10 Things to Do in Scarborough in a Day

What is Scarborough Most Famous For?

Ben Reeves | Compulsive Traveller
5 Sep, 2018

Scarborough is one of England’s most famous seaside resort towns. It has that classic historical charm such places are known for, personified by donkey rides, amusement arcades, fish and chips and sticks of rock. Add in some of the country’s nicer beaches at the bottom of sheers cliffs and you have Scarborough in a nutshell.

The town on the Yorkshire coast almost feels like its trapped in the Victorian era. The Grand Hotel dominates the cliff-tops while the Scarborough Spa continues to draw visitors from around the country. A lot of the town’s architecture has that distinctive flamboyant style and the atmosphere is genially olde-worlde. Despite its historical feel, it remains a fun and friendly place to enjoy the English summertime.

1

Start your day on South Bay Beach

Go for a paddle in the North Sea

The South Bay Beach is iconic in Scarborough, thanks to its soft sand, amusement arcades, donkey rides and the imposing Grand Hotel looking down from the cliff tops. You can still ride the historical cliff lifts down to the beach from the hotel, like a Victorian-era holidaymaker.

On a sunny summer day, South Beach can be as busy and fun as any Mediterranean beach, though the North Sea is a lot less inviting. It’s generally okay to dip your toes in, but very few people go beyond knee depth. On the other side of the headland, North Bay Beach has a Blue Flag award for cleanliness and is also busy on nice days, but has fewer nearby attractions.

  • Couples
  • Families
  • History
  • Photo
  • Budget
2

Must-See: Scarborough SEA LIFE Sanctuary

Visit the seal hospital and help serve breakfast

The Scarborough SEA LIFE Sanctuary contains 12 themed zones, each home to a different environment and different sea creatures. Highlights include the blacktip reef sharks, peacock mantis shrimp, and giant Japanese spider crabs. The shark tank, with its shipwreck and ocean tunnel, is especially fun.

The most remarkable part of the sanctuary is the seal hospital, which cares for over 30 injured seal pups every year. If you make a special booking, you can help with feeding the resident seals their breakfast.

Location: Scalby Mills Road, Scarborough YO12 6RP, UK

Open: Daily from 10am to 5pm

Phone: +44 (0)1723 373414

  • Families

photo by Mike Peel (CC BY-SA 4.0) cropped, calibrated, blurred

3

Shop at Scarborough Market Hall & Vaults

Enjoy local produce in an interesting historical market

The Scarborough Market Hall & Vaults is a heavily renovated historical building, and home to a modern market with a traditional feel. In the main hall, you’ll find local produce as well as stalls selling unique jewellery, gifts, clothes and art, among other things. The Vaults are underneath the hall, and contain even more shops, with a focus on antiques and handicrafts.

Aside from just shopping, the market and its hall is something of a cultural space in Scarborough, with a programme of special events. There’s also a very good food court overlooking the hall.

Location: St. Helen’s Square, Scarborough YO11 1EU, UK

Open: Monday – Saturday from 9am to 5pm (closed on Sundays)

Phone: +44 (0)1723 373579

  • Shoppers
  • History
  • Food
  • Budget
4

Visit Jurassic Scarborough at Rotunda Museum

Explore one of the world’s first purpose-built museums

The Rotunda Museum’s exhibition covers the extremely ancient history of the area. Highlights of the collection include dinosaur fossils, Stone Age tools and a Bronze Age coffin. These fascinating items are set out in an equally fascinating and historical building. Among the world’s first purpose-built museums, the old circular building and its trick-eye ceiling are as interesting to see as the exhibits.

The outside of the Rotunda Museum is quite iconic and is next to the iconic Grand Hotel and the Spa Bridge – a historical footbridge over the valley containing some lovely parkland, as well as the Scarborough Art Gallery. It’s quite the cultural hotspot.

Location: Vernon Road, Scarborough YO11 2PS, UK

Open: Tuesday – Sunday from 10am to 5pm (closed on Mondays)

Phone: +44 (0)1723 353665

  • Families
  • History
5

Eat fish & chips at Scarborough Harbour

Don’t forget to add salt and vinegar!

The historical harbour has been at the heart of Scarborough for centuries. The fishermen still bring in their fresh catches every day, so it’s no surprise that the harbour is also a hub of excellent seafood restaurants. Naturally, the dish of choice is the traditional fish and chips, available from great places like Winking Willy’s, First Catch, and Harbour View Café. As the name suggests, Harbour View offers great scenery across the sheltered moorings, towards the old lighthouse.

A classic serving of English fish & chips is often enjoyed as a takeaway, wrapped in paper and eaten with a wooden fork. Adding plenty of vinegar softens up the crispy batter around the flaky cod or haddock, as well as giving the meal a distinctive tang.

  • Food
6

Must-See: Scarborough Castle

Enjoy fantastic views over the town from the battle-damaged parapet

The 12th-century Scarborough Castle overlooks the town from the rocky headland between the North and South Bays. It has endured five sieges, but was left in its current ruined state by the English Civil War. Even so, it continues to attract a lot of visitors (fortunately, not so many of them are soldiers these days). Take a walk along the battlements for fantastic views across Scarborough.

While you’re there, check out the beautiful old St Mary’s Church. Look around the graveyard for the final resting place of Anne Brontë – the youngest of the famous Brontë literary sisters.

Location: Castle Road, Scarborough YO11 1HY, UK

Open: Daily from 10am to 6pm

Phone: +44 (0)1723 372451

  • History
  • Photo
  • Budget
7

Explore Scarborough’s Old Town

Buy a stick of seaside rock

The narrow old streets behind the harbour and South Bay Beach are not only appealing for their charming historical look, but they’re also home to great selection of shops and cafés. You’ll find a few of the big high street brands like Marks and Spencer and New Look, but the majority of the shops are little local places with some weird and wonderful wares.

There’s an especially good choice of sweet shops around Scarborough. Seaside sticks of rock – a boiled sugar sweet – are an English institution and you’ll be spoiled for choice in Scarborough. There are also quite a few amusement arcades and casinos.

  • History
  • Photo
  • Budget
8

Watch a naval battle in Peasholm Park

Visit the secret Peasholm Glen

Peasholm Park is as much a place of excitement as it is quiet contemplation. At 3pm every Saturday, during the summer months (June to August), model warships set sail on the large lake near the beach to do battle, with aircraft and explosions adding to the tussle. When the miniature navies aren’t in action, you can rent a boat and go rowing around the large central island with a distinctive Japanese pagoda in the centre.

If you want to stay on dry land, walk among the trees alongside Peasholm Beck to discover the beautiful secret garden at the opposite end of the park. Some of the trees along the way are exotic species, such American red oaks and Chusan palms.

Location: North Bay, Scarborough YO12 7TR, UK

  • Couples
  • Families
  • Photo
  • Budget
  • Unusual

photo by dom fellowes (CC BY 2.0) cropped, calibrated, blurred

9

Listen to the orchestra at Scarborough Spa

Relive the town’s glorious heyday

What makes this particular live music and events space interesting and worth visiting is its unique history and setting. Built in the Victorian era, right on the cliffs overlooking the South Bay Beach, the Spa has wonderful historical look, but is fitted with modern facilities.

The Spa is home to one of the last remaining seaside orchestras, playing their classical oom-pah tunes and upbeat classical music in the salty sea breeze, just as they did in town’s glory days. The setting, on the suncourt or in the Grand Hall, makes it quite a memorable performance. They only play during the summer months, so plan your trip accordingly.

Location: South St, Scarborough YO11 2HD, UK

Phone: +44 (0)1723 821888

  • History
  • Luxury
10

End the day with a show at the Stephen Joseph Theatre

Watch a classic play or a live-streamed concert

Scarborough has quite a lively theatre scene, with several great venues around the small town. Among the best is the Stephen Joseph Theatre. It's easy to find, alongside the Scarborough Spa. They showcase a mix of classic and modern shows and, while you’re not especially likely to see any really famous actors on stage, the performances are top-notch.

The theatre itself is quite compact, so you won’t be struggling to see or hear the plays. There’s a small art gallery and a good bar on-site, with a number of restaurants immediately around the modern venue. When the action isn’t live, the theatre will often show classic movies and even stream major events from around the world.

Location: Westborough, Scarborough YO11 1JW, UK

Open: Monday – Saturday from 10am to 8pm, Sundays only on performance days

Phone: +44 (0)1723 370541

  • Couples
  • Families
  • Nightlife

Start planning your trip