Scarborough, North Yorkshire is a historic seaside town that still has plenty of old school charm and character. Here’s everything you need to know when it comes to planning a weekend in Scarborough.
Whether it is your first visit or 100th visit there is always something new to experience. After living here for 3 years I know all the best places to stay, go and eat.
Over the last 10 years or so the local seaside resorts of England have taken a downturn with many of us turning to cheap all-inclusive holidays in Europe.
Scarborough lost a lot of its sparkle that I remember so fondly from my childhood. However, thanks to some strategic investment in the area the ancient castle, stunning cliffs and sandy beaches have been revitalised.
Even without the glitz and glamour of the golden years there is still so much left to see, do and experience of Scarborough. The town is small and limited but has personality in the old buildings, unique structures and friendly people.
A Long Weekend In Scarborough Itinerary
Whether you are arriving that day or the night before there is still plenty you can go and do. Depending on whether you are arriving by train, bus or car will depend on what your next step is.
Drop off your luggage at your accommodation or leave it in your parked up car. There are plenty of places you can park in and around Scarborough even if your hotel doesn’t provide it.
If you are looking for a place with a few more home comforts such as a kitchen look at booking a cottage or Airbnb. This way you can save a little money by cooking and eating in.
The best area to stay in if you are looking to be near the beach, attractions and the town center is South Bay. South Bay has great choices of b&b’s, hotels and guest houses that are both close to town and near the beach.
Seafront On South Bay
Heading to the seaside is all about the arcades and food, head down to the seafront on South Bay. If you are up the cliff in the town take a short walk towards the Grand Hotel and opposite you will find the tram.
The central tramway was established in 1881 and is steeped in a vast amount of history. You can ride the tram either from the seafront up to the town center or vice versa for just £1 per person.
The tram is iconic to the seaside town and is a must-do when spending a weekend in Scarborough.
Once you are on the seafront head into one of the many arcades…or all of them. The arcades have been around for a number of years and each has something a little different to offer.
You can play a number of old style games and slots to some of the more up to date games on the market. Don’t forget to try and win plenty of the tickets to trade in for a prize! That is a must take home souvenir from a sea side holiday.
After you have used all your spare change on the 2p machines head further down the seafront to find a fish and chip shop. There are plenty to choose from, depending on the time of year will depend on whether you want to sit inside or now.
Fish & Chips
If you are visiting in the warmer months, take your fish and chips and go perch on the wall on the beach or one of the benches near the harbor. There will be plenty of seagulls at your feet but don’t worry!
There is no better way to work of your lunch than to explore more of the seafront. With joke shops selling traditional old magic tricks and jokes, you can pick up a couple of souvenirs to take home. Don’t forget to look in all the Scarborough sea front shops for little trinkets to take back home.
Take a stroll on the beach and dare to dip your toes in! The water is the coldest in January/February time so maybe don’t go in then. You can walk right to the end of South Bay and head onto the small pier where you will see the rides and fair games.
Don’t get too distracted though as you will be heading up the hill to Scarborough Castle. The castle is an old medieval Royal fortress on the top of the cliff. The castle is over 3,000 years old and even if you aren’t into history, the views are totally worth the climb.
While you are exploring the castle ruins you can rent an audio guide to give you all the interesting and gruesome facts of the castle and it’s many battles. There is also a center in which you can go and check out the exhibition for more details.
If you are interested in seeing other English Heritage properties or National Trust Properties there are plenty more to be found within the Yorkshire area. Nostell Priory is located in Wakefield roughly 2 hours drive from Scarborough.
After taking a tour around the castle grounds, head back to the seafront for a well-deserved Ice cream or freshly made doughnuts. If you are looking for an epic ice cream I suggest heading into Harbour Bar, a family run ice cream parlour since 1945.
The ice cream itself is made in house and the theme of the parlour is still set from the 1950’s era. Here you can find fantastic flavour ice creams, super sundaes and milkshakes.
After filling yourself with delicious desserts head back up into town, walk it if you dare up the side of the Harbour Bar or use the tram. Walking back into town gives you a route with some more sighseeing and lovely views over the bay.
Scarborough Public Market Hall
Here you will also see some lovely cafes for the next day’s breakfast and a couple of art galleries with stunning paintings of Scarborough. Once you get further into town you will spot an old stone building, this is the Scarborough Public Market Hall.
Used for years as the market now home to independent traders, businesses and cafes. You can find homemade and handmade gifts along with fresh fruit, veg and meat.
If you have any energy left you can look at the shops among the highstreet to finish the day. There is a shopping centre with a couple of unique shops along with big name brands.
The centre of Scarborough has gone through a major redevelopment recently and boasts a wide-range of high street stores as well as mainstream and independent cafes, coffee shops and restaurants.
Scarborough is full of life both in the daytime and evening. With a whole host of places to go and unwind after a long day of exploring. You can find bars, pubs and even clubs just off the main high street.
Look for the street horizontal to the high street and you will find a number of places you can go for a pint and enjoy some live music.
Along with plenty of places to drink you can also find a whole host of places for a lovely evening meal. Everything from Chinese cuisine, Indian and Italian as well as traditional British pub food. You can always ask your hotel/host for recommendations.
After exploring the exciting fun filled South Bay, day 2 is all about the history of Scarborough and the North Bay area.
North Bay is much quieter with tourists and is much less developed but in a good way. Scarborough beach is made up of the north bay and the south bay and is ideal for lounging around, paddling, walking with your dog or even learning to surf.
Head into town to one of those cosy little cafes on the hill down to the beachfront. If you get stuck I suggest Harbour View Cafe. They have great views of the beach which is a great way to start the day. Fill up on a full English breakfast ready for another day of exploring.
Walk down to the beach but instead of heading towards the pier turn and head towards the Scarborough Spa. The Scarborough Spa is the grand Victorian building which held events, concerts, theatre performances and dances. You can go and get some great shots of the sea there as well as a couple of cheeky selfies.
The Scarborough Spa still plays host to many different events such as 40’s weekend fayres and more so check the website for updates on events. It is steeped in history and is a building with such great views and architecture.
After visiting the Scarbrough spa, head a little walk back to the Rotunda Museum. Here you can experience more history, world wonders and a little more of what makes Scarborough special.
The Rotunda Museum is special in itself as it is a grade II listed building which was built purposely to a museum. It is one of the only ones still in use in the United Kingdom today. You can find more details on prices and opening hours here.
Head for lunch nearby in the town center or try out one of the other fish and chip shops along the front.
After a full lunch head over to North Bay, you can do this by bus, car or walking. I suggest walking along the front from South Bay to North Bay. That way you get the best view of the sea and experience the real sea breeze in your face.
The walk can take a little while but it is definitely worth it.
Pro Tip: Remember if you are visiting in Autumn/Winter to pack plenty of warmer layers such as hats, gloves and scarfs. Don’t forget your waterproof footwear too!
Once you have reached North Bay take a little walk on the beach, if you are visiting in off-peak season you will notice it is much quieter than South Bay.
There is a new development in the area with a few cafes and shops which are great to explore. After a little break at one of the cafes take a short walk to Peasholm park, if you have any breadcrumbs left take them with you (the squirrels and ducks will love you for it)
Peasholm Park is located over at North Bay a little walk in from the beach. Peasholm Park is an oriental themed municipal park. It opened in 1912 and became popular for galas, fayres and exhibitions.
Peasholm Park is a place I spent much of my time over the 3 years of living in Scarborough and no Scarborough weekend would be complete without going there for a walk.
Still popular for dog walkers, families and couples to have a romantic stroll around. There is parking nearby and a toilet block. The park has plenty to see from sculptures, fountains and ponds full of fish.
Spring and Summer is a great time to visit the park as you can hire a canoe, dragon pedalo or rowing boats to enjoy the lake. There are also a number of woodland areas and walks you can take around the park no matter the time of year. Take a walk around the park and spot some wildlife and tree stump carved sculptures.
If you are feeling super adventurous then hire a pedalo and head out on the water. Peddle your way around the lake like the scene from a rom-com. You will easily see ducklings in spring and the ducks sleeping on the banks of the water which is really cute.
Pro Tip: If you have access to a car and want to save from too much walking there is parking on North Bay and opposite Peasholm Park.
After a long day of walking and exploring head back to town for a quiet meal at one of the many restaurants. If you are feeling super flush and want to have a really special meal head to either Lazenby’s on York Place or the restaurant at the Scarborough Spa.
After dinner head down to the seafront and go to Olympia Leisure, head upstairs and you can go bowling with a sea view. There is also a bar and snacks bar for anyone wanting to enjoy a drink or some snacks.
Making sure you have had a filling breakfast take a walk through the Italian Gardens on South Cliff.
Pro Tip: Look for a hotel, B&B which provides breakfast to save you going out and exploring for food. Many will have the option included or to book on separate.
The Italian Gardens is an area that is a secluded area that was implemented in 20th century by Harry W Smith. The gardens are a lovely tranquil area in which you can go and take in the views and sea air.
Fun Fact: The Italian Gardens are often used with TV Dramas such as The Royal.
Scarborough Art Gallery
After spending a tranquil hour within the Italian Gardens the next stop will be to head to the Art Gallery. The Scarborough art gallery is in a grade II listed building which is an Italianate villa. The building itself is stunning to see before you get to see any of the artwork.
Once you have steeped yourself in art, fine imagery and beautiful architecture head for lunch in one of the nearby cafes. There are so many to choose from within the town and surrounding area it can be hard.
One of the most loved cafes in Scarborough is Espresso Yourself ranked #1 in quick eats in Scarborough. They have great reviews and the food always looks delicious.
The afternoon can go one of two ways depending on the theatre timetable. If there is a show on in the afternoon or evening at the Open Air Theatre or Stephen Joseph Theatre. Here you can see a number of performances included local celebrities, Yorkshire based performers or just a show.
The Open Air Theatre has played host to a number of big names and often does within the summer months. The Stephen Joseph Theatre is a little more local and features touring performances and has a theatre in the round which is really fun to experience.
If there isn’t a performance that takes your fancy why not head up to Oliver’s Mount. I suggest getting a taxi or driving as it can be a long walk. Oliver’s Mount is popular with people wanting to get the best view of Scarborough. Also, many bikers and cyclists go to push themselves to the limit.
There is a cafe/restaurant at the top so don’t worry! You can stop and have a break and a bit of cake if you want some. At the top, you will be greeted by a War Memorial, the column rising to 75½ feet.
Here is a wonderful spot for a picnic in the warmer months, there are spots to set down a blanket or even find a bench. You can use the cafe to get a fresh hot/cold drink and even toilets after all that tea!
Scarborough Sea Life Centre
Spend the rest of your afternoon by visiting the sea life center, this is great if you have children or have come for a long weekend in Scarborough as a family. The Sea Life Centre has plenty of animals and interesting facts about the sea and the animals that live within it.
If you don’t fancy going to the sea life centre head back into town and do a little more shopping. You can also find other things to do, one of the nicest things to do in Scarborough is to walk along the large bridge from the South Cliff area towards The Grand Hotel.
Take some time to take in the views, the sea air and relax. There are a number of benches located around the cliff edges and on bridges for people to stop and take in the view. You could also go down to the beach for a paddle or shell spotting.
Robin Hoods Bay
After if that, if nothing takes your fancy but you still want to make the most of your day there are plenty of other nearby locations you can visit such as Robin Hoods Bay. Scarborough to Robin Hoods Bay is around 30 minutes by car and 16.2 miles.
There are many different day trips from Scarborough that you can go on via car, coach or train. Some of these include nearby seaside towns such as Bridlington, Whitby and Filey.
For more information on what to do during your visit to Scarborough check out TripAdvisor. Alternatively, visit our guide for things to do in Yorkshire for ideas of what to do in the surrounding areas of Scarborough.
There we have it. A weekend in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. Labeled the first-ever seaside resort there really is something for everyone here.
As always we’d love to know if you’ve been to Scarborough and if so where did you stay, what did you get up to and how did you enjoy it? Let us know in the comments down below.
In the meantime be sure to check out our guide to the other nearby seaside town of Whitby – the home of Bram Stoker’s famous novel Dracula.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the frequently asked questions our readers have about visiting Scarborough;
How far is York from Scarborough?
There are 36 miles between York and Scarborough. Making York a great base for exploring Scarborough and the rest of Yorkshire.
Does Scarborough have a train station?
Yes, Scarborough railway station is a grade II listed building located a short walk from the centre of town. It also has drop off and pick up area as well as a taxi rank and coffee shop. Home to the North TransPennine route.
How Much Does It Cost To Stay In A Hotel In Scarborough?
On average a hotel in Scarborough can cost in the range from £64 per night for a 3-star to £95 for a 4-star and £113 for a 5-star.