Spirit of the Sea: Whisky, Walks & Wildlife in Filey, the North York Moors and the Wolds

The genteel seaside town of Filey is unique: the only place in the country where three National Trails – the Cleveland Way, Yorkshire Wolds Way and England Coast Path – meet. Not that Filey makes a fuss about it. Despite its glorious golden beach, charming Victorian streets and surrounding scenic drama, it remains pleasingly low-key; picturesque, peaceful, relaxed.

Filey is also a great base for a three-day break, combining the best of North Yorkshire’s shores with the peaceful wolds inland. Pick any one of the town’s hospitable B&Bs, tuck into good old Yorkshire breakfasts and then strike out. Walk along the east coast’s highest cliffs and visit headlands busy with half a million birds. Drive across untamed moors and gaze from the battlements of ancient castles. Sail out to search for whales and join a twilight safari to look for creatures of the night. And stop off at a ream of country pubs, chocolatiers, tap rooms and teashops for a varied taste of the region – not least a dram of Yorkshire whisky, a slab of homemade cake and some of the best fish and chips you’ve ever tasted.

Tour Overview

The icons below highlight the distance, difficulty and theme of this itinerary.

Days

3

Distance

Walks from 4km to 6.5km

Difficulty

Easy

Landscape

High Hills & Moorland / By Water

Theme

History / Food & Drink / Wildlife / Coastal

Activities & Experiences

Walking / Water Fun / Heritage / Hands On

The Cleveland Way: Spirit of the Sea

Here’s everything you need to help you plan your very own active break on the North Yorkshire coast. Click on the blue arrow tabs below for more information. To save this itinerary to view later, use the Save to My Rucksack button at the top of the page.

Itinerary

Base yourself by the beautiful beach in Filey for a varied three-day stay. From the seaside town, it’s easy to explore the coast, with its mighty cliffs, wheeling birds and fossil-littered shores, as well as North Yorkshire’s rugged interior.

Day 1 Finding Filey

Breathe in the sea air and relax: Filey is a gentle antidote to the modern world. Start by walking up onto Filey Brigg, the long, narrow peninsula that stretches out to sea, about a mile north of town; a carved stone seat here marks the finish (or start) of both the Cleveland Way and the Yorkshire Wolds Way National Trails. Then stroll back, along beautiful Filey Bay, with its golden sand – once voted Best Beach in Britain by The Times. Wander along the Promenade, following the Sculpture Trail, a series of artworks inspired by Filey’s natural heritage.

The Lighthouse Tea Room is a lovely choice for lunch, perhaps followed by a treat or two from Sterchi’s chocolatiers, which has been crafting high-quality chocolates since 1919 (don’t miss the champagne truffles). Then take a drive out across the gentle wolds – the heaving, rich-hued countryside that so inspired David Hockney – to Sledmere House. Roam the corridors of this handsome Georgian stately home (the Long Library is considered one of the finest rooms in England) and explore the grounds – the walled rose garden, the sculpture court, the expansive deer park – originally designed by Capability Brown.

Return to Filey via the Spirit of Yorkshire, Yorkshire’s only whisky distillery. Join a tour to find out how they craft their fine single malt, sample a wee dram, and then grab a coffee overlooking the stills at the on-site cafe. Just be sure to leave room for dinner: perhaps proper fish and chips from Inghams – eat them inside or get them wrapped, to eat round the corner, in sight of the sea.

Overnight in Filey. Rutland Street has several lovely guesthouses, but there are many options – see Accommodation, left.

Day 2 Classic North Yorkshire coast

Ravenscar, a 40-minute drive north of Filey – or, if you’re feeling very energetic, a 30km hike along the Cleveland Way – is a mysterious and spectacular spot. A bunch of Victorian entrepreneurs dreamed of creating a resort to rival Scarborough here, but it never happened. Now, you can take a short loop walk along the clifftops, through the ‘town that never was’ and down to the now-peaceful remains of the old alum works, home of the world’s first chemical industry. Eat lunch at Ravenscar’s Raven Hall Country House Hotel, with views down the coast to Robin Hood’s Bay.

Next, how about a walk with an alpaca? Veer just inland, to Thorny Beck Alpacas in Cloughton, to stroll across the woodland, hills and pasture of the North York Moors, leading your own animal – they make the most calming companions. Afterwards, the Blacksmiths Arms is the place for a pint – even The Queen has had a drink here.

Alternatively, drive south to Scarborough, the classic Yorkshire coast resort. The ruins of Scarborough Castle loom on the rocky promontory – from up here you have matchless views of both the north and south bays, and can soak up 3,000 years of history. For a different perspective, head to the top of Oliver’s Mount, the wooded rise behind the town; it’s home to England’s only street circuit motorbike racing track as well as Oliver’s on the Mount café, where you can refuel with huge sea views.

Overnight in Filey – see Accommodation, left.

Day 3 Britain’s Bird Coast

It’s only a 20-minute drive from Filey to Flamborough Head (or a bracing hike of about 20km, once the England Coast Path is complete). A short walk here rewards with two historic lighthouses – including the oldest still standing in Britain, dating from 1669 – and a stretch of dramatic chalk cliffs, soaring to 120m. Take binoculars: this is one of Europe’s most important seabird colonies and, in summer, the cliffs are raucous with auks, puffins, gannets and gulls.

Once you’ve blown away the cobwebs, grab lunch at the Seabird Inn or the Thornwick Bay Café, then backtrack to RSPB Bempton Cliffs, another major breeding site. The cacophony, the aroma, the vision of half a million seabirds whirling above the waves – it’s one of Britain’s greatest wildlife spectacles. For a more expert introduction to the local wildlife, take a tour, boat trip or workshop with Yorkshire Coast Nature.

Finish back in Filey – maybe good pub grub at the Star Inn or proper pasta at Bella Italia – followed by a real ale at The Cobbler’s Arms, Filey’s own micro-pub.

Overnight in Filey – see Accommodation, left.

Accommodation

Filey has a variety of welcoming hotels and B&Bs, all well located for the beach. Rutland Street could be renamed ‘Guest House Street’, with numerous good options.

  • White Lodge Hotel – Perched at the end of the Victorian Crescent overlooking Filey Bay.
  • Downcliffe House Boutique Hotel – Elegant retreat in a grand Victorian house, right by the beach.
  • Abbotts Leigh – Home-from-home B&B on Rutland Street.
  • The Forge – Quiet four-star guesthouse on Rutland Street.
  • Esmae House – Bright, tasteful B&B on Rutland Street.
  • Seafield – Four-star Rutland Street B&B; breakfasts boast local and homemade produce.
  • Athol House – Neat B&B, centrally located.
  • Beachdale – Modern rooms plus a hearty Yorkshire breakfast.
  • The Orchard Lodge, Flixton – Highly rated B&B near Cayton Bay and Filey, serving AA award-winning breakfasts.

Find more accommodation at Discover Yorkshire Coast

 

Food & Drink

You won’t go hungry on the North Yorkshire coast. Cafes, pubs and tea rooms pop up just where you need them, often in scenic locations – perfect after a little stroll. The fish and chips are usually excellent.

Filey
  • Country Park Café – By the Brigg, reckoned to serve some of the finest breakfasts on the Yorkshire Coast.
  • Lighthouse Tea Room – Beautiful homemade cakes and scones.
  • Sterchi’s Chocolatiers – A Filey institution; the champagne truffles are a favourite.
  • Inghams – Excellent fish and chips. You can’t miss it – look for the fisherman in bright yellow gear at the entrance.
  • The Boat Shed – Good Food Award-winning pizza (and gin).
  • The Coffee Shed – Busy cafe, serving good coffee and homemade cakes.
  • The Star Inn – Family-run pub with a beer garden.
  • Bella Italia – Authentic Italian dishes, from risotto and seafood to antipasti and pizzas.
  • Cobbler’s Arms – Small micro-pub, serving local real ales.
Beyond
  • Pot Still Cafe, Hunmanby – The Spirit of Yorkshire distillery has its own café, overlooking the whisky stills.
  • Raven Hall Country House Hotel, Ravenscar – Impressive spot for lunch, with superb views down the coastline to Robin Hood’s Bay.
  • Blacksmiths Arms, Cloughton – A 250-year-old proper country inn, with an oak-beamed restaurant
  • The Plough, Scalby – Warm welcome, quality food, craft ales.
  • The Foulsyke, Scalby – Farmhouse B&B and bistro.
  • Oliver’s on the Mount, Scarborough – Fresh-ground coffee with sweeping views.
  • The Seabirds, Flamborough – Village inn serving seasonally changing menus.
  • Thornwick Bay Café– Long-standing clifftop cafe serving warming classics.

 

Activities

There’s so much adventure potential in the North York Moors, from long-distance trails to short, accessible strolls and a variety of other activities.

Walks
  • Filey to Filey Brigg, 6.5km – Walk to the dramatic headland where the Cleveland Way and Yorkshire Wolds Way both end (or begin).
  • Ravenscar, 4.8km  – Easy loop around the curious clifftop ‘resort that never was’.
  • Flamborough to Flamborough Head, 4km – An exhilarating walk around the chalk cliffs, using part of what will become the England Coast Path.
Other
  • Hidden Horizons– Runs fascinating events, from star-gazing evenings to fossil hunts, coastal forages and dinosaur walks.
  • Adventures for the Soul– Calming and relaxing outdoor experiences across the North York Moors, including twilight safaris and nature walks.
  • Thorny Beck Alpacas– Relaxing walks with woolly creatures.
  • Bike about Filey – Bike hire and route advice.

For further walking inspiration visit The Outdoor Guide.

Experiences

Whether you’re feeling crafty or cultural, outdoorsy or just plain thirsty, the North Yorkshire coast has something to suit.

  • Stained Glass Centre, Cayton – Showroom and workshop; runs stained-glass-making courses.
  • Sledmere House & Gardens, Sledmere – East Yorkshire’s finest stately home, with gardens designed by Capability Brown.
  • Spirit of Yorkshire, Hunmanby – Yorkshire’s only whisky distillery.
  • Scarborough Castle, Scarborough – Dramatic views and 3,000 years of history.
  • Flamborough Head – One of the most important seabird colonies in Europe, alive with tens of thousands of puffins, gannets and more in summer.
  • RSPB Bempton Cliffs– Half a million seabirds gather on these formidable chalk cliffs between March and October.
  • Yorkshire Coast Nature – Offers numerous wildlife tours and workshops, including Seabirds and Whales Twilight boat trips, from Staithes.

 

Cycling

Fancy a short ride? Hire a bike for a few hours at Bike about Filey. For ideas on local rides, check out Filey Tourism.

For further information on cycling visit Cycle England.

Coastal England

The Cleveland Way follows the Yorkshire coast for around half its length, between Saltburn-on-Sea and Filey. The England Coast path is soon to be extended southwards from Filey Brigg.

For further coastal walks visit England’s Coast.

Travel

Elements of the itinerary could be carried out using public transport, but a car is necessary to access all of the available options.

Northern Rail services the region.

Advice

No specialist walking equipment necessary. The walks should take around one to two hours and are fairly gentle – suitable for all abilities.

We advise that you check opening times and booking restrictions before travelling.

Please check out these links for latest advice when in the countryside

Countryside Code

COVID-19 Guidance

Interactive Map

Click here to access the interactive map

Maps, Guidebooks & Merchandise

The official guidebook and map for the Trail are available from the National Trails Shop along with a wide range of gifts and other merchandise.