Following St Valentine’s Day, Scarborough was named as home to the UK’s “most romantic walk”. The resort was up against Chester, London, Oxford and Glasgow. So – here it is, this time as a heritage trail.
Firstly, make your way down to Scarborough’s Spa complex, which at present is endangered by cliff erosion and land slips. From the cliff lift, head north in front of the first coastal spa to gain national recognition. After damage to the wooden building in 1836 a stone Gothic saloon was built.
Beyond the Spa are shops, and then in the sea wall near the bus stop, descend steps towards the beach to witness the rusty-coloured Spa waters which gave rise to Scarborough’s fame as a spa resort.
Continue beside South Sands along Foreshore Road. The Grand Hotel towers high above, with its distinctive domes representing the four seasons. It was once the largest hotel in Europe!
Pass St Nicholas Gardens to discover Scarborough’s sadly-neglected Futurist theatre. Pierrot shows were a popular attraction here at the turn of the 20th century. By 1908 Will Catlin’s shows had moved to the newly built Arcadia theatre (the site now occupied by the Futurist). He was a dominant local figure in seaside entertainment for 60 years. Now, the future of the Futurist lies in the balance!
Continue beside seaside entertainments, ice creams, candy floss, and fish and chips etc as far as a telephone kiosk. Here, turn briefly left to discover the Three Mariners Inn (left), one of the oldest buildings in town, with parts possibly dating as far back as 1300.
Return to the old harbour to view the new lifeboat station being constructed beside West Pier. Admire the harbour, piers and lighthouse. In 1804 the first recorded lighthouse on Vincent’s Pier had a flat roof topped by a brazier as the only warning to ships of the available depth of water in the harbour. The stone structure seen today was started in 1806 and completed in 1850.
[Many shipwrecks have occurred locally. At extreme low tide you may see the wreck of a 36 tonne ship ‘Vivid’, which was exposed due to shifting sands around January 2-3 this year. It was lost during a storm in November 1888.]
Walk along Sandside by the old harbour to Luna Park. You’ll see the big wheel ahead. Here, seek a few steps adjacent to Shell Shack and the Tea Pot Cafe, onto the elevated walkway beside the sea. Take your cup of tea! Here, admire a tunny fish sculpted in stainless steel by Ray Lonsdale, and donated to Scarborough by Maureen Robinson. It symbolises Scarborough’s heritage of tunny fishing. Do read all about this on the nearby wall plaque.
Now head from the coastguard station along the Marine Drive, which encompasses Castle Hill and presents stunning views seawards. Any sightings of dolphins, porpoises or whales? What you may spot along the way are birdwatchers seeking peregrine falcons which breed on the cliffs of Castle Hill.
Rounding the castle headland at low tide the coffee pot rock may be revealed, and then the ever popular Hairy Bob’s Skate Park. You’ll even see Hairy Bob’s Cave - the rock close by with the face-like features above Royal Albert Drive is widely recognised as being once the home of a hairy, cave-dwelling hermit!
High above, Scarborough Castle dominates Castle Hill. This 12th century Norman castle has a peaceful role today as a major tourist attraction. What a marked contrast to its often warlike and bloodthirsty past.
Stepping out to Royal Albert Drive and the North Sands, pass the hairpin bend of Albert Road and view just ahead a giant fellow sitting gazing out to sea. This figure is a sculpture of Freddie Gilroy, “a very nice, ordinary old fella.” A retired miner, he was also one of the first soldiers to relieve the Bergen Belsen concentration camp at the end of World War Two. This piece is not about him alone, but is representative of the people who were pulled out of ordinary life into a very extraordinary and dangerous one. You can sit next to him on the steel bench if you wish, and have your photograph taken with him. He was sculpted by Ray Lonsdale, and again donated to Scarborough by Maureen Robinson. The information panel close by provides all the details.
Just a short distance between Royal Albert Park and the North Sands, brings you to The Sands development.
Here, at the foot of apartments, is an array of shops and restaurants where you may happily refuel your energies and explore North Bay itself. Colourful beach chalets line the route towards the miniature railway, and the white ‘pyramids’ of the Sea Life Centre. Take a trip on the exciting miniature railway, and if time permits, spend a couple of hours at the amazing Sea Life Centre, at Scalby Nabs.
When you feel revitalised, enjoy the return route to the Spa, with memories of a full and invigorating day out.
Distance: Six miles return (buses available for return if required).
Refreshment: Plenty of refreshments available en route.
l When time permits, learn more about Scarborough’s heritage at their new centre opened this year.
Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre is at 45 Eastborough. Open Wednesday to Sunday, 11am-4pm. Closed Monday and Tuesday.