Laid down 200 million years ago when Cumbria was a desert, the sandstone cliffs of St Bees have eroded into nesting ledges for thousands of gulls, Kittiwakes, Guillemots, Razorbills and Fulmars. A few Puffins and the only breeding Black Guillemots in England add to the picture.
Access to the cliffs, which form an RSPB reserve, is by foot only, along the cliff top path from the car-park in St Bees, or along a private road from Sandwith – pronounced Sannoth locally – via Tarn Flatts Farm (skirt around the left side of the farm buildings to avoid disturbing the occupants).
The cliff top route offers the chance of Gannet, Cormorant, Raven and Peregrine. Autumn and spring migration can be quite marked and even in winter sea ducks, divers and grebes may be visible offshore. Be warned that a winter trip to the Head is not for fairweather birders.
The route through Tarn Flatts provides a range of finches and other farmland birds, with warblers in the summer and hirundines around the farm.
The occasional patch of gorse scrub, such as that found in the small valley of Fleswick Bay (just south of the main cliffs) can provide Stonechat and Whinchat.
Hint: If it’s a long hot day take plenty to drink, and the sun cream. There’s no shade and no shops! It goes without saying that you should not stray close to the cliff edges.
Link: RSPB St Bees Head