Route details, maps, pubs, features, local history and folklore for a wide variety of walks focusing primarily on Norfolk and Suffolk

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Lincolnshire Coast Path - Skegness to Gibraltar Point

Beach looking towards Gibraltar Point

A 7.5 mile beach walk from Skegness to Gibraltar Point

Gibraltar Point, with its Nature Reserve, Visitor Centre and Wash Study Centre can be accessed via a dedicated road from Skegness town centre. This walk attempts to access the Point by way of the beach. It is imperative that one heeds the tide times in order to walk this route, but those doing so will be treated to some outstanding beach views and the solitude that this deserted area brings with it.

Lincolnshire Coast Path - Skegness to Gibraltar Point - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
Skegness View in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
Gibraltar Point View in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
7.5 miles
Walk difficulty
Consult tide times before embarking on this walk and allow oneself 2-3 hours for a complete return beach journey


The following maps and services can assist in navigating this route. The links include published hard copy as well as online plots and downloadable GPX route data for importing into navigational software and apps.

Ordnance Survey Explorer Map
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Ordnance Survey Explorer Map
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Online Ordnance Survey Route
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Online OpenStreetMap Route
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Online Google Route
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ViewRanger App Route
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GPX data for route (download)


Golden Sands Camp site View in OS Map | View in Google Map
Golden Sands is a holiday park mainly based around self catering chalets and caravans but it does include a campsite which is tucked away at the back of the site. The park is part of the Haven group and has entertainment, bars, takeways and activities on site.


Details of public transport that is required for the walk

Stagecoach - Bus Service
Service Details
59 - Lincolnshire Interconnect Service 59, operated by Stagecoach and linking Skegness, Mablethorpe and Louth

Walk Data

Date of Walk
Walk Time
11:00 to 14:30
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
A misty and overcast start that cleared to blue skies and sunshine

Walk Notes

The Lincolnshire coast south of Skegness and down into the Wash presents some obstacles for walkers. There is a road down to the Nature Reserve at Gibraltar Point but progress onwards is hampered by the Wainfleet River. There is a bridge across the river but high metal gates deny access to the general public. David Cotton details this in his 2002 Coast Walk, in which he scales the gates but states that such a manoeuvre is both dangerous and probably not legal. On the other side of the river there are defence banks but the initial section is not marked as having public access on OS maps and the status of these paths being permissive is unknown.

There are also roads and tracks that lead from Gibraltar Point up to the main A52 where a road bridge crosses the river. However these tracks are clearly signed as private, stating that there is no public access for either vehicles or walkers. It is therefore not advisable to use such a route which may result in altercations with the landowners, although there are instances of walkers using these tracks without any challenge.

The only current legal and accessible alternatives are to walk along the busy A52 from Skegness to the first lane down to the sea banks on the southern side of the river. This would be a harrowing walk considering the amount of traffic that uses this road and I would certainly not advise doing this. Another option is to take a long diversion inland using footpaths and country lanes to emerge at Wainfleet. This option was not fully explored during the investigation of walking the Lincolnshire coast. Hopefully, in the near future, the England Coast Path can negotiate a route that keeps to the coastline and rectify the absence of a coastal route south of Skegness.

Considering these obstacles, and with time limitations to complete the Lincolnshire coast, it was decided in this instance that the section between Skegness and Wainfleet, would be omitted until such a time as a right of way was adopted along this coastline. To make up for the loss of this walk it was decided to attempt a coastal walk to Gibraltar Point, using the beach rather than the direct road route. As no information about such as route was readily available, this feat would provide an exploration as well vital information to other walkers wanting to use this route.

As with all beach walks, it is vital that tide tables are consulted prior to venturing out and on this occasion the walk started soon after high tide so that the maximum amount of time was available for a return route along the beach with allowances for any hazards and obstacles. In hindsight of this walk it would be advisable to aim for 2-3 hours either side of low tide to maximise the possibility of getting across to Gibraltar Point. It is a good 2-3 mile hike in each direction across a predominantly firm sandy terrain, so one needs to allow at least 2-4 hours for this depending upon the conditions and allowances to overcome obstacles.

A promenade known as Lagoon Walk leads in front of the first dunes south of the Pier. Beyond this is a sandy beach backed by dunes and marsh. Few folk venture further than the southern side of Lagoon Walk and pretty soon one finds complete solitude other than the seagulls that play on the shoreline. Views are good, and although a certain mistiness on this occasion prevented views across the wash, it was nonetheless a wonder to behold. There are numerous gulleys in the sand which have water draining on the outgoing tide. These were easily crossable even though one such gulley did require a back track to its source in order to proceed onwards.

Unfortunately, with Gibraltar Point only a few hundred yards distant, a final deep gulley prevented access across the final section. I would guess given another couple of hours the gulley would have drained with the tide and the nature reserve could have been reached. We witnessed a large group of teenagers running down onto the beach from the Nature Reserve which demonstrated that there must be access from the road to the beach. More research and information is needed to establish whether crossing the divide is possible and any such experiences would be gratefully received - leave a comment on this page.

Lastly, whilst reading about the history of Skegness for the article to this walk, I stumbled upon the so called Wash Incident, a night of unexplained aerial phenomenon that occurred over the sea south east of Skegness. I can remember the incident being reported in the press, and acknowledged the official explanation of a misidentification of Boston church on radar returns and confusion of stars and planets by observers. Since then, The National Archives have released thousands of previously classified UFO documents and reports and this incident is included in one such release. This does open ones eyes to the explanations, as certainly the idea of the planet Venus being the explanation cannot be true as looking at the astronomical data the planet had not risen at the time of the initial sightings. I have therefore spent time on researching this a little more which is presented in a separate feature. It would appear that whatever was observed on that October night by members of the public, the Police force and the crew of a nearby ship is still unexplained.

POSTSCRIPT: The England Coast Path looks to be rectifying the issues of public access between Skegness, Gibraltar Point and the coast down to Boston. Currently (December 2018) there are published proposals to enable public access over the gated bridge across the Wainfleet River, and along the defence banks beyond. The proposal continues the public access as far as The Horseshoe at Wrangle where existing public footpaths continue. The proposed route can be viewed on the Government website page England Coast Path from Sutton Bridge to Skegness

A coachload of youngsters walk down from Gibraltar Point
A coachload of youngsters walk down from Gibraltar Point


Beach Walk south of Skegness to Gibraltar Point

From Skegness pier, head south. Keep to the beach side of the dunes along the promenade known as Lagoon Walk. Beyond this keep to the shore line. There are numerous gulleys that need to be traversed, the deepest need to be navigated around.

A gulley of water draining out with the tide
A gulley of water draining out with the tide


The Red Lion, Skegness View in OS Map | View in Google Map

This building was originally the Lion Hotel, built in 1881, with a large, red, stone lion on the roof. In 1904, the lion was placed at ground level, and the pub soon became known as The Red Lion, with its location dubbed Lion’s Corner


There are a lot of negative comments from ale drinkers about the Wetherspoons brand. It has to be said that as a visitor to any town who does not know the pubs that serve decent ale can at least trust to get a decent pint of beer at one of these establishments and they do have local ales unlike most of the pubs who rely on national brands

Gulleys of draining water
Gulleys of draining water


SkegnessView in OS Map | View in Google Map

The Domesday Book of 1086 has no mention of Skegness although there is a mention of a place called "Tric" which appears to occupy an area where present day Skegness exists. According to the ARCHAEOLOGICAL WATCHING BRIEF REPORT prepared by Lincolnshire County Council, the first mention of Skegness appears in 1166 where the name Shegenesse is recorded although there is no reference as to where this information was found. It would appear that the spelling was more likely to be Skegenesse which is referenced by numerous other websites. This name is thought to have been from old Norse with a meaning of Skeggi's headland though some have interpreted the word skeggi as old Norse for 'beard' to deduce a beard shaped headland.

One of the earliest printed references to Skegness comes from John Leland (1506 - 1543) who recorded in his 'chronicles'

To Skegnesse sumtyme a great haven toune a 4. or 5. miles of. Mr. Paynelle sayid onto me that he could prove that there was ons an haven and a towne waullid having also a castelle. The old toune is clene consumid, and eten up with the se, part of a chirch of it stode a late. At low waters appere yet manifest tokens of old buildinges. For old Skegnes is now buildid a pore new thing.

This extract is used in copious other publications and appears to be the original reference to a castle. The Gatehouse Gazeteer website counters this with a reference from Mike Osborne's 2010 publication entitled 'Defending Lincolnshire: A Military History from Conquest to Cold War' in which he states:

Medieval Skegness was a prosperous little port, like several others along this coast, but a great tempest in 1526 broke through the headland and the town crumbled into the sea. Rebuilt nearly a mile inland of the old site, but now again on the coast, so any physical evidence of a castle will now be lost and even reading the landscape is impossible. However the name Skegness must mean that originally there was some sort of promontory here and other such promontories were used as a location for defensive sites by medieval and Roman builders (i.e. Scarborough) There is no primary medieval references to a castle. Although Skegness was reasonably prosperous port in the medieval period it is not likely to have been a large enough to support a castle. A lost Roman signal station or even a small Roman fort are possible.

Whether a castle existed or not, it is certain that Skegness, along with much of the Lincolnshire coast, has suffered from erosion by the sea. The Caitlin Green website offers numerous printed references, including the aforementioned writings of John Leland, to establish the calamities that beset medieval Skegness. This is summarized as 1500 Skegness was thought to be 'in very great danger of the sea', and in 1517 the sea 'rushed at last over the barriers that had been raised on this level shore, and recovered his ancient possession.' This was followed in 1526 by even greater destruction, when the 'church and a great part of the parish was submerged' according to a contemporary ecclesiastical subsidy. By 1540, the town seems to have been entirely swallowed up by the waves, although 'manifest tokens of old buildinges' were said to be visible at low tide, located around half a mile or so out to sea. Some, at least, of the stones from the old, drowned church were apparently carried away to build a new church (St Clement's) well inland, along with a new settlement of Skegness that was considered but 'a pore new thing' in 1540. Much of the fabric of the old church must have been left in situ, however, as sailors in the early seventeenth century reported encountering parts of the old church's steeple at some distance beyond the low water mark, probably at a spot out to sea opposite the end of the modern pier.

Modern Skegness is the product of the 19th century railway which brought trade and commerce to the town from visitors and holidaymakers. Billy Butlin opened the UKs first holiday camp at Skegness in 1936 which has established the holiday destination for thousands of holidaymakers ever since.


The Wash IncidentView in OS Map | View in Google Map

In the early morning hours of Saturday 5th October 1996 what has become to be known as The Wash Incident or the Boston Stump Incident started to unfold involving the police, the coastguard, the RAFs air rescue centre at Kinloss in Scotland and the Radar stations at RAF Neatishead in Norfolk, RAF Northwood in Middlesex, RAF Claxby in Lincolnshire and RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire. Government documents pertaining to this incident were declassified and released to the public in 2010 including the communications between the parties involved on the night of the incident.

The initial reports were of a flashing light in the sky above the Wash made by the Skegness police force who had been alerted by members of the public. The Skegness police force alerted the Coastguard with a timed contact at 02:14 (GMT) in which the officers described the object as a strange red and green rotating light directly South-East from Skegness. Looks to be high in the sky directly over the Wash adding Many people are observing it looks strange as it's stationary. No A/C [aircraft] sound in the area. The coastguard, in turn, notified RAF Kinloss who contacted RAF Neatishead and RAF Northwood to obtain radar confirmation. Northwood responded with a target identified 221 degrees and 16 miles from Skegness. Neatishead eventually confirmed a couple of radar contacts in the area and also confirmed there was no aircraft, either civilian or military, in the area and put out a call to shipping for visual confirmation. It must be noted here that 221 degrees is not the direction of the lights that the Skegness Police had reported, and this placed the radar contact over Boston.

A ship, the tanker MV Conocoast delivering fuel to dredgers off the coast at Ingoldmells, was located 8 miles east-south-east of Skegness at an area known as Scott Patch. At 02:46 GMT they confirmed the observation of stationery coloured flashing lights through binoculars which they reported as they are flashing red green and white, cannot id it as an aircraft as it looks stationary and approx 1 mile high. Later, at 3.08 GMT, they reported their position to be 2 miles SE of the Scott Patch Buoy when they described the object as being very high and north of their position. A further report from the ship at 03:45 GMT, with their position described as being at the South Inner Dowsing, describes two sets of lights, with the starboard lights referenced towards Boston and the brightest one on the port side which was high in the sky. Inner Dowsing, lies 10 miles NW of Skegness, is a very narrow shoal ridge of sand. Scott Patch lies about 1.8 miles SE of the southern end of Inner Dowsing. Both of these shoals are marked by lighted buoys at their southern ends.

At 3.27 GMT RAF Kinross responds with a report that Neatishead are observing 'clutter' on their radar screens and requested video footage of the sighting. Kinross pass the request onto Skegness Police. At 4:17 GMT Neatishead then make their first recorded communication with the Boston police force, also requesting video footage of the object. The Boston police responded that they have no video equipment but reported that they could see the object in the south east and estimated it to be 40-45 degrees above the horizon but stated it is just a bright light. Shortly after this, at 04:33 GMT, the Skegness police responded with a description of the object as quite bright and flashing bearing SSE and between 30 and 50 degrees above horizon', then at 04:45 GMT confirmed that they had video footage.

The lights remained in the sky until daybreak. A request from the police for an aircraft to investigate was turned down as it was not deemed a threat to security and should be dealt with by Customs as it was thought it could be down to a smuggling operation. Customs confirmed that they had no aircraft available then deemed it to be the jurisdiction of the police. Although no aircraft were reported by Neatishead, the official report released by the MoD does record a sighting from a civil aircraft who reported 'indistinct flashing lights'.

The visual meteorological conditions (VMC) at the time were described as good although a number of active thunderstorms were reported over East Anglia. A helicopter was ruled out due to the duration of the event and a balloon was ruled out as Yarmouth Coastguard records show a force four wind was blowing at the time. The MOD report concluded that the prolonged sighting of stationary coloured flashing lights had no significance for the integrity of UK Airspace and no associated air vehicle was detected by civil or military radars. Radar did detect a stationary object of unknown height above Boston but this was concluded to be Boston church, locally known as Boston Stump. The explanation for the lights was given as planets or stars which faded with the daylight.

Dr David Clarke, a senior senior lecturer in Journalism at Sheffield Hallam University and author of UFO related publication, reports on his website blog that Police Constable Dave Leyland, who had periodically watched the light over a period of two hours, had concluded the light to be a star or a planet, an identification that was later confirmed by astronomers at the Royal Greenwich Observatory. Dr Clarke goes on to state:

In their report to the RAF, the observatory said that Venus, the source of many previous UFO reports, had been shining with exceptional brilliance in the early morning sky to the east, probably explained the light on the video. Astronomer Ian Ridpath identified the other colourful flashing object seen from Skegness earlier as the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, low on the horizon to the southeast. Another bright star, Vega, explained the lights seen in the opposite direction by the tanker crew. He explained that impression of rotating colours as a well known optical phenomenon resulting from light from stars distorted by the atmosphere.

However this leaves a few questions to be answered.

Venus did not rise until 03:38 (GMT) with Sirius rising a little earlier (note we are dealing with GMT in both this and the timings in the released MoD documents, rather than the local BST time). Therefore the object observed high in the sky at 02:14 GMT could not possibly have been either Venus or Sirius. Neither of these celestial objects rose to a height of 45 degrees before dawn which also does not tally with what was being reported by the observers. With astronomical software, this is easy to replicate for the time/date and location. Stellarium is one such example of open source software where we can go back in time and see Venus and Sirius rising from a Skegness perspective during such a time-frame. Another point to note is that Venus rises in the East not in the south east where the lights were observed. Sirius does rise in the south east and by the time of the video is recorded, is in the SSE, although it is not high in the sky. There are also no reports that the lights are rising in the sky and tracking southwards as one would expect with any celestial body during the extended extended time-frame involved.

In conclusion, it would appear the radar contact was, as concluded in the RAF document, the Boston Stump. However, this was not the direction the reported lights had been observed. The video from Skegness Police also does not appear to match the description of flashing/rotating red, green and white lights. It must be noted that by the time this video was recorded the explanation of the planet Venus could be viable as the planet had tracked south east and the video does not appear to show the light to be very high in the sky, although this fails to explain the lights from 02:14 onwards that were high in the sky and reported by members of the public and the police and the crew of the ship.

Atmospheric phenomenon could be an alternative explanation for the lights as there was electrical activity in the area with thunderstorms being reported, although accounting for stationery rotating/flashing lights over a period of hours appears to be a little far fetched for such a phenomenon. Another more plausible explanation could be a black ops operation or top secret stealth aircraft which could evade radar detection. US airbases at Mildenhall and Lakenheath do lie south east of Skegness so this could be a feasible interpretation.

Whatever it was, the MoD downplayed the whole event with the official response being we are satisfied that the sightings were not of air defence significance... [and] that there was no associated threat to UK airspace and only mentioning the radar and celestial objects explanations if pressed further on the subject. There are those who feel that there is more to the incident and a cover up has been placed on the whole affair. Indeed, there are reports on various websites from additional witnesses throughout Norfolk to the events on this night. One such witness, who wishes to remain anonymous, contacted the UFOINFO website with the confession of:

I have taken an interest about what has been said about this incident and what lies have been told about it because I was involved in it. At the time I was part of an auxiliary coastguard unit based at Hemsby in Norfolk, and as a result, My unit was asked to observe. What hasn't been said on the web sites that I have visited is that the UFO was there for 4 days, 2 miles off the coast. Also, while observing the UFO, we saw a smaller object appear to leave the main object and move around as if examining the area. The objects were clearly visible from Hemsby, given the intensity of the light they emitted and the extremely good visibility of those nights. I do not wish to give my name as I signed the official secrets act and wish to avoid prosecution, but I'm sure you can verify that there is an auxiliary coastguard unit run by a youth organisation in Hemsby without too much difficulty.

Such anonymous revelations can certainly not be used as valid evidence although it does provide the precedence for more research and investigation. If the objects were clearly visible from Hemsby, it would indicate a very high altitude for observations from both Skegness and Hemsby.

Another witness, who gives her name as Clare Simmons, has also offered an online report describing what she saw whilst heading towards Great Yarmouth earlier that evening. The report on the website states

..[she] was driving with three friends to great Yarmouth along the A47 on Saturday between 7.30pm and 7.45pm when they saw a strange light in the sky. Hairdresser Clare, 34, of Aylesbury Close, off St Clements Hill, Norwich, said ..…. "we saw what looked like a stationary white lights. They looked like a light show, similar to the effect of a lighthouse, they would all go round in a circle, stop, and then 10 seconds later they would go around again."

There are also accusations by a Robin Cole that the whole incident was tracked by GCHQ at Cheltenham who appeared to have a vested interest in such aerial phenomenon. Maybe there is more to this story that isn't being told. The author had always considered the official explanation to be the cause of the lights until a basic investigation showed such an explanation fell apart upon first inspection of the evidence. Why would the authorities offer such a flimsy explanation?



Below are a selection of images taken from from the photo album for this walk. Feel free to browse through these or click on an image to view a larger version in the Gallery.

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: 2018-12-15

2015-12-29 : Initial publication
2018-12-15 : Updates including England Coast Path proposals to resolv the path issues highlighted here


  1. I did fine a route from Wainfleet to Skegness and Gibralter point, but as you say it is not great. I followed minor roads northwards to Croft (Church Lane) then turned right along "Pinchbeck Lane". This road was closed but I ignored the signs and walked around the barriers. There did not seem to be any reason for the road closure (no work was being done or looked to have been done recently) although the road surface was in a bad way so perhaps this is why (it looks to have been closed for a while). When this turns left (passing the karting track), I continued ahead on the footpath alongside Croft Drain. At the end of the path when it joins the road, I turned right to head down to the A52. I then followed the A52 into Skegness - not pleasant, but this stretch *does* at least have a pavement all the way into Skegness so it is not as bad as you might think. Hope this is useful.

    1. Thank you for your contribution Jon. This is very useful and hopefully it will benefit many other walkers along this section. Much appreciated


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