Scarborough is one of those seaside towns that will forever hold a special place in my heart. Old memories are stirred, and I feel nostalgic when I visit. No matter how run-down it looks, especially when compared to other UK beaches, I simply don’t care because nothing beats sitting on Scarborough beachfront listening to the seagulls, with some real chips, followed by a bag of hot sugary doughnuts.
York, my hometown, is conveniently located near quite a few beaches: Whitby, Filey, Robin Hoods Bay, Bridlington and Scarborough. When I was little, we didn’t get to go abroad on holiday as my Mum simply couldn’t afford it. I have a sister and two brothers, and as my Mum was a single-parent, it meant the cost of going abroad was just too expensive. Not that we felt like we missed out, mind. My Mum made sure we did have lots of amazing days out and our grandparents took us on holiday to places like Primrose Valley and Blue Dolphin.
It makes me feel a little old to say this, but they were simple times. So long as we could have a bag of candy floss or a sticky toffee apple at the end of the day, my sister (and best friend) and I were easily pleased. On our days out to Scarborough, we’d take it in turns riding atop my Granddad’s shoulders and we’d walk or ride our bikes (depending on how busy it was) from Northbeach to Southbeach, and back again. I used to share a pot of fresh winkles with my Grandma whilst Jenna, my sister, would sit and squeal every time we popped one out of its shell with a pin! I remember loving how salty they were but the thought of eating one now… yuck…no thank you!
10p’s and 2p’s were collected and saved at home ready for our next visit and we’d always take along a bucket to collect pretty stones and shells. My Grandad kept these stones for years and years in his shed and I remember visiting a few years ago and being surprised that he still had them!
Writing about Scarborough reminded me how much we also loved Blackpool. Visits were saved for Christmas time so we could ride on an open-top bus which drove up the promenade to watch the famous illuminations. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do with Coby but feel like I’ve missed that boat and somehow my 14-year-old teenager just wouldn’t see the appeal. I’m worried he’ll stamp on my memories about something I adored as a child by it simply not been cool enough…
I remember one particular visit to Blackpool with my Mum. We were sitting on the back of the bus, it was freezing, and I was around 8/9 years old. I was in some dodgy pink shellsuit, my sister was in a green one (I really am showing my age now) and we were huddled up with a hot chocolate, warm woolly gloves and my Mum was enthusiastically trying to get us to look in every direction when she spotted something bright or sparkly.
Honestly, just writing this post makes me smile. Sometimes we’d get to take our friends, and my Mum had a little bit of company when their Mum came along with us. The thought of buying a freshly shelled crab and a loaf of brown bread at the end of the day to take home for supper was amazing. (I wasn’t vegetarian when little by the way).
By the way, I talk about my sister mainly as my brothers are a lot younger than me, so it was just us two for a while… before they came along and stole all the attention – joke! 😉
Back in June this year on one of my weekend visits home, we were at a loose end so jumped in the car (my Mum passed her test a couple of years ago) and headed across to Scarborough. Not without a battle mind. Reece, the oldest of my two brothers wasn’t keen at all, rolled his eyes and said: “really, but it’s a dive“. He’s right, it is a bit. But that’s part of the appeal.
It’s small and has a village-type feel. It’s quaint, and beautiful in its own way.
The amusement arcades haven’t been updated much, the same fish and chips shops still exist, and you know those shops that just sell endless amounts of tat (we call them grot shops), they’re still there, in exactly the same spots. My Grandma hated them, so we knew to ask my Grandad for 50p to go and buy some piece of plastic crap…and he fell for it every time!
There is no other food so intrinsically linked to the British coast than fish and chips. Whilst I can’t eat the fish now, the chips, with a pile of scraps on top, is the best. And you must soak them in salt and vinegar. It’s the law!
There was a shop where you could buy a stick of rock and have your name printed on the inside, and we’d occasionally be allowed to have that. Otherwise, it was one of those incredibly sticky red dummy lollipops which somehow always ended up in my hair or all over my face. Jenna once fell asleep on the train ride home and woke up with one stuck to her face. She cried for ages when we said it would stay there forever!
Even when I was a teenager I’d go to Scarborough with my friends. My first ever boyfriend asked me to be his girlfriend on the beach and I remember dying of embarrassment at the time, but it was sweet, kind of. He then bought me a little necklace from the shell shack (which is still there) on the corner near the fair.
We were there when the Holbeck Hall Hotel famously fell into the sea. Or maybe it was the day after? My memory is a little vague, I think I was about 11 when it happened, but it was one of the biggest stories in the news at the time and there’s still a faded patch on the cliffside where it used to be.
Anyway, we strolled around town and came across a little side street full of art. I don’t ever recall seeing this when younger but it’s possibly something new.
We didn’t do this often enough when young, but a walk to Scarborough Castle which sits on top of the cliff, overlooking the sea, is an impressive sight, even if it’s been slightly ruined by time. Grab a cup of tea and a slice of cake in the cafe and admire the fantastic views over the town before you head back down.
There’s the Scarborough SeaLife Sanctuary where you can find seals that have been rescued and nursed back to health before they get released back into the wild. Coby has been here, he was about 4/5 and it kept him occupied for hours. Quite often in the school holidays, they do 40% off days too.
You can’t go to Scarborough without taking a short trip up to the shops in Britain’s oldest surviving tramway. The Tramway is normally open for 9 months of the year from mid-February until the end of October. It costs £1 per person and takes about 2 minutes.
Same for the Northside beach. We always park here as you can pretty much guarantee there will be a free space. When you walk back to the car at the end of the day, there’s a chance you’ll get splashed by the waves which crash up the side of the wall. My Grandad used to throw a towel in the boot as he knew that no matter what, my sister and I would be running under those waves.
The beaches are sandy, Southbeach is always the busiest. There are still donkeys waiting to ride children up and down, and you can still hire a deckchair and grab yourself a 99′ to watch the world go by.
Unless a seagull decides to nab it! Since when did those birds get so big and so loud!
Oh, and finally, Scarborough is a nightmare to get to on a summer weekend. The A64 from York is a slow road. If you can, you should jump on the M62 and divert that way.
Is it all a bit naff? Yes. Does that matter? Not in the slightest. It’s good old-fashioned beach fun at it’s best.
Do you have a favourite beach which brings back childhood memories? Have you been to Scarborough or any of the other North East/Yorkshire seaside locations?
Mum, if you’re reading this, we’re going to Whitby next time!