15 Best Things to Do in Hornsea (Yorkshire, England)

Written by Alex Bird
Updated on
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A neat coastal town in the East Riding of Yorkshire, Hornsea is a place to sample the simple joys of a day by the sea.

There’s a sand and shingle beach walled by a big embankment with a promenade, gardens, cafes, a chippy and far-off vistas of the North Sea.

Away from the beach and its promenade Hornsea has a highly-rated local museum and lots of things for smaller members of the clan to get up to, like an animal farm, bug zoo and a large natural lake with rowboats.

To see how the other half lives there are two splendid properties close by, at the Regency Wassand Hall and the Elizabethan Burton Constable Hall.

Hornsea is also at the east end of the Trans Pennine Trail, marked by a ceremonious gateway next to the sea.

1. Hornsea Museum

Hornsea MuseumSource: Hornsea Museum / facebook
Hornsea Museum

A snapshot of Victorian rural life, the Hornsea Museum is in an 18th-century farmhouse, cottages and a set of outbuildings including a barn, also from the 18th century.

The farmhouse was in the hands of one family, the Burns, for almost three centuries.

In this dwelling the Victorian interiors, like a kitchen, parlour and bedroom, are all intact and replete with original furniture and decorations.

There are also more than 2,000 pieces of authentic Hornsea pottery, a Victorian street scene, model fishing boats, real craft workshops, vintage toys and compelling displays on different strands of local history like the old Hull and Hornsea Railway.

The museum has a well-tended garden with benches for picnic and a play area for little ones.

2. Hornsea Beach

Hornsea BeachSource: clivewa / shutterstock
Hornsea Beach

The sand and shingle beach at Hornsea pitches gently into the North Sea, and there’s a big difference between high and low tide, when the water goes out far beyond the wooden groynes.

Skirting the beach is the sturdy seawall built to stop this piece of coast being swept away following a storm in 1906. Atop the wall there’s a promenade with telescopes where you can ponder the North Sea, and look up to the distant Flamborough headland to the north.

You’ll also find a chip shop and cafes for a needed hot drink if you visit out of season.

3. Hornsea Mere

Hornsea MereSource: Jack Cousin / shutterstock
Hornsea Mere

There’s another body of water on Hornsea’s west side at the largest freshwater lake in Yorkshire.

In the First World War Hornsea Mere was put to military use as a base for the Royal Naval Air Service, and later the RAF. Interestingly some of the brick buildings erected by the RAF in 1919 are still in place and occupied by the cafe and boatyard, which opens in summer.

The lake was formed in the last Ice Age and because of its proximity to the sea is visited by a wide variety of wintering wildfowl like goldeneyes, tufted ducks and gadwalls.

The large reedswamps on the lake’s shore are also ecologically valuable for their unusual insects like craneflies as well as hundreds of reed warblers.

For holidaymakers the lake comes into its own in summer when you can take a motorboat cruise, hire a rowboat or play the 18-hole putting green next to the water.

4. Wassand Hall

Wassand HallSource: wassand.co.uk
Wassand Hall

Hornsea Mere belongs to the estate of Wassand Hall, a grand Regency house set in from the west shore.

The estate has been owned by the same family since 1530 and encompasses woodland, a walled garden and romantic views over the lake.

Inside the house there’s an impressive collection of porcelain, silver and furniture dating to the 18th and 19th century, as well portraits of the hall’s owners across hundreds of years.

If all this tickles your fancy, keep an eye on the website before you come to Hornsea.

There are no regular opening times, but between the end of May and the end of August Wassand Hall has a long list of open days, mostly falling on weekends, but also during the week.

On these days you’ll be able to take tea in the hall’s elegant conservatory.

5. Honeysuckle Farm

Honeysuckle FarmSource: Honeysuckle Farm Hornsea / facebook
Honeysuckle Farm

A great alternative to the beach for little ones, Honeysuckle Farm is a family-owned animal attraction where children can meet, pet and feed all sorts of friendly domestic animals.

The farm is in 46 acres and has a border collie, cows, sheep, goats and horses.

Among them are two big draft horses used for cart rides around the farm.

There’s also a straw barn, play forts, a hazel maze, slides, tunnels and ponds.

If you come earlier in the season you’ll get to meet calves, kid goats and lambs, while Honeysuckle Farm makes its own ice cream from its herd of Jersey cows.

The milk is pasteurised and processed on site, and the farm is the only place where you can buy this ice cream.

6. Bugtopia Hornsea

Bugtopia HornseaSource: Bugtopia Hornsea / facebook
Bugtopia Hornsea

There are creatures of a smaller kind at this indoor zoo that has recently opened in Hornsea’s southern outskirts.

Kids will have lots of surprising animal encounters in enclosures like the Jungle Trail, a tropical butterfly house that has species from all over the world, as well as exotic birds perched in the foliage.

The Phasmid Forest meanwhile is the UK’s only stick insect walkthrough, where you’ll be surprised just how well these bugs can camouflage themselves.

Not for the faint of heart, the 45-minute Explorer Show is a real hands-on presentation when you’ll get the chance to hold tarantulas, scorpions and a Madagascan hissing cockroach.

7. Bettison’s Folly

Bettison's FollySource: en.wikipedia.org
Bettison’s Folly

Rising above the new houses close to the Hornsea Museum is a folly from the mid-19th century, designed like a Medieval tower.

Bettison’s Folly is made from locally fired “treacle” bricks, baked for longer to make them more durable, but also responsible for the tower’s higgledy-piggledy aspect.

The folly was ordered by the Hull-based brewer William Bettison, in what at that time was his garden.

One use for the building was as a watchtower for his manservant, who would check to see Bettison coming down the hill to ensure that dinner was waiting for him on the table when he got home.

In World War II the folly was fitted with a siren and became a lookout for air raids approaching Hull.

Although the tower is rarely open there’s an information board going into depth on this eccentric building.

8. Hall Garth Park

Hall Garth ParkSource: Paul Glazzard / Wikimedia
Hall Garth Park

This inviting park takes up much of the centre of Hornsea, between the sea and Hornsea Mere.

As well as being a relaxing place to pootle along winding paths, take picnics and bring youngsters to the playground, Hall Garth Park has some history in its borders.

On the west side is a dry moat and earthen bank, 70 metres long and 40 metres wide.

This was built in Medieval times for the rectory of St Nicholas Church.

The rectory is gone, but the Perpendicular-style church is still there, sitting next to the Hornsea Museum on Newbegin and containing a font, memorials and an effigy from the end of the 13th century.

9. Hornsea Memorial Gardens

Hornsea Memorial GardensSource: David Wright / Wikimedia
Hornsea Memorial Gardens

Closer to the beach, on New Road is a very pretty rectangular park with a strip of lawn traced by trees and flowerbeds.

The Hornsea Memorial Gardens were laid out in 1877 and originally intended as a private square for the rather posh houses on its margins.

In 2008 the park was redesigned as a garden of remembrance and a memorial to Hornsea’s war dead was put up in the middle.

On the Railway Street end is a pair of stone lions, which once lay on pedestals flanking the steps at Hull’s Criterion Cinema (1915), and moved here when that building was demolished in 1969.

10. Burton Constable Hall

Burton Constable HallSource: robbophotos / Flickr
Burton Constable Hall

An obligatory day out for amateur historians, Burton Constable Hall (1560) is in the East Riding countryside roughly halfway to Hull from Hornsea.

This is a glorious Elizabethan country house in a 300-acre 18th-century park designed by the famous Capability Brown and with opulent interiors from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Among these is the unforgettable Chinese Room and its gilded dragons, inspired by a visit to Brighton’s Royal Pavilion in 1830. The Great Hall is stunning for its plasterwork and sculptures of Hercules with Cerberus, Demosthenes, Sappho and the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.

There are also older elements in the Long Gallery, which retains its 17th-century wood panelling and marble fireplace.

Highlights outside include the Palladian stables from 1769 and the orangery built in 1782. Burton Constable Hall is open all year, from Tuesday to Sunday.

11. Trans Pennine Trail

Trans Pennine TrailSource: Smabs Sputzer (1956-2017) / Flickr
Trans Pennine Trail

Hornsea is the eastern trailhead for a long-distance path that crosses the North of England to the town of Southport on the Irish Sea.

Walkers, cyclists horse riders can travel the Trans Pennine trail, which is surfaced throughout and mostly follows the course of disused train lines and canal towpaths.

For that reason the gradients are light, and the trail is suitable for walkers of all abilities – and even people with pushchairs.

If you’re a committed hiker and want to trek to Southport, 207 miles away, you can pick up stamps at various stops along the trail to qualify for a certificate.

From Hornsea you could ride to Hull in an hour or so, or take an excursion on foot into the East Riding countryside, as far as the village of Great Hatfield before heading back.

12. Skipsea Castle

Skipsea CastleSource: Phil Williams / Wikimedia
Skipsea Castle

Five miles up the coast are the earthwork remains of a Norman motte and bailey castle, although the site may be as old as the Iron Age, more than 2,000 years ago.

Skipsea Castle is an English Heritage site made up of an easily distinguishable mound and ditch, most likely sculpted from a pre-Roman hillfort.

Raised against a possible Danish invasion, Skipsea Castle was established by Drogo de la Beuvrière in 1086 and was one of the first Norman strongholds in Yorkshire.

The castle was besieged and wiped out in the 13th century, after its owner William de Forz rebelled against King Henry III. There’s an information panel by English Heritage on the site, and you can pass the herd of cows to climb the mound and picture the siege that unfolded here almost 800 years ago.

13. Floral Hall

Floral HallSource: humbersidepoliceband / Flickr
Floral Hall

In a prominent place at the north end of the promenade and seafront gardens is Hornsea’s main performing arts venue.

Floral Hall, dating back to 1913, is remarkable in that it is run entirely by volunteers and is community-oriented.

Come by any day and you can pause at the cafe and soak up the sea views and greenery.

In the evenings there are things to catch like a comedy club, a fancy dress disco every Saturday and regular cinema screenings, including the latest releases.

14. Hornsea Local Market

Hornsea Local MarketSource: hornsealocalmarket.org.uk
Hornsea Local Market

From 09:30 to 13:30 on the last Saturday of the month from April to October there’s a lovable market trading the best produce and speciality foods from East Riding and the wider region.

This might be locally raised geese and ducks, handmade preserves, hand-roasted coffee, pickles and jams, cheese, fruit and vegetables, cakes, pastries and bread.

You can also pick up something hot like a pie, burger or sausage roll.

Added to these are stalls for plants and flowers, jewellery, arts and crafts and cards.

15. Hornsea Carnival

Hornsea CarnivalSource: Hornsea Carnival / facebook
Hornsea Carnival

A fixture in the summer calendar since 1967, Hornsea Carnival takes place on the 4th weekend of July and brings lots of colour and fun to the resort.

There are market stalls, street food, fairground rides in Hall Garth Park, as well as cookery demonstrations, stunt shows and live music by bands from the area.

A fireworks display gets the carnival started on the Friday night, and the main event follows on the Saturday with a parade through the town.

15 Best Things to Do in Hornsea (Yorkshire, England):

  • Hornsea Museum
  • Hornsea Beach
  • Hornsea Mere
  • Wassand Hall
  • Honeysuckle Farm
  • Bugtopia Hornsea
  • Bettison's Folly
  • Hall Garth Park
  • Hornsea Memorial Gardens
  • Burton Constable Hall
  • Trans Pennine Trail
  • Skipsea Castle
  • Floral Hall
  • Hornsea Local Market
  • Hornsea Carnival