Plan a Weekend in the UK's Ultimate Seaside Town (and it's in North Yorkshire)
Considered to be one of the UK’s ‘original seaside resorts’, Scarborough is still going strong some 400 years after its spa waters first made it famous
For history buffs and art enthusiasts, the ruins of Scarborough Castle, the Grade-II listed Rotunda Museum, Woodend Gallery (once the home of the literary Sitwell clan and now a creative hub), and Scarborough Art Gallery tick all the heritage boxes. The kids will love Scarborough’s Fair Collection with fully-restored vintage rides and the most famous showman’s engine, The Iron Maiden. South Cliff Italian Gardens and Peasholm Park both offer beautiful green expanses and an escape from the beachside bustle. If the weather is iffy, head to the Terror Tower, a haunted house and interactive horror adventure that starts at the Bates Motel and ends with a dinosaur attack. Scarborough’s indoor market has also had a refurb and you’ll find great local produce, and in the Market Vaults, plenty of artisan crafts and independent shops.
If you prefer to leave the coast behind at the end of the day and stay a little further inland, Wrea Head Hall has peace and luxury in spades, and a great restaurant too. It might feel like a million miles from busy Scarborough (in a very good way) but it’s just a few minutes’ drive from the sea. In the town, head to the chilled out Bike & Boot – a family-friendly hotel centred around activities with a handy surf store and boot room (pus dog wash). The iconic seafront Grand Hotel, still popular, opened in 1867 and was the largest hotel in Europe and one of the largest in the world. The building is designed around the theme of time: four towers to represent the seasons, 12 floors for the months of the year, 52 chimneys symbolise the weeks, and originally there were 365 bedrooms, one for each day of the year. A blue plaque notifies visitors that Anne Brontë died here.
A weekend break in Scarborough should be a game of two halves – a friendly played between the fun, family-centric South Bay, packed with amusements, boat trips and fun fair rides, and North Bay, which sweeps round from the ruins of Scarborough Castle on the headland, past Alpamare waterpark to the Sea Life Centre. Don’t miss Scalby Mills, where the River Derwent reaches the sea cutting a deep gorge – there are lots of rock pools ready for exploring. Between the two bays is a working inner harbour with a small fishing fleet, landing local lobster, and an outer harbour for pleasure boats and yachts.
After a busy day at the beach (north, south, or both if you’re feeling adventurous) a handy cliff lift (Scarborough once had five, but now has two working lifts) provides easy access to the town centre, where you’ll find a host of places to recharge your batteries. Eat Me Cafe & Social provides an eclectic mix of British and Asian food; and Clark’s (open Wednesday to Saturday) offers an innovative approach to dining with tapas, sharing platters, a local market menu and generous plates of local lobster (with or without a sirloin on the side). If you’re looking for freshly-caught, local seafood to cook yourself, Cod & Lobster on West Pier is a great independent wet fish shop offering the best quality fish and shellfish. (They’re happy to help with suggestions for preparing it too).
Whatever the weather, Scarborough has an entertaining line-up of theatre shows and big-name gigs to choose from. The Stephen Joseph Theatre, founded as the UK’s first professional theatre-in-the-round company in 1955, offers a diverse programme of groundbreaking theatre, popular film, comedy, children’s entertainment and live screenings of national productions. If the weather is set fair, Scarborough Open Air Theatre – built in the 1930s and reopened after a major refurbishment in 2010 – attracts a plethora of stars every summer which for 2022 include Ru Paul’s Drag Race, Crowded House, Bryan Adams, Lionel Richie, The Script, Lewis Capaldi, Jane McDonald, Elbow and Tom Jones.