate but secondly I’m sure one of them was Simon King, the wildlife presenter and photographer?
The viewpoint at Jubilee Corner was where last time, we had seen our puffin; not today. But watching the other birds (gannets, kittiwakes, guillemots) swoop, fly and land is equally as fascinating. And the noises they all make! The diving gannets in particular are magnificent. They’re huge birds with a 6 metre wing span yet manage to land on a tiny space on the cliffs, returning to their mate, often with a mouthful of what looked like grass or straw to add to the nest she’s already sitting on. The love gesture they make too, rubbing their heads together are just mesmerising.
We headed to the next viewpoint, Barlett Nab (what a great name!) and this was a particular popular spot. One lady was receiving one to one photography lessons and here an RSPB volunteer had set up his telescope and was on hand to answer visitor’s questions. It’s just amazing how many seabirds can squeeze onto one cliff, using every available ledge, no matter how small.
We then stopped at the next viewpoints Mosey Downgate, Grandstand and New Roll-up, all the while you’re aware of the seabirds over to your left, squawking and swooping and gliding; only occasionally catching a glimpse of them as they rarely fly above the cliff top level. Then back to the visitors centre via a small nature trail affording more wildlife spotting opportunities (hares and weasels are common) but not for us.
These videos capture a sense of the noise, activity and vibrancy that the seabirds give to Bempton Cliffs. But better still, go and see them for yourself!
Do you want more ideas and inspiration on where to visit and what to do while on holiday in Yorkshire? Then click here and download a copy of my guide to North Yorkshire’s hidden gems, to help you get the most out of your time here: