Things to do in Scarborough
As the largest town on the Yorkshire coast, Scarborough has a long history dating back to the Roman era, with remains of a luxury villa with a bathhouse recently unearthed. There’s evidence of Viking pillage here too, destroying earlier stone and bronze age settlements.
More recently the town has become a major seaside attraction, as well as being immortalised by Simon and Garfunkel in their version of the traditional English ballad “Scarborough Fair.”
Here are some of the highlights of this appealing seaside town, all readily accessible to Haven holidaymakers from any of our Yorkshire holiday parks.
Offering two of the best beaches in the county, Scarborough’s wide crescents of golden sand offer colourful beach huts, hillside views, and clean, swimmable waters. Both North and South beaches (separated by the harbour) offer many things to see and do. There are cafes, ice cream kiosks, and traditional donkey rides.
At high tide, visitors can walk or cycle the coastal path between the Sea Life Centre (see below) and Cayton Beach to the south. On the way, you’ll pass a castle, numerous grand hotels, and the ornate Scarborough Spa.
Sea Life Scarborough
If the weather’s bad, Scarborough’s Sea Life Centre is one of the best places to escape to, especially with the kids. The attraction combines an indoor aquarium with an outdoor habitat for penguins and seals. The aquarium especially packs a punch, with otters, a coral reef, and even the fearsome-looking black-tip reef sharks.
As well as standard ticketing, you can book a VIP experience, such as Breakfast with the Seals and Sharks After Dark. Each event includes a private, guided tour and the latter tour includes a chance to help feed the animals (seals, not sharks!)
Scarborough Fairs Collection
A cavalcade of colourful machinery and fairground attractions await at the Scarborough Fair Collection. As well as the historic steam engines which once powered fairground rides, there are mechanical organs, vintage cars, motorbikes trams, and working rides including dodgems and a ghost train.
The classic car collection includes a rare convertible Morris, Austins, Daimlers, and even a Ford Model T. There are buses and fire engines, as well as a collection of antique tractors. The museum is motor geek heaven, and even the little ones can even enjoy a miniature Morris car ride.
If you prefer ancient history to motor vehicles, a walk around the ruins of Scarborough Castle is an enlightening part of any visit. Start your walk at the attractive harbour, then take the footpath from Marine Drive, which zigzags up the steps to the top of the hillside. There, fortified walls surround the remnants of an impressive 12th-century keep.
In 1645, during the English Civil War, the castle was plundered during a five-month bombardment by parliamentarians, including an attack with 65-pound cannonballs, launched from the 12th century St Mary’s Church (in the grounds of which you’ll find the grave of Anne Bronte).
As well as stunning views and photo opportunities, history enthusiasts can arrange guided tours or visit the interactive museum in the Master Gunner’s House.
Open Air Theatre
If you’re lucky, your visit may coincide with one of the summer concerts at the open space on Burniston Road. From orchestral versions of Ibiza classics to top singer-songwriters, these gigs draw large crowds to dance and sing along in the sunshine. Elton John, Britney Spears, Chic, and Kylie have all played here.
The theatre dates to the 1930s and was given a facelift in 2010 and opened by Queen Elizabeth. Today it provides all the modern facilities of a festival venue including bars and food stalls.
In a town that offers many beautiful vistas, Peasholm Park provides one of the prettiest escapes from city bustle. Voted one of the best parks in the UK, Peasholm is beautifully landscaped, with an oriental theme including streams, waterfalls, and a floating pagoda-style bandstand. For the actively inclined, there are kayaks and rowboats for hire.
One of the most legendary entertainments is the famous model naval battle that takes place here every week during the summer. During the extravaganza, 20-foot replicas of warships and planes recreate aquatic and aerial warfare. Those seeking gentler entertainment might opt for one of their Sunday brass band concerts or simply a picnic on the lawn.
South Cliff Italian Gardens
In a town not short of scenic charms, the Italian Gardens at South Cliff are a highlight. The ornate gardens, opened in 1911, are a delight to walk through, earning Grade-II protected status for the pretty flower beds, lily pond, woodland paths, and tranquil terraces.
Look out for the statue of Mercury, the winged messenger, or spot rare avian visitors including tree creepers in the mature trees fringing the site. There’s an event venue, Beeforth’s Hive, which holds poetry events, live music, craft classes, and yoga sessions.
Another of Scarborough’s top event spaces, Scarborough Spa was built in 1858 to capitalise on the Edwardian and Victorian fashion for “taking the waters” of the mineral spring that gave the venue its name.
It’s now a 1500-seater venue hosting comedy shows, music gigs, and classical concerts from the Scarborough Spa Orchestra. Farrer’s Bar and Restaurant offers seafront views and traditional British meals with a twist. Farrer’s is also popular for filling full English breakfasts.
North Yorkshire Water Park
Beautiful aquatic chaos can be found at this popular leisure facility, situated just a 20-minute drive south of Scarborough and Haven’s Blue Dolphin Holiday Park. Plan to spend a whole day here, since it’s a large site with lots of activities to try, including wakeboarding, kayaking, swimming, inflatable obstacle courses, sailing, and a zipline.
Water-averse visitors can enjoy the bike trails, puzzle rooms and climbing walls which add to the fun. There’s a café, and the Park schedules a range of events for all ages including dragon boat racing, afternoon teas, and the local Park Run every Saturday at 9am.