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Quiet beaches for winter walks on the Yorkshire coast

Filey Bay for a serious beach walk. (c) Tony Bartholomew
Filey Bay for a serious beach walk. (c) Tony Bartholomew

The UK Met Office explains that there are two ways of defining the start of the new season – either astronomical, in which case winter kicks in on December 22 this year; or meteorological, in which case we’ll be taking the woolly jumpers out of mothballs even sooner, on December 1.

Either way, there’s only one direction the mercury is going to go in the near future, and that’s down.

And while for many, that doesn’t spell ‘beach visit’, we’d argue that the colder months can be the very best time for a trip to the coast. There’s more space, for a start: there’s nothing like a wide-open sweep of sand to get you in the mood for achieving that magical 10,000 steps target.

The air feels cleaner and more refreshing, and the fish and chips taste somehow that little bit crisper, saltier and, er, vinegary-er eaten against the backdrop of a frosty winter’s day. And if you’re one of the growing legions of this country’s dog owners, you’ll find that the dog ban in certain areas is lifted.

Great British Life: Winter birds to spot. (c) Tony BartholomewWinter birds to spot. (c) Tony Bartholomew

The North Yorkshire coast is blessed with some of the best beaches to be found anywhere – and that’s official. A couple of years ago, glorious Runswick Bay was named by The Times and Sunday Times Travel as Britain’s best beach in their top 50 round-up. They called it ‘close to perfection’, praising its ‘Wagnerian grandeur’ and range of activities from fossil hunting and sandcastle building to watersports and dolphin and porpoise spotting.

Think great beaches, and Australia’s Bondi and Majorca’s Playa de Alcúdia might spring to mind – but it’s not that long ago that our very own Filey Beach joined them (and Elafonsi in Crete, Siesta in Florida and Iztuzu in Turkey) to be named by Tripadvisor as one of the world’s top six beaches. At a grand five miles long, it’s also one of this country’s largest, so there’s always plenty of room to stretch those legs.

Great British Life: Gorgeous winter skies in Scarborough. (c) Tony BartholomewGorgeous winter skies in Scarborough. (c) Tony Bartholomew

Both Runswick Bay and Filey hold Keep Britain Tidy Seaside Awards - presented to the best beaches in England and celebrating the quality and diversity of the coastline – alongside Robin Hood’s Bay, Sandsend, Cayton Bay, Whitby and Scarborough’s North Bay. The latter two also hold prestigious Blue Flags: international awards from the Foundation for Environmental Education presented to well-managed beaches with excellent water quality and environmental education programmes.

And it’s not just walkers who enjoy our beaches and bays in the colder months. Sea swimming and surfing is increasingly popular on the North Yorkshire coast.

Great British Life: Sandsend in winter guarantees blow-away-the-cobwebs fresh air. (c) Tony BartholomewSandsend in winter guarantees blow-away-the-cobwebs fresh air. (c) Tony Bartholomew

Nature lovers enjoy the bird life (Filey Brigg is a particularly important stopover for migrating birds) and the cetaceans – that’s whales, dolphins and porpoises to you and me – who are making their homes in increasing numbers in our waters. Earlier this summer, a local wildlife photographer hit the national headlines with spectacular and rare pictures of a minke whale breaching just off Scarborough.

And of course, there are always seals to spot – we’re blessed with both common and grey on this coast – and maybe even the occasional walrus! A word of warning, though: if you are lucky enough to spot a seal, do remember that they’re in the midst of their breeding season right now, and keep well away, for your wellbeing and for theirs. They might look cute and cuddly, but an adult seal that feels threatened can inflict a nasty bite; and a startled seal could at best use up vital energy and at worst injure itself fleeing.

For more information on what else is on across the Yorkshire Coast #place of surprise and the North York Moors this month, please visit discoveryorkshirecoast.com



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