The North Yorkshire coast has many attractions with the resorts of Scarborough and Whitby being the major ones, but Robin Hood’s Bay lying between is well worth a visit.
Scarborough is reputed to be Britain’s oldest seaside resort dating back to the 17th Century and much of the town still retains a charming Victorian feel. On my recent Short Break, reported here, I was surprised to see how little had changed over the last 60 years since my very first visit!
Whitby is a small fishing port where Captain James Cook learned his seamanship. The town is overlooked by a headland with a ruined abbey and church, inspirations for Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula.
As a Senior you may be put off by views of steep roads and ancient buildings built high on rocky outcrops, but that would be a pity. Scarborough Castle and Whitby Abbey both have parking close by, and when walking around the towns, you can choose routes with gentle gradients. Scarborough also has two funicular railways connecting the beach with the town, with the South Cliff Lift being the UK’s oldest funicular railway.
There is much to see and do, including visiting the beaches (North and South Bay), with their accompanying bars, restaurants and amusement arcades. You may opt to take a speed boat ride around the bays, boarded at the scenic harbour nestling below the castle.
My highlights however are:
• Oliver’s Mount, which should be visited on the way in to town to get your bearings. It offers impressive views over the south bay towards the castle. Reportedly Oliver Cromwell sited guns there during the Civil War. It’s also used as a motorcycle circuit, so take care when visiting.
• Scarborough Castle, with its impressive location and views north and south along the Yorkshire coast. It dates back 2,500 years and was fought over in the Civil War and bombarded in the First World War. It is managed by English Heritage and has a tea room in the Master Gunner’s House. Seniors 60+ get a 10% discount on the entry charge, but consider taking out a annual membership of English Heritage for a 25-30% discount. Visiting mid-week I was able to park close by on Castle Road. Make a point of visiting St Mary’s Church nearby where Anne Brontë is buried. She visited Scarborough in the vain hope that it might help her to recover from consumption.
• Promenade Walk, from the quiet North Bay round the headland under the castle to the hustle and bustle of the South Bay. Here you can try one of the “world famous” Italian ice-creams. Be careful on this walk if it’s high tide, as you can get drenched by the waves splashing up over the sea walls.
• Peasholm Park, which is a haven of tranquillity at most times. However for the past 80 years miniature Naval Battles have been staged on the lake during the summer months. Great fun to watch. From the lake, there is a pleasant walk up Peasholm Glen through rich vegetation. At the far end there is an impressively landscaped cemetery, built on several levels, containing a newly restored Secret Garden.
• The Rotunda Museum, at the southern end of the South Bay, which has interactive displays illustrating the unique geology of the Yorkshire Coast. Its most famous resident is Gristhorpe Man, a unique Bronze Age skeleton.
Robin Hood’s Bay and Ravenscar
The road between Scarborough and Whitby has some steep inclines and great views of the moors on the one side and glimpses of the sea on the other. Make a point of taking a short detour to the little fishing port of Robin Hood’s Bay. You’ll need to park at the top of the hill and walk down through the narrow, curving streets to see the attractive little harbour.
However, if you are not feeling nimble enough to walk down to the seafront (and back up!), then stop instead at Ravenscar. Here you will get great views along the coastline and a hotel for refreshments.
• Whitby Abbey, the remains of a Benedictine monastery dating back to 1078, with great Gothic arches reflected in the small tarn next to the ruins. The Abbey and interactive Visitor Centre are managed by English Heritage – see above.
• Church of St Mary, a Norman church dating back to 1110, situated next to Whitby Abbey. The churchyard was used by Bram Stoker as a setting in Dracula. The interior is a strange mixture of pews and other furnishings under a low roof held up by what looks like deck supports. The maritime theme is very evident in the churchyard filled with weathered tombstones from many who perished at sea. If you are feeling nimble, then take the 199 Church Steps to the town below.
• Harbour Walk, along the north side of the River Esk until the road curves upwards to the North Cliff. This is very much a working fishing port, with boats being readied for departure or landing their catches, all mixed in with the usual seaside resort stalls and entertainments.
• Fish and Chips are a must in Whitby, with delicious, locally landed fish. You could try the excellent, internationally famous Magpie Restaurant. There are also many small fish and chip shops by the harbour, where you can eat outside, watching the fishing boats go by, and trying to avoid the seagulls swooping down for a chip or two.
Very few if the big hotel chains have hotels in the area. Accommodation is mainly provided by independent hotels and guest houses that take a pride in looking after their seaside guests. To get the best prices when booking, I use trivago, which checks out prices on more than 30 accommodation websites.
When to Visit
Both Scarborough and Whitby can get very crowded during school holidays, but are pleasantly quiet at other times, particularly mid-week, and most of the facilities are still open. Seniors can enjoy the off-season in peace and quiet, except for the squawks of the ever-present seagulls!