A couple of weeks ago, at the height of the recent heatwave that hit Britain, we decided to head for the East Coast, and specifically the RSPB nature reserve at Bempton Cliffs.
Bempton is to the north of Flamborough Head, and the tall chalk cliffs are full of nooks and crannies that provide plenty of nesting opportunities for seabirds. Consequently, over 200,000 birds make Bempton their home during nesting season, including puffins, gannets, herring gulls, shags and kittiwakes.
I’ve been to Bempton a few times before, as my paternal grandparents used to live nearby. But this was my first visit in many years, and Christine had never been before. We expected the usual seaside locations like Scarborough to be incredibly busy, and so this would be a quieter alternative. Plus, June is peak season for spotting puffins, which are one of my favourite bird species.
The visitor centre at Bempton has expanded a little since my last visit. There’s now a small café with outdoor seating, toilets and a bigger gift shop. Entry is just £4 for adults and £2 for children aged 5-17, with family tickets also available, and parking is free.
Bird spotting at Bempton
Once you’re out of the visitor centre, a network of footpaths takes you to various viewing platforms along the clifftops. On weekends, volunteers will have some telescopes set up trained on key points of interest, including the ever popular puffins. Whilst the platforms over-hang the clifftops, you’ll need to bring a decent pair of binoculars to be able to see anything up close. If you’ve not brought any with you, there’s a good range back at the gift shop to buy or rent.
The platforms nearest the visitor centre are all accessible, with lower barriers for those in wheelchairs (or pushchairs in Lizzie’s case). There are also various information boards for kids to introduce them to the various bird species that can be seen on the cliffs, and how to tell them apart.
I was delighted to be able to take this photo of a puffin. It has been cropped somewhat; my longest lens has a 80-250mm range, which is better than nothing but still not really up to taking photos of individual birds. There were plenty of people there with huge zoom lenses and high-end cameras.
Although there was a café, we brought a picnic and there are several picnic areas across the site.
We had a really good time at Bempton. Seeing puffins was a real highlight, but there’s a wide variety of other seabirds there too. If you’re planning a visit, I would recommend doing so sooner rather than later, as some of the birds (the puffins especially) will depart soon.