Britain’s first holiday resort

Travel & LeisureTravel Spot

  • Author Peter Hunt
  • Published July 30, 2012
  • Word count 564

Once ‘the’ place to go for a traditional seaside holiday, the old Victorian town of Scarborough was Britain’s first ever holiday resort. It has been welcoming visitors for over 360 years still draws the crowds in their droves and today it is a delightful bustling seaside town catering for the whole family.

The safe, sandy beaches of the North and South Bays are broken by a rocky headland on which stands a reminder of the past - Scarborough’s medieval castle. It dominates the town and harbour below and defends a prominent headland between two bays, with sheer drops to the sea. Climb to the battlements for dramatic views of the coastline. Before the castle was built, this natural fortress was favoured by prehistoric settlers, and then served as a Roman signal station and Viking haven. This spectacular castle has also endured sieges from medieval kings and Civil War armies, and German naval bombardment during World War I.

The sea-front promenade of South Bay is typical of many British seaside towns these days; full of gift shops, amusement arcades and fast food outlets. However here you will also find the harbour where the boats still land their catch, safe beaches, cliff tops and a busy shopping centre standing only yards apart.

The Victorians left a town of immense style with some of the finest parks and gardens in Britain, the elegant Esplanade, the magnificent Spa Complex and the large Grand Hotel overlooking the South Bay. To get down from the cliff top to the beach, you can take the quaint cliff tramway, which for a modest fee, will transport you down to beach level in style.

On the whole though, the North Bay area is much quieter than South Bay, so if you're looking for a bit of peace and quiet away from the crowds, this is the place to be. At the end of North Bay is Peasholm Park with boats for hire on a tranquil lake. The lake is also the venue for the thrice-weekly ‘Battle of Peasholm’, one of the great eccentric English seaside attractions. The battle is between model warships, mostly manpowered, which has been delighting audiences for more than 80 years!

Close to Scarborough you will find a dramatic coastline as well as some beautiful and varied countryside. To the south is the smaller traditional seaside resort of Filey and Flamborough Head whose towering chalk cliffs are home to one of the largest sites of nesting sea birds in England. Here you can take a walk along the cliffs to see a wide variety of birds including a colony of gannets.

Inland are the Yorkshire Wolds, now made famous by David Hockney. They are a series of gently undulating chalk hills and valleys, giving rise to a landscape which is highly reminiscent of the Downs of southern England, although much emptier and less frequented by tourists. The countryside is punctuated by picturesque country towns and historic houses.

In contrast the bleak, yet beautiful North York Moors, a mix of moorland and verdant valleys, reach almost to the edge of Scarborough. The moors drop dramatically down to the sea forming a ragged coastline dotted with charming fishing villages such as Staithes and Robin Hoods Bay as well as the fascinating port of Whitby, famed for its literary connection with Count Dracula - another of the Yorkshire coast’s most popular destinations.

Peter has worked in senior positions within the travel industry for nearly 30 years and lives in the Yorkshire Dales. Click here to see a selection of Scarborough cottages to rent, or for cottages in some of the other wonderful areas of Britain go to UK Cottages

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