With its attractive period properties, green open spaces and fantastic sandy beaches, this charming seaside town has bags of appeal. Words Lesley Gillian.

One of the best views of this little North Yorkshire town is from Filey Brigg – the long neck of Jurassic rock that trails into the North Sea like a giant fish tail. From here, you can see the clifftop gardens that zigzag down to Filey’s long curve of sandy beach, the white stucco front of the Royal Crescent – a landmark Regency terrace which looks like its been pinched from Brighton seafront – and beyond, the chalk cliffs of Speeton. Filey is such a pretty place, it’s almost too good to be true. Yet it’s the least well known of Yorkshire’s coastal towns.

Filey was a small fishing community before it was developed as a fashionable but low-key resort in the early 19th century. For the most of the post-war years it was best known as a Butlins town, but when the famous holiday camp closed in 1983, Filey returned to its old self: a genteel seaside town, small, ultra traditional and somewhat overshadowed by Scarborough – its bigger, noisier neighbour (only six miles up the coast).

Making the move

For Lesley Burr and her husband Andrew, it was a ‘light bulb moment’ that prompted a move from Harrogate to Filey. On one of their regular day trips, they were on Filey Beach under a bright blue sky when Andrew turned to Lesley and asked: ‘Could you live here?’ Within six months she’d given up her job (she was a clinical nurse in a Leeds hospital) and bought a house in Filey. A year later, she and Andrew opened a boutique B&B.

‘I never thought you’d get me out of Harrogate,’ says Lesley. ‘And at first I wasn’t sure I’d settle here.’ It took a while, she admits, but the Burrs have since slotted into the town’s friendly, active community. ‘We’ve got to know everyone – I can’t walk down the street without saying hello to about 10 people.’

She describes Filey as ‘a proper old-fashioned seaside town, like stepping back 40 years’. But the beach was always the big attraction. ‘It was the beach that brought me here – it’s just fabulous and so peaceful.’

Most of the streets around the centre offer attractive properties close to the sea. Good choices include Victorian terraces on Rutland Street, pre-war semis on Crescent Avenue, a mix of old fishermen’s cottages on Queen Street (one of Filey’s oldest streets) or Regency townhouses on The Crescent (where apartments are priced from around £130,000). And Filey is great value: a two-bedroom apartment in a converted Fisherman’s Chapel at £162,000; a four-bedroom Victorian house at £155,000; an eight-bedroom townhouse on Melville Terrace at £180,000. Out of town, head south to Speeton, an idyllic no-through-road farming village within a cliff walk of chalky Speeton beach.

With Glen Gardens and the golf club to the south and Filey Brigg Country Park to the north, the town is rich in green open spaces with instant access to some fantastic walks. Filey Brigg – on the cliff path or on the beach at low tide – takes less than an hour; keep going and you can walk all the way to Scarborough.

Filey also has the Filey Dams Nature Reserve, a Bird Garden and Animal Park and its own wonderful sandy beach. The town’s Evron Centre Concert Hall puts on regular exhibitions, films and live shows and its two-street shopping centre has some interesting independent shops as well as some decent restaurants – including San Marco, a family-run Italian offering delicious pizzas and huge portions. For more information about the area see visityorkshire.com.

Just over an hour from the cities of York or Hull and only six miles from Scarborough, Filey attracts commuters, as well as second-career movers looking for lifestyle businesses by the sea. The town is served by rail services on the Yorkshire Coast Line, which links Filey to London and Leeds via York and Seamer and to Hull via Bridlington. The 250-mile journey to London by road takes around four and a half hours. The nearest international airport is Leeds Bradford, which is 73 miles away.

This is not the town’s strong point. The main secondary, Filey School, was rated by Ofsted as ‘inadequate’ in 2013. Another option is the independent Scarborough College.

Filey is a quiet little place with limited shops, restaurants and entertainment. Filey’s answer to seafront amusements is brass bands on Sundays and donkeys on the beach and for many residents, that’s the beauty of the place. For a bit more life, they head up the coast to Scarborough, or down to Bridlington.

To the south of the town, on a seaside site which was once Butlins, an 850-home holiday village called The Bay Filey is nearing completion. It offers terraces of period-style cottages, four-bedroom houses and New England-style chalets in a landscaped setting with a stretch of private beach. Prices start from £130,000.

Originally published in the July 2014 issue of Coast


What Lesley likes about Filey

  • The beach at Filey – a long stretch of fine sand which continues on to Reighton Sands and the white chalk cliffs of Speeton and Bempton. ‘When the tide’s out you can walk for 10 miles or more.’

    Filey Brigg is at the beginning – or the end – of the Cleveland Way national trail (nationaltrail.co.uk) and on days out Lesley and Andrew love to walk the first nine miles, going north all the way to Scarborough. ‘Following the coast path, it takes about four or five hours, the scenery is fantastic, we often see seals and puffins and other marine wildlife – and we get the bus back.’

    There are several good pubs in Filey, but Lesley’s favourite is the Imperial (22 Hope Street). ‘They have regular live music gigs, including rock and folk evenings, and jazz on a Sunday afternoon.’ 

  • Who’s who? Holiday camp millionaire Billy Butlin built a seaside retreat at Filey. The White House, his classic 1930s modernist cube, is now a holiday let with two apartments fileywhitehouse.com
  • Can you afford it?
  • Filey: £158,033
  • Whitby: £216,609
  • Yorkshire: £150,576
  • UK: £248.864 
    All Seasons 

    Lesley and Andrew Burr’s five-star guest house has won a string of awards – including second place in tripadvisor’s recent top 10 B&Bs in the world. And it’s all about the finer details: gorgeous rooms, fluffy towels, chocolate treats, homemade breakfast specials and all you could possibly need from herbal teas and White Company toiletries to robes and slippers. The seafront is a minute’s walk away. B&B from £80 per night.