Top things to do in Summer
1.Experience the sights, sounds and smells of the miraculous seabird spectacle at the peak of the breeding season
2.The surrounding fields are bejewelled by glorious red campion flowers
3.Enjoy a bite to eat in the family-friendly picnic area
A family favourite, and easily the best place in England to see, hear and smell seabirds! More than 200,000 birds (from April to August) make the cliffs seem alive – with adults bringing food to their nests, or young chicks making their first faltering flights.
With huge numbers to watch, beginners can easily learn the difference between gannets, guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes and fulmars. The easily recognisable puffins (here between April and July) are always a delight. Specially-created cliff top viewpoints are wheelchair accessible with care.
You can watch our 200,000 seabirds LIVE on CCTV through the breeding season from March to October. Meet our information assistants and hear about the live action, watch it for yourself on our two TV screens and enjoy the close-up images of our nesting gannets.
The reserve is open at all times. From March to October, the visitor centre is open daily from 9.30 am to 5 pm, and from November to February, 9.30 am to 4 pm.
Entry is free of charge to members all year. There’s a charge for non-members of £5 per car, minibus £8 and coach £10.
If you are new to birdwatching…
The birds are easy to see during breeding season – creating a fantastic seascape and bird spectacle. Only eight target seabird species breed here, so learning to identify birds is simple. In winter, common passerines (buntings, sparrows and finches) and short-eared owls (vary in numbers from one year to next) can be seen and identified.
Information for families
Reserve already popular with families. Various family events included in our programme throughout the year. Backpack Activity days very popular.
Information for dog owners
Dogs are welcome on the reserve, however they must be kept on leads at all times. This is to ensure that ground nesting birds are not disturbed, and also to ensure the safety of dogs on the cliff top.
Our star species are some of the most interesting birds you may see on your visit to the reserve.
Look for stunning gannets cruising around at the base of the cliffs and fishing out to sea by rising up into the air before plunging in headfirst with their wings close.
Visit Bempton in spring and early summer and your ears will be filled with the unmistakable ‘kitti-wake’ calls of this dainty gull. Look along the cliffs to see them packed onto their tiny nesting ledges.
Enjoy the comical antics of puffins in spring and early summer from the viewing points on the cliffs. Watch the adults returning from fishing forays at sea with sandeels hanging from their colourful beaks.
Short-eared owls can be seen hunting over the clifftop grassland here in winter. The afternoons are a good time to spot them banking and gliding just above the ground; their piercing yellow eyes scanning for voles moving in the grass below.
Flocks of tree sparrows can be seen in the cliff top fields and are regular visitors to the feeding stations. Listen out for their conversational calls – a hard and piercing ‘tek’.
Each season brings a different experience at our nature reserves. In spring, the air is filled with birdsong as they compete to establish territories and attract a mate. In summer, look out for young birds making their first venture into the outside world. Autumn brings large movements of migrating birds – some heading south to a warmer climate, others seeking refuge in the UK from the cold Arctic winter. In winter, look out for large flocks of birds gathering to feed, or flying at dusk to form large roosts to keep warm.
Breeding seabirds start to return, including gannets, puffins, guillemots, razorbills, fulmars, kittiwakes, herring gulls and shags. Farmland birds such as skylarks, tree sparrows, linnets, meadow pipits, reed and corn buntings can be seen. There are normally short-eared owls and peregrines to be seen too. Migratory birds include arriving wheatears and various warblers, while over-wintering thrushes can be seen on the reserve before moving back into mainland Europe. Porpoises can often be seen on calm days while early morning visits may provide sightings of roe deer.
Breeding season is in full swing with all 200,000 seabirds with eggs or chicks. Breeding tree sparrows, whitethroats, grasshopper warblers, sedge warblers, skylarks, linnets, reed buntings, rock and meadow pipits can be seen within 200 m of the visitor centre and car park. A moderate range of the commoner butterflies may be seen on sunny days, along with day-flying moths such as cinnabars, burnet moths and occasionally hummingbird hawk-moths. Trailside flora is dominated by red campion, black knapweed, various thistles and orchids including common spotted, northern marsh and pyramidal.
All seabirds departed and breeding finished except for gannets. The autumnal migration can be exciting at Bempton owing to its coastal location and being on a headland. Short-eared owls begin to arrive to stay for the winter (depending on food availability) but the main interest is in the arrival of migrants such as willow warblers, chiffchaffs, whitethroats, lesser whitethroats, reed warblers, sedge warblers, goldcrests, stonechats, whinchats, wheatears and redstarts. Scarce species occur annually such as red-backed shrikes, and barred and icterine warblers. October is peak time to witness the winter thrush arrival, often hundreds of redwings, blackbirds, song thrushes and fieldfares occur along with occasional ring ouzels. Offshore, movements of seabirds may be seen in ideal weather conditions (strong NW winds). These include Manx and sooty shearwaters, Arctic and great skuas. Around the car park area migrant hawker and common darter dragonflies can be seen. There is little botanical interest at this time of year.
This is normally a quiet time of year. Bracing clifftop walks and fantastic seascapes are probably the best in Yorkshire. Up to 12 short-eared owls winter here, though in poor ‘vole’ years there may only be a few. The bird feeding station offers food and shelter to a range of commoner species such as tree sparrows (110 have been counted), greenfinch (60), and smaller numbers of blackbirds, robins, dunnocks, wrens, chaffinches, bramblings and various tit species. The cliff face attracts very few birds except for occasional herring gulls and fulmars, but by January gannets will return in good numbers with occasional days of guillemots in good numbers too.
•Car park : Car park has no height restrictions. Cycle rack available close to visitor centre.
•Group bookings accepted
•Guided walks available
•Good for walking
Five cliff-top viewpoints and a bird feeding station. The five viewpoints are:
Grandstand: 200 m from visitor centre/car park, accessible by wheelchairs/pushchairs with care
Bartlett Nab: 400 m from visitor centre/car park and not easily accessible by wheelchairs/pushchairs
Jubilee Corner: 900 m from visitor centre/car park, not easily accessible by wheelchairs/pushchairs
New Roll-up: 500 m from visitor centre/car park, not easily accessible by wheelchairs/pushchairs
Staple Newk: 900m from visitor centre/car park, not easily accessible by wheelchairs/pushchairs.
The bird feeding station is easily accessed, 50 m from visitor centre/car park.
There are two nature trails. The first nature trail leading to five cliff-top viewpoints. The most distant viewpoints are 900 m from the visitor centre. Part of the trail is crushed chalk, with the remainder over worn grass. There is easy wheelchair and pushchair access to one viewpoint only. Paths can be wet and slippery following wet weather conditions, therefore care should be taken. The discovery trail is a shorter farmland walk.
The shop stocks:
•Binoculars and telescopes
The Bempton Field Teaching Scheme operates throughout the year and offers exciting educational opportunities linked with the National Curriculum. The busiest time is from May to July, when breeding seabirds are at their peak. The scheme provides a unique opportunity to discover breeding seabirds, such as gannets and puffins, as well as investigating the challenging habitats in this fantastic coastal location. A truly memorable experience!
26 October 2012
This is a Summary Access Statement. A full access statement is available to download from this page
Before you visit
•Clear print leaflet available on request
•Free parking for members. Parking charge for non members. Free parking for carer or essential companion
•Registered Assistance Dogs welcome
•Check accessibility for events and activities
•Wheelchair free of charge to hire. Pre-booking advised
•Live footage on TV in Visitor Centre
How to get here
•Bempton railway station is 1.25 miles away
•The nearest bus stops are on the main B1229 through the village, around 1 mile from the reserve
•No pavement on road to reserve
•Four blue badge parking spaces 10 m (13 yards) from the visitor centre on bound gravel and paved path
•60 spaces in main car park, is a short walk to the main entrance of the visitor centre
•Overflow with 60 spaces on grass
•The path surface from the overflow car park is crushed limestone on exiting the field and after 20 m (26 yards) joins the path from the coach drop-off point (see below)
•Drop-off point 50 m (60 yards) from the visitor centre with a crushed limestone surface with a 1:10 sloped descent
•No lighting or height restrictions.
Situated on ground floor level with step free access. Live footage on TV from the colony. Four circular tables with seating. Outside when weather is fine. Tiled floor surface. Artificial and natural lighting. Access ramp leads to reserve.
The reserve offers visitors a mixture of trails. A mix of bonded tar-spray chip, crushed limestone or mown grass. Most trails are a minimum of 1200mm/47ins wide and the majority lead to the cliff top viewing points (see Viewing Facilities below).
Five built viewpoints along the cliff top path, most have seats. In the Visitor Centre there is live footage on TV of the colony. From car park to exit is The Dell – good for small migrant birds – with a narrow grass path with inclines to and from two seats. A bird feeding station is off the path between the coach park and visitor centre.
There are toilets and an accessible toilets outside the visitor centre, with level access to all. Note there are no toilet facilities beyond the visitor centre.
A servery with a hatch facing outside the visitor centre offering hot and cold beverages, snacks and ice creams. Hatch is 900 mm (36 inches) from the ground.
The shop is within the visitor centre. Staff and volunteers can assist. There is level entry and no doors to enter apart from those at the main entrance. The shop is lit with spot lamps.
There is currently a short mown grass square to the rear of the visitor centre which serves as an outdoor classroom reached via the access ramp.
Seven picnic tables – four on grass and three with spaces for wheelchairs on crushed limestone surface – situated 25 m/30 yards from the visitor centre.
For more information
How to get here
Nearest railway station 200 m south of Bempton village. Exit station and turn left, follow road down to church, walk up lane adjacent to church to staggered cross-road junction. Walk across road and take the road adjacent to the White Horse public house, northwards to the reserve. Total walking distance 1.5 miles (2.4 km). Walking time 40 minutes.
Nearest bus stop in Bempton village, 1 mile (1.5 km) from the reserve. Buses will drop off at any point on request. Disembark at White Horse public house and follow road northwards up the lane to the reserve. Walking time 30 minutes.
The reserve is on the cliff road from the village of Bempton, which is on the B1229 road from Flamborough to Filey. In Bempton village, turn northwards at the White Horse public house and the reserve is at the end of the road after 1 mile (follow the brown tourist signs).
Other ways to get to the reserve
Trains and buses stop at Bempton, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from the reserve. The timetables are seasonal so we advise you call the Visitor Centre for further details. Nearest ferry port in Hull and Humberside Airport in north Lincolnshire.
Our Bempton Cliffs reserve, on the Yorkshire coast, protects over five kilometres of sea cliffs. From April to mid-August, these support England’s largest population of seabirds. Grassland and scrub along the cliff tops are also home to breeding and wintering farmland birds.
The RSPB is managing the reserve for the benefit of its wildlife, which also includes seals and porpoises, and with a long-term view to upgrading its protection status.
Bempton’s breeding seabirds are internationally important, making the cliffs both a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Protection Area.
Species include kittiwakes, gannets, guillemot, razorbills and puffins. We have specific targets for every one: for instance, we would like to maintain a yearly kittiwake population of 43,000 nesting pairs, producing at least one young each.
During the breeding season, our cliff-top patrols help prevent disturbance by visitors and fishermen.
Leading by example
Unfortunately seabird colonies are vulnerable to environmental threats that lie beyond our control. These include climate change and industrial fishing, which affect the birds’ food supplies. We aim to use Bempton to highlight these issues, so that key decision makers will take action to safeguard the long-term future of seabirds. We hope this will lead to Bempton being designated a marine Special Conservation Area.
Room at the top
The grassland and scrub at the top of the cliffs are home to farmland birds such as tree sparrows, skylarks and linnets. Short-eared owls also spend winter here.
We are cutting back scrub and harrowing grassland in order to increase the population of insects and small mammals on which all these birds feed. We also put out extra food when necessary.
Vision for visitors
The seabird spectacle at Bempton makes the reserve very popular during summer, while the farmland birds help generate interest all-year-round. We aim to continue attracting and educating people, and inspiring them to support the marine environment.
Our facilities currently include a shop, picnic area and cliff top walks. We aim to develop these, with a view to increasing numbers to 60,000 visitors per annum over the next five years.
For the first time, we’re finding out where Bempton’s gannets go when they’re away from the colony.
RSPB scientists have fitted satellite tags to a number of adult gannets so that we can monitor where they go to catch fish. The tags are designed so that they don’t hurt or hinder the birds, and they will eventually fall off when the gannets grow new tail feathers, if not sooner.
We need to find out whether the birds are using areas which the government has earmarked as potential wind farms, and how that might affect them. This information will be used to help plan where to put wind turbines at sea.
What we’re doing
•Fourteen adult gannets were fitted with satellite tags in July 2010 (and another 13 in July 2011)
•In 2010 we got data from all 14 tags during the time when the gannets were rearing their chicks, and several kept transmitting data late into the breeding season
•The highest density of recorded locations at sea was within 31-62 miles (50-100 km) of Bempton Cliffs
•The greatest overlap with any of the proposed wind farm areas was with the Hornsea zone, which is nearest to Bempton
•These results are from just one breeding season, so it’s unclear just how representative they are of what Bempton’s gannets do. We’ll monitor them again in future breeding seasons to learn more.
You can find out more about this work on the gannet tracking project page.