Legacy of the landslips

Information board at the Holbeck Hall site
Information board at the Holbeck Hall site

by Maureen Robinson

Whilst exercising the dog along Scarborough’s amazing seafront, I needed no reminding that it was 20 years since the Holbeck Hall disaster. How well we recall the night when Holbeck Hotel collapsed, and sadly slipped seawards. In this walk we visit the site of the disaster; take a peep at some of Scarborough’s history, and maybe a ‘taste’ of our heritage near the Spa.

Start. The Town Hall on St Nicholas Street became a civic building in 1900 – the former home of the banker John Woodall. Facing its frontage, to your right beyond Queen Victoria’s statue, you should take the footpath off left between a pair of pale green dolphins. Then immediately right are steps descending St Nicholas Gardens.

Wind down to the Foreshore Road and turn right beside the beach rails. Remain alongside the beach towards the Spa Complex. At a forking of ways go right to meet the walled driveway to the Spa, with its high, vegetated bank.

Nearing the Spa, where the walling bulges and buses stand nearby, you’ll see steps descending to an alcove partway down to the beach. There you’ll find water still trickles through the sea wall as it has for decades. This is the Scarborough Spa water – still flowing although the pump room beneath the Spa prom was sealed off long ago. A brown stain on stonework testifies to the mineral content of the water. Despite ‘face-lifts’ over the years, the spring looks sadly maltreated. Only the lion’s head spout, and an explanatory plaque remain.

Continue past shops to the Spa and Sun Lounge. Scarborough was the first coastal Spa to gain national recognition. Seek a handsome information board, ‘Scarborough Spa at Night’, dated 1879, which is the reproduction of a painting by Francis Sydney Maschamp. It was produced during the Spa’s 19th century heyday.

Proceed beneath the covered way; past the tram lift to the cliff top, shop, toilets, and brightly-painted chalets. [The Clock Café is just up the steps and well recommended.] If you divert, you must return to this path. Next, descend steps by a warning sign regarding high seas. If conditions are favourable, proceed by the coastal rail with rocky cliffs to your right.

Ahead is the Star Disc which was formerly the site of an outdoor bathing pool. This low promontory houses the UK’s largest star map. Embedded lights marked out the constellations of the night sky. [From the Holbeck Clock Tower you’ll find on this walk a good viewing point and signboard.] Meanwhile, continue by the foot of the cliff to meet descending steps, and a warning sign of danger from high seas over sea walls and onto footpaths. If in any doubt, don’t go.

Cross a short, sandy stretch to resume the ascending path ahead. Observe the ‘rock armour’ at the base of the cliff as a means of protection. Keep to the main, pebble-strewn track flanked by verges rich in wild flowers in season. A row of six seats invite occupation with great views.

Passing behind the seating you reach an information board detailing ‘A Seaside Favourite’, painted by Turner in 1801 from sketches he made.

Next, ascend the path from a seat to your right. A finger-post indicates ‘Filey 8 miles’. Take care walking on loose pebbles. At an off-shoot veer right by a green ‘pedestrian caution’.

Entering Holbeck car park, go right in front of seating. On the bend in a stone-walled recess, read ‘The Scarborough Experience’, regarding the Holbeck landslide on June 3-4, 1993.

Follow the netted barrier to your right up Sea Cliff Road as far as the road junction. Here turn right along Holbeck Hill. Wooden palings skirt a deep, wooded ravine to the right. Shortly seek an entrance. Leaving Holbeck Hill descend woodland using the rustic railed footpath. Keep to the railed path, accompanied by bird song.

When the rustic barrier cuts across your path and veers right, please ignore, and go under the rail and straight ahead.

These footpaths are collapsing in places. Do take care as you proceed to more rustic fencing. Go through the next barrier and bear left uphill, admiring a galaxy of wild flowers in early summertime.

Meeting a tarmac path with open views to Castle Hill, savour the tranquil scene and turn left between shrubs, fantastic flower beds and seating. These gardens are crowned by Holbeck Clock Tower, presented by Alfred Shuttleworth to the Borough of Scarborough in the year of the Coronation of King George V, AD 1911.

The benefactor lived across the road at Red Court. On the opposite corner is the Shuttleworth Garden, well worth seeing.

Next, return to Holbeck Clock Tower and walk through it and down steps to the putting green. Walk in front of the attractive shelter to the left and take steps to your left towards a rustic rail and viewing platform.

Here is a signboard 
regarding the Star Map you briefly passed earlier. It’s an ideal place to stargaze at 

Now return to the road, and turn right along the Esplanade. This route remains on the Esplanade, with its artistic flower beds, bushes and trees to admire. To your right are the Italian Gardens, and Rose Gardens beyond, which are signed en route if you wish to view them. The Rose Garden started around 1883 as private gardens. Italian Gardens started before 1914 as private gardens too.

Having observed signs to the Italian and Rose Gardens you’ll find a boat nicely sited on the green. Beyond, is an indication regarding the Clock Café, you maybe visited near the spa.

Keep by the rails, and walk straight forward as to the town centre. The Crown Spa Hotel is seen to the left and a gentle descent leads to steps near a littler-bin. Descend these to the Spa Chalet to your right. Access the turquoise-painted Cliff Bridge which opened in July 1827.

Cross the bridge to The Grand Hotel. At the far end of this hotel is Marine Parade, with Caffé Italia on your left. Walk across the terrace in front of the cafe, with views to the harbour and a tramway to the beach. Ascend six steps to return to the Town Hall once more.

Distance: Approximately 3.25 miles.

Refreshments: Spa Sun Lounge Café, the Clock Café, Caffé Italia, and hotels and shops in passing.