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Beaches and Coastline

St Bees Bay extends in a long sweep from the promenade at the foot of the South Head to Seamill lane, about a mile away.

St Bees Bay from Seamill - The South Head is in the background

The beach at low tide is a vast expanse of red sand studded with rock pools, and at the foot of the golf course cliffs there is a magnificent shingle bank composed of dozens of rock varieties sloping down to the sand.

The sand is accessible at all times except for 2 or 3 hours on either side of high tide, when only the shingle is clear of the water.

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Seacote Beach

The Seacote beach is at the north of the bay, and is the most popular because of easy access and it's proximity to the South Head. Here you will find the main visitor facilities:

It's also the start of the Wainwright Coast to Coast walk, and is the main access point for the RSPB reserve

Click here for a map of beach facilities.

New in 2014!......The £138k new children's play area at the Seacote beach.

click here for pictures

New Play area

 

Things to note

  • You are permitted to walk dogs on the beach but please clean up after them.

  • A slipway is available at the Seacote beach for launching & retrieving boats. Towing vehicles must be returned to the car park and are permitted on the beach only for launching and retrieving boats.

  • It is unwise to leave cars on the beach - it has been proved on a few occasions that they do not float! Access road & slipway must be kept clear at all times for the RNLI Lifeboat.

  • The beach is gently sloping and generally free from dangerous currents, but swimming should be avoided near the rocks of the South Head.

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Seamill Beach

The beach can also be accessed from Seamill lane, though this is only recommended only for pedestrians due to the narrow lane and difficult railway bridge. There are no facilities at this end of the beach. This can be part of an interesting circular village walk using either the beach, or at high tide, the golf course path. Click here to download a pdf file of this walk.

 

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St Bees Heads, RSPB Reserve and Fleswick Bay

There are actually two St Bees Heads, the North Head and the South Head, and between them nestles one of the Cumbrian coast's greatest secrets; Fleswick Bay. The bay has one of the grandest situations of any beach in Britain.

Accessible only on foot or by boat, Fleswick's shingle beach is enclosed by towering red sandstone cliffs. To get there on foot cross the footbridge at the north end of promenade, and walk up the South Head and along the cliff path. There is a footpath down a short valley to Fleswick Bay.

Click here to download a guide to this walk.

There is no sand, but a very fine shingle, which lies on an impressive wave-cut platform sculpted from the distinctive St Bees sandstone. At one time the shingle had many semi-precious stones, such as agates, but years of collection by visitors have made these rare; though there's still some to be found...take a look.

St Bees Head is designated as a National Heritage Coast - the only one on the English coast between Scotland and Wales, and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It is also the site of a nationally-important RSPB bird reserve for sea birds which is the only breeding place in England for the Black Guillemot.

The red sandstone cliffs of St Bees Head are one of the the most dramatic features of the Cumbrian coast. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has owned most of the cliffs since 1973. The cliff-top path from St Bees makes a pleasant if strenuous walk at any time of year if the weather is kind, but for the naturalist, spring and summer are the most rewarding seasons.

Here is the only colony of cliff-nesting seabirds in Northwest England, to which thousands of birds return each spring to lay their eggs and hatch their chicks before returning to the seas where they spend three-quarters of their lives. For those who know what to expect from a seabird colony, all the usual species are here, plus a few extras peculiar to the location on the edge of the Lake District. Most numerous are the guillemots, the northern equivalent of the penguin; over 5,000 crowd on to the open ledges where they jostle for the best position to lay their single egg. Their close relative the razorbill is represented by only a few hundred birds, preferring the privacy of nooks and crannies in the cliffs.

This is the only place in England where black guillemots nest, and you would be unlucky not to see one in their favourite spot - Fleswick Bay. In summer they are easily identified by the big white wing patch on the otherwise black body, and close views reveal their bright crimson legs and gapes.

Among the fulmars and various gulls, about 1600 pairs of kittiwakes build their precarious nests of mud and grass on the most meagre foundations on the cliff face, and the interest is not limited to seabirds. Those typical occupants of many Lakeland crags, peregrine, raven and wheatear, seem unconcerned that their homes overlook the Irish Sea rather than screes and sheep walks.

The rock is 200 million years old; from the Permian geological era, and these are the most substantial red sandstone sea cliffs in England. The Coast to Coast walk and the Cumbria Coastal Way both follow the edge of the cliffs and visit Fleswick Bay.

 

 

Guillemots nesting on the Head. Click here for the RSPB web page about the reserve

 

The South Head at "Lawson's Leap" - showing thick beds of 200 million year-old St Bees Sandstone.

Bouldering at St Bees

 

 

Bouldering area at the North Head at Apiary Wall

 

 

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Shipwrecks

 

 

Click here for the shipwrecks page

 

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Coastal Gallery

St Bees village from coastal path