Here is our introduction to Scarborough. Also see Attractions for some ideas of things to see and do in the area, and please get in touch if you would like suggestions or want to know more about particular activities.
An introduction to Scarborough
Most folks who live in Scarborough, and I think most of those who come on holiday, regard Scarborough as a special place. In the Victorian era the town became the first seaside resort as visitors came to take the Spa waters and to enjoy the new trend of bathing in the sea. Scarborough was for a time the most fashionable place in the land amongst the chattering classes. That was the era when The Grand Hotel was the largest hotel in Europe and The Times reported, ‘There is no news from London as everyone is in Scarborough.’
During the early part of the twentieth century Scarborough offered the first taste of the seaside at the end of the train line for those from the industrial north – Scarborough doesn’t have the longest railway platform seat in the world for nothing. Throughout the Fifties, Sixties and in to the Seventies Scarborough continued to boom during the heyday of the British seaside holiday, the first seaside resort became the definitive British seaside resort.
From the 1970s the lure of foreign travel and the promise of more sun brought about the decline of the British seaside holiday amongst those looking for a beach to sit on as well as those who sought a frisson of continental sophistication that they couldn’t find amongst the ice creams, fish and chips and donkey rides.
Now, Scarborough is ready for another revival. It remains the classic British seaside resort and, as it always has been, it is the most beautiful seaside town in the country (if you think there’s somewhere better let us know – we haven’t found anywhere). Unlike somewhere like Brighton or Southwold, or even Whitby, Scarborough hasn’t become gentrified. Scarborough retains the elements of the traditional seaside holiday that are still exciting for children and nostalgic for adults, but as well as great fish and chips and ice cream and seaside entertainment, the place is brimming with fantastic places to eat and drink, exciting theatre and arts, beautiful unspoilt coastline and countryside, and always that incredible view of the South Bay and castle.
See our page on Attractions for an idea why Scarborough is unique. We hope to show some of the highlights of the area that will help you to get the most out of Scarborough’s end of the line charm. It’s quirky, sometimes tacky, often surprising, but if you know where to look, it is always interesting and fun.
Getting your bearings
Scarborough has two broad bays, the North Bay and the South Bay, separated by the Castle Hill. The town centre is in between the two bays, slightly more to the south side.
The South Bay is probably the best known with the harbour and the amusement arcades, ice creams and donkeys along the Foreshore by the sandy beach. Head south from the Foreshore and you see the Spa complex at the quieter end of the bay and beyond that more deserted rocky beaches. South Cliff (the area where The Waves is) is up on the cliff above this quieter end of the South Bay.
The Marine Drive is the road around the castle headland that joins the two bays.
The North Bay also combines rocky and sandy sections over to Scalby Mills, where you can see the white pyramid buildings of the Sea Life Centre. Just inland from the North Bay are Northstead Manor Gardens, with the Open Air Theatre, and Peasholm Park.
The larger villages surrounding Scarborough are Scalby (pronounced Score-be), Burniston and Cloughton off the Whitby road to the north; Seamer to the west; and Cayton and Hunmanby to the south.
Scarborough is surrounded by countryside, as a whole North Yorkshire is a rural region with 40% of the county being national park, so leave Scarborough in any direction and you are quickly into farmland or the moors. Scarborough is just outside The North York Moors national park, which covers the beautiful coastline and heather moorland to the north and west of the town. The flat land to the south of the National Park is the Vale of Pickering with the roads inland from Scarborough, the A170 and the A64, running along either edge. The hills at the southern edge of the Vale of Pickering mark the start of the gentle rolling hills and unspoilt villages of the Yorkshire Wolds which are mainly in East Yorkshire.
Around Scarborough, all around 20ish miles away, are the smaller towns of Whitby, Pickering, Malton and Bridlington. Then around 40-45 miles away are the larger centres of Middlesbrough, York and Hull. Geographers say this pattern developed based on how far someone could travel in a day’s walk; I like to think these locations are based on whether you want a half-hour or one-hour trip to a tea shop.
To the east of Scarborough things are a little more challenging. If you headed straight out to sea in a pair of flotation boots (I think I saw them on Tomorrow’s World, they may not be available locally) you’d get to northern Germany. Go north and you’ll come to the Shetland Islands, or if you miss them, you might bypass Greenland and just keep going until you get to Antarctica. Head south-east and you’ll land in the Netherlands, further to the south and you’ll hit East Anglia, and more directly southwards you’ll just get to Filey. Ultimately, your best bet is to stay in Scarborough.
'The Waves' Bed and Breakfast Scarborough