Perhaps Yorkshire’s most famous coastal town, Scarborough emits a character quite unlike any other. Spanning a glorious coastline on which two bays of sandy beaches sprawl to the North and South, there is a natural beauty to Scarborough’s setting. Inland, typical seaside family attractions bring day-trippers and holidaying visitors in their numbers, and beyond these, the town has a surprising amount of cultural happenings to bring folk flocking here.
Recent history saw Scarborough develop through the centuries into a grand and prosperous resort, with some impressive buildings remaining landmarks today and adding an old-school romance to the town. The Grand Hotel is visible throughout the Scarborough skyline, such is the size and sight of what was Europe’s largest brick structure when built in 1867. This grade II listed vision has veered between royalty and novelty over the decades, but a vital part of Scarborough’s essence.
Equally noteworthy, Scarborough Spa has sat on the south bay since the 17th century and after restorations to preserve many original features, it is now a unique and decorative piece of architecture which has made for a desired filming location for television and movies. Now as part of a wider spa complex, it adjoins the Grand Hall theatre, a 2000 capacity venue putting on regular plays, musicals, comedy and concerts.
Other theatres around town keep Scarborough on the modern cultural map. Stephen Joseph, opposite the train station, is a serious artistic hub, named after the theatrical pioneer and directed by protégé Alan Ayckbourn, credentials that surely guarantee an experience of high quality. Further out at the North Bay, Scarborough Open Air Theatre brings spectacular names to the stunning outdoor stage, from Noel Gallagher and The Beach Boys, to Cliff, Kylie, Elton and Britney.
Nearby are several more special attractions. Alpamare offers something for everyone, being both a fun waterpark and an indulgent spa. Peasholme Park is a famous space which is a scenic walk around the municipal gardens or boat along the lake. The natural peace is occasionally pierced by cannon sounds from the thrilling naval warfare show.
Just up the road is Scarborough cricket club, a charming old ground which also hosts annual Yorkshire matches in a well-attended festival of cricket. And back at the seafront, the family friendly Sea Life Sanctuary provides hours of enjoyment learning about a variety of sea creatures and seeing exciting marine displays and demonstrations.
Heading down south, the culture continues at Rotunda Museum, a striking curved building housing ancient objects that include dinosaur fossils and a bronze age human skeleton. A tour of Scarborough’s sites cannot be completed without a trip up to the castle. This medieval fortress from the 12th century is a fascinating tour and looks over the panoramic views of the dramatic coastline.
But of course, despite all the above, many simply come to Scarborough for the sun, sea and good times! Once you’ve entered the east coast waters and bathed in east coast weathers, you’ll surely be refreshed for some shopping, eating and drinking. For shops, up from the stretch of amusement arcades and before the modern chains of Brunswick Centre and the high street, you’ll reach the old town, where ramshackle streets are lined with specialist shops well worth a browse.
Independent traders are showcased at Market Hall & Vaults, a lovely old building with an authentic atmosphere. Having been refurbished in 2016, the three floors now home a mix of traditional market and modern stallholders. Here, you’ll find greengrocers, butchers, bakers, antiques, interiors, jewellery, fashion and more.
All this activity and sea air is no doubt making you hungry, and there’s plenty of grub to choose from. Daytime cafes are easy to find and range from the cheerful Sunny’s to the stylish Greensmith & Thackwray. Evening restaurants offer up some surprises too, including the fine dining elegance of Clark’s and the home-cooked Indian spices of Cinnamon. But of course, the local speciality of fish and chips don’t disappoint; try North Bay Fisheries or Lifeboat Fish Bar to taste how it’s done proper.
Whilst Scarborough can be driven to from York within an hour, the coastliner bus or a 50 minute train make it easy on public transport too. For those doing just that, or perhaps staying over in one of the many b&b’s in town, there’s time for a drink. Amongst some lively boozers, we’ll be in North Riding for one of their own brew beers, and for a spot of Irish music and awesome spirits, let’s end the night at The Merchant. See you there.