Welcome to Filey, the Yorkshire town with one of Europe's best beaches

🏖️ Filey Beach in Yorkshire was named one of the 25 European beaches for 2021, leapfrogging the likes of Plage du Sillon in Saint-Malo

10/23/2021 2:00:00 PM

🏖️ Filey Beach in Yorkshire was named one of the 25 European beaches for 2021, leapfrogging the likes of Plage du Sillon in Saint-Malo

The quaint old-fashioned seaside resort, with a five-mile beach and a spiritual energy of its own, beat off competition from the continent

“You don’t need proof, you just know,” said local yoga instructor and regular wild swimmer Rebecca Thompson, by way of enigmatic explanation.I was there, on the shore after a summer of staycations, looking for reasons why Filey Beach was named one of the 25 European beaches for 2021, leapfrogging the likes of Plage du Sillon in Saint-Malo, and Spiaggia di Sansone in Portoferraio. Is it the oceanic superpowers? And do they still work as summer begins to turn to autumn?

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Stretching across five miles of sand, from the cliffs at Reighton to Filey Brigg, the expanse of beach is impressive, especially at low tide when it swells to half a mile in width, a magnet for dog walkers and joggers. Strolling the completely empty promenade on a balmy July evening at 10pm, with the sun just setting, I found myself equally enchanted and amused. I almost missed a sign at my feet with an arrow pointing into the sea which screams “ENERGY!”, presumably for the non-believers.

I passed a nine-hole, ocean-themed crazy golf course complete with a huge lobster obstacle on its green, not stopping until I reached the commanding presence of a 12-foot steel sculpture of a fisherman (known as Finlay, following a local naming competition). headtopics.com

Designed as a tribute to Filey’s fishing heritage, the sculpture’s official title is High Tide in Short Wellies by County Durham artist Ray Lonsdale. It was donated to Filey in 2012 by Scarborough-based Maureen Robinson, who has visited Filey since her childhood. While the local fishing industry has dwindled since the 1960s, families still love watching the fishers bring in their daily catch. Some late 17th-century fishing cottages still remain on Queen Street, which add a touch of charm. Filey Museum is housed in the oldest.

But why was I still staring at big Finlay, standing brazenly in such unexpected splendour on the promenade? Then it hit me: he’s not at all unlike a huge bronze seamen’s monument I’d previously seen in Ísafjörður, in Iceland’s Westfjords. Is that what makes it so special? Is Filey channelling the Nordics? Where everyone is purportedly energised by being calm and cosy or recklessly living their best life – or somehow both?

Earlier that day it appeared to be so, as Rebecca’s husband David assured me that his whisky distillery, Spirit of Yorkshire was a popular place for breakfast. I felt a devil-may-care thrill at the concept, especially given what I’d heard about its Filey Bay Single Malt Whisky, which, in various expressions, has won a string of awards.

“We started with breakfast,” said David of the distillery’s Pot Still Café, which also does a roaring trade in afternoon teas. “The thing is up here, there aren’t that many options; there aren’t kitchens around the corner doing the same thing, so if you do one thing well…”. If you build it, the whisky breakfasters (and international whisky awards) will come, it seems. headtopics.com

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But still the masses flock to nearby Scarborough and Whitby instead. Have they missed Filey being one of Europe’s finest (not to mention Yorkshire’s only beach on the list)?“I’m not surprised at all,” said Chris Miller, co-owner of The Southgate Bed & Breakfast, a historic building in Hunmanby village. “Filey is not built up like its neighbours and it hasn’t changed in a hundred years. The beach here is beautiful, it’s well-kept and exceptionally clean. It’s a quaint old-fashioned seaside resort.”

But it’s more than that. Filey attracts walkers and cyclists due to its proximity to the Cleveland Way and Yorkshire Wolds Way. Not to mention bird-watchers making a pilgrimage for RSPB Bempton Cliffs for puffin sightings, which muddles my mind with Iceland memories once more.

During my visit, the BBC’s Countryfile were interviewing some thrilled twitchers who had flocked for an extremely rare sighting of a black-browed albatross, a long way from its usual Falkland Islands home.“It’s sort of untouched,” said David, as we dined on local lobster at the Downcliffe House Hotel, a grand building built in the 1840s. Inhaling the warm sea breeze from the terrace of its aptly named Waterside Restaurant and listening to the waves lap, I felt months of pandemic stress ebb away. “It’s always been this Victorian holiday resort but a very small one.”

And while residents have noticed it’s busier than usual this year, you may find Filey is a more peaceful UK beach break than most in this period after school holidays. With added ocean prana to right all your wrongs.How to do it Filey is a 4.5-hour drive from London, a one-hour drive east from York or a 20-minute drive south from Scarborough. Trains depart London’s King’s Cross for York station regularly (lner.co.uk). headtopics.com

Read more: The Telegraph »

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