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Nestled below the imposing out crop of Flamborough Head on the East coast of England is the seaside town of Bridlington.
At first glance it’s hard to see anything besides the charming tackiness of the amusement arcades and a sea of tourists, but look a little harder and you will find a multitude of photography opportunities. Even though it’s the largest town in the East Riding of Yorkshire it is often overshadowed by its historical and arguably classier neighbour Scarborough, but this town has a lot more to offer photographers than family photos on the sea front.
If you own your own dinghy then you could brave the North Sea and an unscheduled trip to Holland and arrive by water. There’s really no need though as Bridlington has regular trains running to and from central places such as Sheffield and Doncaster as well as being accessible by the A614 from the south and the A615 from the north.
Things to see
The focal point of any sea side town is the beach and Bridlington is lucky enough to have two very distinct ones.
To the north of the harbour is a pebble packed beach which reaches upwards into the bleak and scarred chalk faces of Bempton Cliffs, just a mile out of the town. On a clear day the view stretches all the way down to the tip of Flamborough Head, a vast out cropping of land that reaches almost 5 miles into the North Sea. On a bad day you can see little but the salt in your eyes as this is the side of the harbour you come to if you want to capture violent waves crashing into the sea walls and dragging naive tourists out to sea.
These cliffs, reaching 400 feet in places, can be viewed from a completely different angle by standing on top of them and following the cliff top path up to the small village of Sewerby – a photo opportunity in itself with it’s own stately home and gardens (Sewerby Hall), cliff top cricket matches and old world appeal. Stray a little further (preferable by car unless you fancy a very bracing walk) and you can visit the tip of Flamborough Head and take in the views from Bempton Cliffs.
Although most famous for the RSPB bird reserve, and in particular the colonies of Puffins, this area is also home to coves, stacks and some intricate sea caves that conjure up images of pirates and smugglers, such as those at North Landing.
South of Bridlington harbour is a very different picture. The south sands are as flat and stone free as a salt pan and sweep out for what seems like miles to the distant sea. Even at high tide the majority of the beach can still be enjoyed, unlike the north side where you will find the coast guard station strategically positioned. In summer this beach heaves under the weight of holiday makers, ice cream and wind breakers but catch it out of season and the expanse of the smooth and empty terrain can be viewed pretty much without a blemish all the way down to Spurn Point.
This is the time when this beach is truly breathtaking and definitely not one for agoraphobics. The south side is geared to tourists more than the rocky, wild north and streets of beach huts and numerous water features and cafes are crammed on to the beach front much like the holiday makers on the sands below them. The south side is also home to Bridlington Spa Theatre where the resort’s faded Victorian glamour and undertones of its 1920s art deco makeover are encapsulated in one building and a slightly slimy boating lake at the foot of it.
Walk a little further south along the coast and you will soon reach rolling sand dunes and witness the startling speed that the sea is eating into the low clay cliffs, dragging garden sheds, car parks and abandoned houses into its surf.
Away from the beaches Bridlington has more features waiting to be captured. Bridlington Priory, founded in 1113 had much of it’s structure destroyed after the Dissolution of the Monasteries but the Priory Church of Staint Mary and the Bale Gate give a real scope into how imposing the original monastery must have been. Gargoyles, ancient graves, picturesque common ground and an alleged haunted pub (The Bull and Sun) give this small area a real sense of Bridlington’s history.
Just over the road is Bridlington High Street, or the Old Town, if you fancy a picture of a spooky convent, creepy pubs and even a cobbled street with real stocks then this is the place to be. Often featured in costume dramas (OK so some scenes for Heartbeat spin-off The Royal where filmed here), the real charm of this area is the narrow streets and wonky houses, most of which wouldn’t look out of place in a Dickens' novel.
Bridlington and the East Yorkshire coast is a photographers dream with diverse scenery and architecture which change seasonally meaning there is always something new to be captured.