Why Filey has the feel good factor

The sculpture High Tide in Short Wellies by Ray Lonsdale looks out across the bay. Photo: Tony Barth

The sculpture High Tide in Short Wellies by Ray Lonsdale looks out across the bay. Photo: Tony Bartholomew - Credit: Archant

Explore a coastal town with a genuine feel good factor. Richard Darn finds out more

View across the bay and town centre to open countryside beyond from Filey Brigg. . Photo: Tony Bart

View across the bay and town centre to open countryside beyond from Filey Brigg. . Photo: Tony Bartholomew - Credit: Archant

Filey is the kind of place that defies the expectations of first time visitors. With its busier cousin of Scarborough to the north and more garish places like Cleethorpes elsewhere on the East Coast the uninitiated might think a repeat performance is on the cards. But not so. This is a handsome bijou resort, with its white Georgian style buildings on The Crescent (built by a Birmingham solicitor intent on turning Filey into a grand destination) creating an immediate and positive impression. It’s one of the delights of the Yorkshire coast that each of its boroughs is so different.

The town enjoys a prime position, facing a majestic sweep of sandy coastline culminating in the tapered promontory of Filey Brigg to the north. Here the Romans built a signal station in 375AD to watch for raiders and raised the alarm by lighting a beacon. Stones from this impressive structure were unearthed in 1857 and removed to The Crescent Gardens, where they can still be seen today. Also uncovered nearby in 1834 was Filey’s oldest known resident – a 6ft tall Bronze Age chieftain who was buried in a hollowed out oak tree. Bradford University studies suggest he was born and bred in the area, well fed, and died about 4,000 years ago. Take a trip to the Rotunda Museum in Scarborough to see him.

My previous visit to Filey was early last summer, returning from a snorkelling trip to Flamborough Head to swim in the bay with the puffins. It was a magical evening with lingering sunlight bouncing off the fine white washed buildings and the golden sand and calm sea looking equally inviting. This is a place with a genuine feel good factor, taking life at a languorous pace and where a little high season bustle never detracts from its elegant poise.

Every coastal town of substance has an iconic visitor from history. For Whitby it’s Bram Stoker, whilst Bridlington was home to Lawrence of Arabia. Filey’s luminary was 19th century composer Frederick Delius, who holidayed here a couple of times. This promises to be a big year for the town and fingers will be crossed for fine weather.

For the first time it hosts a leg of the Tour de Yorkshire with the world’s top cyclists zipping through on Saturday, May 5th en route from Richmond to Scarborough (via Sutton Bank). The aerial views of the peloton sweeping along the front should look spectacular.

There’s also the Return of the Dragon Festival (July 28th-29th), an eclectic mix of family activities ranging from funfairs to marching bands and marauding Vikings. If you are wondering what the dragon link refers to it’s down to the local legend that Filey Brigg is made from the bones of a dragon that terrorised the area before being drowned by townsfolk.

And don’t be surprised to see backpackers tightening their buckles or soothing sore feet. Filey is the end point for the majestic 109-mile Cleveland Way, that sweeps around the top of the North York Moors and tracks down the coastline. It’s also the start of the equally spectacular Wolds Way, traversing 79 miles of lovely rolling countryside to Hull. According to Visit England this kind of activity based tourism is on the rise and Filey is superbly well positioned to benefit.

Something completely different is on offer at the Filey Steampunk Festival (May 19th and May 20th). I must confess the whole ‘Steampunk’ sub-culture has passed me by, but after a little research I’m a tad wiser. Imagine Whitby’s Goth Festival given a make over with an infusion of Victorian technology, inspired by science fiction and fantasy genres (think Jules Verne and HG Wells). Expect to see folks in goggles and brass buckles warping time and inspiring street theatre and live music. If you still don’t get it I’m sure you will recognise it when you see it.

Which leads me onto something more traditional. I am massive fan of small museums and Filey has a lovely example that opens from Easter for the season. Housed in buildings on Queen Street dating to the 17th century, one of which was a fisherman’s cottage, it was thankfully saved from demolition in the 1960s. Here you can view Neolithic flints and clay pipes, see amazing vintage photographs and discover how local fishing families clubbed together in the late 19th century to buy a fishing boat costing £1million in today’s money. Spread over two floors with a lovely display of children’s period toys there’s also a pleasant rear garden and tribute to the life boat men. The volunteers have done a great job keeping the town’s story alive and giving this exquisite building a new use.

All of which is a reminder that some of the nicest things in Yorkshire come in small packages – just like Filey.

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