Walks: St Mary’s Church and Scarborough Castle

The view over Scarborough Harbour, from the Castle.
The view over Scarborough Harbour, from the Castle.

A recent request for short, local walks, reminded me of one we recently enjoyed up Castle Hill. It makes a lovely stroll, with spectacular views over Scarborough’s harbour, and plenty of seats for a rest. Historically, it’s a gem, featuring St Mary’s Church, Scarborough Castle and walls, and Anne Bronte’s grave. The steps will keep you fit, burning of excess calories!

Park on Castle Road, in the vicinity of St Mary’s Parish Church. A church has probably occupied this site with such a commanding position, even before the first castle was erected, with the first single-aisled structure of around 1150 being extended and restored in subsequent years.

Scarborough Castle It acted as a prison for Welsh and Scottish soldiers during the campaigns of Edward I

Starting from St Mary’s Church, follow the footpath past Church Lane and the car park walling, noting a wall plaque reading, “Behind this wall lies the grave of Anne Bronte.” She died in lodgings on St Nicholas Cliff in 1849 when only 29 years old. It was hoped the sea air would cure her tuberculosis, but sadly it did not.

The castle is approached from this west side, but beyond the car park, bear right along the broad walkway alongside the castle’s moat to your left. Part of it forms a children’s recreation area, with woodland beyond.

The castle mound is an impressive spot – a sandstone bastion amid the boulder clay. The mound is 300ft above sea level, and 100ft above the surrounding land, giving it a commanding view to which its steep sides added a natural defence. Scarborough’s 12th century Norman castle has a peaceful role today as a major tourist attraction, in marked contrast to its often warlike and bloodthirsty past. [Do visit the castle at the end of the walk.]

Keep heading to the Old Town, Harbour and Sands, with high-backed seats and benches punctuating your way.

At a forking of ways, keep to the level and lamp-posted walkway towards part of the castle wall, and archway with metal work.

Near a bench on your left, seek ascending steps leading up to the viewpoint. Gaze due south over the harbour, piers and lighthouse. The stone structure of the lighthouse seen today, was started in 1806.

The addition of the second storey, and its domed top were in 1850. From this viewpoint, how many features do you recognise?

Now continue your ascent of castle hill with care, as the steps become very steep, and slippery during wet weather. You’ll observe thickets of blackthorn bearing black sloes in autumn, and gathered for makers of sloe gin. Wild flowers grow in profusion in season, and winter migrants seek refuge here after long, tiring flights.

Keep ascending, until you reach the path alongside the castle walls to your right. Now enjoy a more level section, with time to seek wildlife, and admire the castle walling.

To defend the mound, a curtain wall was built on the land ward side at the mound edge. A keep was placed behind this, near to the narrow finger of connecting land that reached towards the wall gate. Later, a barbican was built on the connecting finger, with a drawbridge over a constructed ditch. The building work produced a formidable fortification, as subsequent events were to show.

The castle acted as a prison for Welsh and Scottish soldiers during the campaigns of Edward I but it was not until 1312 that it was first besieged, and in 1537, it was again under siege. After the Civil War, the castle was left much as you will see it today.

Continue your walk down steep steps with care, as they descend towards the castle entrance. You may like to explore further, whilst so near, “if only for the magnificent entrance gateway and bridge connecting town and mound.” Enough of the keep remains to be impressive, and the curtain wall you have already discovered, offers a fine walk with a good view to the old town and harbour from the southern end. Having completed your walk, you’ll be ready to take refreshment along Castle Road.

Access: By bus or private transport to Castle Road and St Mary’s Parish Church.

Distance: Only about a mile.

Terrain: Mostly good, but many steep steps and some uneven ground.

Toilets: None on this short route.

Refreshment: None on route. Take a snack, or try Castle Road: Cafe 82 and Mark’s Fish and Chips recommended, near the roundabout at St Thomas Street.