Birdwatching trips on the Yorkshire Belle: How to book and how much tickets cost

People wanting to experience Yorkshire's own Serengeti need head no further than the white cliffs of Bempton.

Here every year passengers aboard the Yorkshire Belle can get close up and personal with Britain's largest mainland seabird colony.

The last of Bridlington’s famous pleasure cruisers sails beneath the towering chalk cliffs between April and September for a view of almost half a million birds living life on the edge.

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Around and about, gannets dive, fulmars soar, kittiwakes swoop and puffins bob on the water.

The RSPB Seabird Cruise, along the Bridlington coastline up to Bempton Cliffs. Picture by Simon HulmeThe RSPB Seabird Cruise, along the Bridlington coastline up to Bempton Cliffs. Picture by Simon Hulme
The RSPB Seabird Cruise, along the Bridlington coastline up to Bempton Cliffs. Picture by Simon Hulme

The noise and guano-tinged air stun the senses.

Although the breeding season is still some time away, gannets have already been spotted sitting on the sea, waiting to get their usual places on the cliffs.

The undoubted stars of the show, the perenially popular puffins won't start returning to their burrows in the cliffs until the middle of March.

But the build up to the new season is beginning and tickets have gone on sale (Thurs) for the RSPB's puffin and gannet tours.

The first sets out from Bridlington Harbour on May 7.

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A spokeswoman for the RSPB said they usually get a "flood" of bookings when they first go on sale.

She said: "I love to see the cliffs from the perspective of the sea when the birds are all nesting. You are looking straight at them, rather than from the top of the cliffs down at them. It's a better perspective. You have birds flying over head and the noise is incredible."

Meanwhile Yorkshire Belle is in dry dock in Hull where she's having annual maintenance and safety checks. Few realise the destructive power of seawater on her paintwork and how much work goes into getting her ready.

Three people, owner Peter Richardson, son Sam and crewmember Carl Young have the unenviable job of repainting her red and white livery every year.

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Everything has to have five or six coats of paint – a job that takes three months.

"I’ve always said it’s a job of love, not a job of money," said Carl. "She has played a big part in a lot of people's lives."

An added complication this year has been repairs to Myton Bridge, which they have to get past to access the dry dock on Lime Street. It has left them behind schedule.

"We normally like to have the boat done before Christmas but we have only just started," said Sam.

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It has been a tough few years for the Belle, which last year celebrated her 75th anniversary.

Sailing was suspended for the first time in 73 years in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ever-increasing costs, including fuel, don't make it any easier.

But she is still going strong, the last of the 1,300 vessels made by Beverley shipbuilder Cook, Welton & Gemmell, albeit carrying fewer daytrippers on the one-hour trips and more passengers on the longer bird cruises.

Tickets cost £20 for adults and £10 for children. Click here to book.