Filey - the best family holiday resort in Yorkshire
Filey is a place of many memories for me. It was here as a small child that we always came to Mrs Barrett's boarding house for our
annual Summer holiday, and sat on the beach all day long come rain or shine.
That isn't mandatory nowadays and most of the boarding houses have long since gone, but Filey remains an absolute gem.
The town is set afront the magnificent Filey Bay, a long stretch of beautiful
sand with Filey Brigg
to the North, then Coble landing and a central more commercial
developed section and finally to the South the magnificent beach backed by cliffs
running all the way down to Flamborough Head.
That probably means nothing to anyone who hasn't been there so let's look in some detail.
The town itself is set in the middle of the bay running up and on top of the cliffs.
It seems almost caught in a timewarp being gentle without being genteel, retaining
much of its character from the holiday peak of the 60's and early 70's. There are
no large hotels, but quite a few small ones, tons of holiday cottages and still
a good smattering of B&B accommodation. There used to be two cinemas, but one's
now a large pub and goodness only knows what the other one is. There's a good few pubs (see below),
but none of them are mindblowing, a handful of decent
eateries and lots of good chip shops and greasy spoons. I noticed The Star has been
refurbished recently and a restaurant added, so maybe that will improve things.
The majority of the town
is flat and easy, and much of the cliffs have been terraced into gardens, with narrow
paths and ginnels everywhere. There used to be a tiny theatre on the cliffs called
the Sun Lounge, but that's "The Rendezvous" cafe nowadays
doing a fine line in chips with everything.
Parking used to be a nightmare, but the council built a huge car park at the Southern
edge of the town and it's all OK now. There's also a big car park to the North on
the Brigg, but be warned that both are fanatically patrolled by wardens so don't be
tempted to chance it. There's quite a lot of parking directly on the sea front
but you have to be an early bird to get it. There's currently a team of three wardens working in Filey,
and they are keen as mustard. They seem to believe their job is to drive visitors away
and they can routinely be seen with tape measures and digital cameras looking for
anyone who hasn't parked quite as neatly as they should. The easiest solution of course would be
to get rid of them and use the money saved to introduce diagonal parking on the front. That's
unlikely to happen as Filey is ruled by dictat from Scarborough, and it would involve some
creative thinking - and we all know not to expect too much of that from Local Government.
For disabled visitors there are a considerable number of spaces right on the front which is great.
But wouldn't it be fantastic to have a wheelchair lift of some kind going between the town
and the front. Surely that wouldn't be too hard to do in this day and age - and how much more of an
attraction would it make Filey for disabled visitors.
The North end of Filey Bay is formed by Filey Brigg. This is a headland which has
been very heavily eroded on the bay side leaving a wonderful rock platform full
of rock pools and the weirdest path imaginable along it. It gets cut off when the
tide comes in, but it's not really too dangerous as the cliffs are soft boulder
clay and quite climbable. There are paths down the end of the brig and down the
side about half way along, but the Health and Safety fascists have erected
signs about "No Safe Access". Both paths are perfectly usable in reasonable
conditions by reasonably fit and able people, so don't let the signs put you off.
The path down the end is a bit of a scramble so don't try it with pushchairs, toddlers,
whingers or granny in a wheelchair. Once you get outside
of the bay round the end of the headland it's a very different environment with sheer
cliffs and no escape route. If you get caught there as the tide comes in you're
in serious trouble.
The North side of the Brigg with its sheer cliffs is quite popular with anglers.
They stand on ledges on the cliffs and fish over the edges. If you're on top
of the Brigg you might notice a rope going off the edge. That's where they scramble
down, and there's an iron ladder fastened into the cliff to help them. If you look
carefully at the picture on the right you can see a couple of them. Wouldn't
recommend exploring the area though as it's a bit of a walk on the wild side.
Kids love the brigg for the rock pools along the way, they're shallow, safe and
teeming with sealife, and nets can be bought from the nearby shops at coble landing
for a couple of quid. Serious sea fishermen can generally be found at the end of
the Brigg as can birders. Not quite sure what they turn up to watch but there's
certainly plenty of Shags about. There used to be a small cafe at the end of the
bridge, but that's now closed and the site is occupied by a bird watching shelter
which always seems to be closed. When I visited in June '07 there were about 20
dead Guillemots and Razorbills lying about, plus another couple of very weak ones.
Never seen that before and hope never to see it again.
The fields on top of the Brigg used to be farmland, but in the early seventies it
was turned into a country park incorporating a camp site. It's also the end of the Cleveland
Way, which I walked as a youth and still believe to be the best long distance footpath
in the UK. The park has a small cafe and shop, reasonable toilets and plenty
of space, but being on top of a cliff it can be pretty windy.
The Northern end of the town is marked by a deep ravine leading to Coble Landing.
This is a slipway where the local fishermen keep their Cobles. Cobles being small
wooden fishing boats which clearly show their descent from Viking longships. There's
also some tacky amusements, little huts selling seafood and ice cream, and all the
usual tat you expect at the seaside. Every year there's fewer and fewer cobles left,
just another unwanted legacy of our membership of the EUSSR. It's never ceased to amaze me that
we ceded billions of pounds worth of fishing rights in exchange for absolutely nothing.
The type of sustainable fishing carried out by cobles is exactly what we should be encouraging,
instead of which the cobles are grounded while the seas are hoovered clean by Spanish
Heading south from Coble landing you have the main central section of beach which
is a dog free zone in high season and is ideal for families. It's such a massive
beach it never gets crowded, and is backed by a massive sea
wall giving plenty of shelter from offshore winds. At the Southern end of the central
beach you get another ravine leading up to Filey's main car park, and at this point
countryside begins and the beach is undeveloped, still perfect sand and backed by
low cliffs of boulder clay. Walking along here is a treat (dogs allowed) and you
can walk all the way down to the great little cafe at Hunmanby Gap and beyond to
the end of the beach and the start of the Flamborough Cliffs.
As you head South along the beach there's a fair sampling of WWII vintage pillboxes
and even a few rather lovely Art Deco houses among the cliffs. The big white one
was in fact owned by Billy Butlin himself - so the great man did have good taste after
There's also a
way up to Primrose Valley, one of those giant Haven holiday camps which just might
be worth a visit if you have to entertain small kids. It's also packed
with food outlets, so if you need a Starbucks, Burger King, pizza joint, chippy,
carvery or whatever else, it's useful. There's also a rather nice Chinese, not on
the camp itself, but just round the back, down the road just before the camp entrance
(Primrose Valley Road). Not sure if
you're meant to do it, but you can just drive into the camp to use the shops and
restaurants. Or you can park down Primrose Valley Road.
There used to be a massive Butlins
camp next to Primrose Valley. Built in 1939 it
quickly became RAF Hunmanby Moor, then reverted to a massive holiday camp in 1945,
eventually accommodating 11,000 campers. It closed in 1983 and fell into
the hands of a local "businessman". After reopening as Amtree Park it closed
again six weeks later leaving a lot of people seriously out of pocket. Now, about
twenty years later, Amtree Park has finally been redeveloped. It's being turned
into a new village of posh holiday homes. They're building about
seven hundred houses and flats, plus a hotel, leisure facilities and the like. Not great timing with the recession,
but good luck to them.
Having seen the first few houses of the new Amtree Park go up, it's not to my taste.
They're all ersatz local cottage style as if they're trying to create a fake Flamboro,
a surrogate Speeton or a couterfeit Cayton. Here was an opportunity to create exciting
architecture, to do something
really unique, and instead we've been given a poor pastiche of a local village. But I have to admit that the houses are rather
I went to have a nosey round the development in mid 2008 and I have to say it's odd. The
houses are nice enough, but they come with a clause that only allows the owner to occupy the property
for six months of the year. Other people are allowed to occupy it for the other six months, so
effectively it means you can't live there permanently.
I presume that's designed to stop the council having to build
new schools and facilities for residents. As I say the houses were nice enough, and once they
build all the shops it'll be even
better, but as more houses are built the ones now standing may well not have
a sea-view anymore. There's also all kinds of restrictions about keeping the place
tidy, not allowing any individuality in the gardens, not allowing scruffy boats
and stuff like that. Awfully authoritarian and not to my liking at all, but
if you're looking to buy a holiday home to rent out it could be ideal.
On a brighter note, the pub and a couple of shops are now open, and the pub comes complete with a fake mediaeval city gateway! As far as I can tell the gateway is a copy of Beverley
North Bar. Strange, but true.
Just a word in passing about Hunmanby Gap. This is a way down to the beach near
(not very to be honest) the inland village of Hunmanby. It's constantly in danger of eroding and
the cafe is only still there by a miracle, but the food is top scram for hungry
walkers. I moaned earlier about the lack of great pubs in Filey, but if you visit
Hunmanby village two miles inland, the balance is redressed with half a
dozen truly excellent pubs, all allowing children, serving good beer and decent
food. If you just want to explore this area, Hunmanby makes an excellent base. In the centre of the village
there's The Buck, The Cottage and the White Swan, down a side street is The Horseshoe,
just on the edge of the village is The Railway, and just outside it The Royal Oak.
Finally as you reach the far end of the beach, there is one magnificent little gem
that few visitors ever see. Climbing the steep footpath up the cliffs towards Speeton
you come to St Leonards Church, a tiny Saxon chapel with no aisle. A real little
gem, very reminiscent of the chapel on the battlefield at Towton. From here you
can walk to the main coast road, have a quick pint at the Dotterel or catch a bus
back to Filey.
Filey Bay looking back from Speeton
Dog Walking in Filey
Filey is a very dog friendly resort. During high season dogs are banned from the central
section of the beach from Coble Landing in the North to the end of the sea wall
in the South. That's a pretty good deal for dog owners.
The dog friendly Southern section of beach is miles long, and you can walk all the way to
passing Hunmanby Gap (cafe and toilets) and Reighton Gap on the way. Alternatively,
you can just setup camp on the beach with easy access to the cafe and toilets at
the end of the sea wall.
The dogs allowed Northern section near The Brigg is smaller, but again there's plenty of room to exercise just
about any dog you can think of. And you can always clamber up the cliffs to the
country park above where dogs are allowed in most parts. The footpath from here runs all
the way along the cliff tops to Scarborough (plenty of buses and trains back), so
that should wear out even the most energetic hound,
and it's a lovely walk too.
For eating out, lots of the cafes in Filey have seating areas outside where you
can sit with the dog, and The Imperial, The Station, Foords and the Bonhomme
will generally allow well-behaved dogs in.
There's now also a Filey Bird Garden and Animal Park, which is relatively new, and
dogs are allowed.
|The Three Tuns
Right smack bang in the middle of the High Street this should be the busiest pub
in Filey. And apart from its position it has a massive yard at the back that's largely
a wasted opportunity.
As it is, it's a bit of a timewarp, though to be fair it can get lively on a Saturday
Maybe if it wasn't painted like HMP Filey it would be better.
I've always had a soft-spot for the Foords. It's an amazing old pub with a unique
"corridor" design that you just don't seem to come across nowadays.
But I guess it's a pub on the cusp. It's too far from the centre to draw tourist
income, and without that or a very good local trade it'll be increasingly hard for
it to survive.
I was desperately sorry when the Crown went, I just hope I don't have to mourn The
Foords as well.
The Imperial's quite a contradiction in terms, a pub which doesn't quite know what
it wants to be.
It's a decent local with nice beer, dogs are allowed, and it's friendly. On the
other hand it tries to promote itself as a cocktail bar come "yoof pub" which it
They know how to keep beer, and it's still my favourite Filey pub (just), but
even I would have to admit it could do with a little more natural light.
In a really nice position just away from the High Street, I used to really like
The Star. Unfortunately a couple of years ago it was revamped, and is now the kind
of ubiquitous suburban pub with a conservatory that you can find anywhere. It also
had a lovely little sun trap out the front, but that's covered with giant square
But for all that it serves good beer, decent food and has a little beer garden round
the side. It gets busy for food on a night so it's sometimes worth booking.
A delightful little pub hidden away in the backstreets. Mainly used by locals
rather than tourists, but it's warm, welcoming and friendly. Strangely enough it
also looks rather more like someone's living room than a pub, but light years better
than some of the dingier pubs in Filey.
And another one down.
The Crown closed in 2008 and I shall miss it. Yes it was run down, but they were
making an effort with the beer garden. Now in 2010 it looks like it's being turned
into social housong, so at least some good has come of it.
A crying shame.
The Station (the Top House)
I assume it's called The Station because it's near The Fire Station
rather than the Bus Station or The Railway Station.
This is a proper big pub with a lot to offer including a music room. They have
good beer, live music on a weekend and it's friendly. They even have the folk club when it meets.
enough and it looked like some renovation was underway last time I went in.
They do food as well nowadays, but I haven't tried it so can't comment.
Dogs welcome. Kids welcome until 9.
The Belle Vue
The biggest pub in Filey and in the best position.
Visited once and didn't like it. It was just too
loud with too many kids running
about. Maybe I caught it on a bad day.
Top of my list to visit again next time I'm in Filey.
Formerly a cinema, I remember going to see a Jimmy Edwards film here back
in the mid 1960's. It's been a pub for quite some time now, but I avoided it
for years because it looks so blooming awful.
Finally in desperation we ventured through the door one night having failed to find
pub in Filey with a telly big enough to watch the England game. And what a good
decision that was.
The decor inside is even more kitsch than the outside, but they serve a jolly good
pint, the pub food is very good (though unexciting), there's a huge TV screen plus
several smaller ones and kids are welcome. I like it a lot.
Altogether, quite an improvement on Jimmy Edwards.
|Royal Crescent Vaults
Alas and alack as of 2008 this fine watering hole has closed down. Will it
reopen? I doubt it, there's too many pubs in Filey, and it's just a little bit off
the main drag.
2010 - Looks like it's being converted into flats.
And I've left the best till last. Bonhommes is relatively new, and is situated
just off the crescent, down a sidestreet opposite where the road from the front
It can't make its mind up whether it's a pub or a cocktail bar, but it has the best
kept real ale in Filey. It's light and airy, comfortable, nice furniture, has newspapers
and magazines to read, and is above all friendly and welcoming.
There's only one long room, but the bottom half is a family room, and while not
quite as nice as the top half is still rather good.
And to cap it all, dogs are allowed. Just a shame it doesn't look like a proper
pub from the outside.
Filey and the surrounding area is packed with holiday cottages. A Google search
will pull up plenty of individual ones, but here's some of the big players:
Pictures of Filey