Spurn Point – also known as Spurn Head – was somewhere I’d wanted to visit since moving to Yorkshire, so I booked a trip on a whim and looked forward to a day at the coast in East Yorkshire.
I’d reckoned without Storm Alex though – a ferocious storm that battered the country with gale-force winds and torrential rain for days before my trip! Fortunately, the storm had passed through in time for our trip, so the teen boy and I stowed wellies and waterproofs in the car, and we set off for the almost 100 miles (2 and a half hours) drive to the Spurn National Nature Reserve.
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Where is Spurn Point?
Spurn Head juts out into the North Sea, forming the northern bank of the mouth of the Humber Estuary, at the very tip of the UK’s East coast, in the East Riding of Yorkshire.
What is Spurn Point?
Spurn Point (also known as Spurn Head) is a tiny curved spit of land, 3.5-miles long and just 50m wide in some places.
An important wildlife haven, the Spurn National Nature Reserve has been protected by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust since 1959.
How was Spurn Point Formed?
One of the most famous features of Britain’s coastline, Spurn Head was formed over thousands of years of longshore drift. Boulder clay, sand, and shingle from further up the coast in Holderness were swept south by wave and tide action, then deposited at Spurn to form the landform seen today.
Spurn Point has kept Britain’s map-makers busy for centuries – as the coastline moves, they’ve often had to update their maps and charts to remain accurate about Spurn Head England.
Why doesn’t Spurn Head get washed away?
The unique and fragile environment plays host to a variety of plants tough enough to survive the exposed conditions, including Marram Grass and Sea Buckthorn, whose root systems help to stabilise and bind the dunes together.
Sea Holly on the dunes helps to retain moisture and the roots of Glasswort help to solidify the mud.
A Brief History of Spurn Point
The Settlement of Spurn Point
In the 14th Century, the medieval port of ‘Ravenspur’ was settled: however, like the Holderness villages that followed, it fell victim to the ravages of the sea.
Undeterred, in the early 1800s, lifeboatmen and their families set up home on Spurn Point, to be close at hand when their services were called upon.
Except for RNLI crew, no one lives on the Point today, as the sudden tidal surges that the Humber Estuary is prone to are so dangerous.
And here’s why…
The Disastrous North Sea Surge of 2013
In December 2013, a violent storm worked its way southeast from the Scottish Orkney Islands. The storm created a tidal surge that wreaked havoc along the east coast of Britain.
When the surge reached the fragile Spurn Point peninsula, the massively swollen sea crashed ashore, snapping the thin neck of land in two.
At daybreak the following day, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust staff found a scene of destruction – the old WWI military road running down to the tip of the point, was destroyed and the coastline had changed. Part of the peninsula had been shifted 80 yards to the west!
I came down on the night of the storm and got as far as the village of Easington and there was 3ft of water coming across the road even there. I thought: ‘Oh heck, Spurn’s gone’. Well, that didn’t quite happen, but there was a lot of damage.Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Heritage Officer Andrew Mason
Today, at high tide, the ‘neck’ is covered by up to 4ft of the sea, making Spurn Head a completely inaccessible island. Severe warnings about the dangers of the tides are posted online and on the approach to Spurn Point!
How to get to Spurn Point
By Public Transport
There’s no train to Spurn Point, however, you can take the number 71 bus from Withernsea to Spurn Head (approx 50 minutes). It’s very slow – with a decent pair of walking boots on, you could probably walk just as quickly 🙂
- Follow the A1033 from Hull to Patrington.
- Take the B1445 towards Easington and Kilnsea.
- Turn right at the T junction in Easington, following the minor road to Kilnsea.
- Turn right at the crossroads towards the Spurn Discovery Centre.
Can you drive to the end of Spurn Point?
Since the 2013 tidal surge, there’s been no vehicular access to the peninsula beyond the car park for the Spurn Discovery Centre. Access is solely on foot or bicycle unless you’ve bought a ticket for a Spurn safari.
What is there to do At Spurn Point?
Go on a Spurn Safari
If you’re time-limited or don’t fancy the 3.5 miles (each way) trek along the peninsula, a ‘Spurn Safari’ is a fantastic way to explore Spurn.
The all-terrain ‘Unimog’ vehicle used for the safari is ex-military – it’s the only vehicle now allowed on Spurn Point.
The safaris are run by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust: they include entry to the lighthouse, commentary on the trip, and a very informative guided walk around the tip of the peninsula.
Find booking and operating information here. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Price: £20 per person for an unforgettable 2.5-hour trip.
Climb the Lighthouse
Spurn Point Lighthouse is located almost at the tip of the Spurn peninsula. Until that blustery Friday afternoon, I’d only ever visited Britain’s most southerly lighthouse – the magnificent and scenic La Corbiere in Jersey. But this was the first chance for my teen son to go up inside a lighthouse.
It was quite strange that our first lighthouse ascent together was mere miles away from the childhood home I emigrated from at the age of eight.
At 128ft (36m) tall, this Grade II heritage-listed lighthouse is neither Britain’s biggest or most imposing, but climbing those five flights of 144 curving stone steps in the tapering round tower is hard work! If you suffer from vertigo, ascending Spurn Point Lighthouse is not for you!
The lighthouse was built in 1893, so the floors and stairs are worn and uneven from decades of use. The narrow stairs up to ‘the Lantern Room’ on the top floor are so steep, they’re almost vertical!
Remember your sturdy footwear if you want to climb the lighthouse tower.
The reward for the mammoth climb is the mesmerising 360-degree view from the light inspection platform. You’ll see cross-channel ferries steaming up the Humber, massive oil tankers anchored in the North Sea, and a huge offshore wind farm.
If I had a single artistic bone in my body, I would have been desperate to capture the scene on canvas. But I haven’t, so I gave up my lofty room with a view, descending that perilous top set of stairs ever-so-carefully, slowly, and backwards!
Price: £4 (included in Spurn Safari tickets)
Check out the WWI & WW2 Fortifications
Thanks to its strategic position at the mouth of the Humber, Spurn Point was a vital part of Britain’s defences from 1805, during the Napoleonic Wars, and during the first and second world wars.
At the time of the Napoleonic Wars, British forces dug wooden groynes along the North Sea coast of Spurn Point, in an ultimately fruitless attempt to arrest the erosion of the peninsula.
Many of the weathered groynes still stand; however, the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has no plans to replace these when they succumb to the waves, preferring to let nature take its course.
While the Spurn Head garrison and nearby Kilnsea once held as many as 1,500 personnel, the base was abandoned by the military in the 1950s. Today, the sea has washed away some of the battery, although volunteers now toil to dig out and restore long-forgotten tunnels and bunkers.
The Humber Forts
Haile Sand Fort and Bull Sand Fort are large circular forts constructed in 1915, in the Humber Estuary, to defend the entrance to the Humber estuary against the threat of German naval activity. Constructed on large sandbanks, they operated alongside shore batteries on Spurn Point, until being decommissioned by the army in 1956.
Today, the abandoned forts stand as a stark reminder of the horrors of war, their function reduced to hosting automated navigational markers.
Explore the Dunes
Just beyond the lighthouse, in the estuary, the old ‘Low Light’ lighthouse still stands. As it’s accessible at low tide, we had to walk out to see it!
If you want a photo of the two lighthouses together though, you’ll need to wait for low tide!
From this point, it’s a short walk to the RNLI building and the jetty where the lifeboat stands ready at all hours.
Climbing over the dunes and down onto the shore at the very tip of the peninsula, you’re presented with the most amazing view. It’s quite incredible to stand on the shore and look out as ferries and tankers steam up and down the Humber. Some almost feel close enough to touch!
This is a mesmerising place, where it’s tempting to sit for hours, watching the ships, and listening to the waves breaking gently on the shingle.
Fossil hunting is very popular along the whole Yorkshire ‘Jurassic’ coast, and there’s a good chance of finding fossils among the pebbles on the beach at Spurn too. Even if you don’t find fossils, there are masses of pretty shells and there’s sea glass to discover too.
Spurn is a haven for birds and wildlife. One of the highlights of a trip here is the chance to see grey seals on the beach, but there are other animal residents too! While “Basil” the fox has apparently befriended the RNLI crew, you can also see deer roaming freely here. There are Hebridean sheep, longhorn cattle, and harbour porpoises to spot too.
For many visitors, one of the best reasons to visit Spurn Point is to take photographs – the tide, the landscape, and the birdlife is ever-changing, so there’s something to see whatever time of day, or time of year you visit.
Here’s what to look out for all year round:
- Spring: Birds – Whimbrel; Wheatear; Ring ouzel; Plants – Scurvy grass
- Summer: Invertebrates – Red-veined darter; Birds – Little tern; Mammals – Harbour Porpoise; Plants – Suffocated clover
- Autumn: Birds – Woodcock; Wryneck; Whinchat; Yellow-browed warbler; Great grey shrike
- Winter: Birds – Brent goose; Shelduck; Merlin; Snow bunting; Mammals – Harbour seal
Where to eat and drink at Spurn Point
The Spurn Discovery Centre has a lovely cafe serving hot and cold food. Stock up on snacks here before your walk.
Need To Know Information
There are toilets at the Spurn Discovery Centre and just beyond the lighthouse, but very limited other facilities on Spurn Head itself.
Visiting Spurn Point could be challenging if you have accessibility needs. Here’s why:
- The terrain: it’s uneven, sand and shingle
- The walk: it’s a 3.5-mile walk from the car park at the Discovery Centre to the end of the peninsula
Taking a Spurn safari is the best way to see the lighthouse and the peninsula if you would struggle with the walk along the sand and shingle.
Is Spurn Head Dog Friendly?
No. Dogs (even on a lead) are not allowed on Spurn Point, to protect the indigenous wildlife and nesting birds, but there are plenty of lovely walks nearby, and dogs are welcome in the Discovery Centre.
How Much Does it cost to visit Spurn Point?
The nature reserve is free to visit, but the car park is payable, as is the Spurn Safari, and entry to Spurn Point Lighthouse.
How Long Can I Visit For?
Your visit will be limited by the tide, so you’ll need to check the Spurn Head tide times before you go, as it’s not possible to visit (or leave) Spurn at high tide.
What To Take On Your Trip
- A camera to capture your trip highlights
- Water in a reusable bottle and a snack
- Sturdy walking shoes/boots
- A waterproof jacket
Where To Stay For Your Trip To Spurn
The few habitable properties on Spurn are used by the RNLI crew, so you won’t be able to stay on the peninsula overnight. While the nearest town is Withernsea, you may prefer to stay in the cities of Hull or York, to make the most of your trip.
If you’re looking for an affordable luxury getaway, try the Dunedin House Hotel in the pretty village of Patrington. The family-run country house hotel is set in beautifully landscaped gardens and offers beautiful, unique rooms, with a warm Yorkshire welcome. There’s a luxury spa too, to help you unwind. Check prices and availability here.
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So this is our complete guide to enjoying a trip to Spurn Point – a tiny place, with plenty to offer visitors. It’s the perfect addition to your itinerary while you’re visiting Yorkshire.
Have you been to Spurn Point? What was your favourite thing to do? Did you get to see deer and seals?