by guest writer Kathrine Garshol.
A day out in Scarborough
When I was in university, I spent a year abroad. More specifically I spent it in York, England. There are a lot of wonderful things to say and write about the historic town of York, but today is going to be all about Scarborough. Scarborough is a small town, known for being one of the best seaside resorts in the north of England. There are many historic sights to see and things to do, depending on how much time you have available.
Since York is a railway hub, it made sense to take the train to Scarborough. The train takes about an hour and leaves often, which makes this a perfect destination for a day trip.
My friend and I had bought our tickets, not quite knowing what to expect from the trip. We had just decided to make the most out of our exchange experience, and to see as much of the country as we could.
The day we went to Scarborough was a cold and grey day. Luckily, we had checked the weather forecast and came prepared. As we say in Norway “there’s no bad weather, only bad clothes”. As the weather in England is similar to that in Norway, and can change quickly, I do recommend checking the forecast before leaving on a trip like this. It’s no fun being caught out in the wrong clothing, whether it’s too hot, or too cold.
Before going, I had done a little research on the place. I knew there was a castle, or the ruins of one, which was kind of my primary reason for picking Scarborough. Because I had visited several castles on family holidays in my childhood, going to see Scarborough castle was a bit nostalgic to me. In addition, it satisfied my interest in historic sights.
Going by instinct
Even though I had done a little bit of research and knew I wanted to visit the castle, we didn’t have any specific plans when we arrived at the train station. That’s why we decided to just follow the signs and head for the seafront.
However, while heading down the bustling main street we soon decided to “wing it”. We turned down a quiet street, and soon found ourselves amazed by some of the shop windows we strolled past.
This side street was full of charming little shops. There were vintage clothes and quirky second hand stuff. We also passed a book shop that housed a café and a shop that sold homemade soaps. We spent some time looking in the different shops. These weren’t your typical chain stores, and the displays were mesmerizing to look at.
If I were to give only ONE tip to those of you traveling in England: explore the side streets, they’re often full of wonderful and charming local shops.
Grandeur of the past
Continuing down the street, we walked through a narrow gateway. Soon we saw the south bay and seafront coming into view before us.
We now had the Grand Hotel right in front of us. I must say it was an impressive sight, looming over us. It felt like a breath from the past, and I can only imagine what it must have been like in its glory days. At the time of its opening in 1867, the Grand Hotel was the largest hotel in Europe.
The building was designed around the theme of time: the four towers represent the seasons, the 12 floors represent the months, the 52 chimneys represent the weeks, and originally, there were 365 rooms to represent the days of the year.
Walking a bit further towards the bridge, the fresh sea air hit us in the face. Now we could also see what we understood to be the Spa. It too looked grand. The Spa was originally built around the source of Scarborough’s spa waters, but today it is a venue for conferences, exhibitions and other events.
A feeling of home
As impressed as I was by the view of these two buildings, that is not what stands out most in my memory. The most surprising thing about this moment was not the sense of grandeur, but the fact that for a strange little second it felt like home.
Not because of the view or anything like that, but because of this one tiny detail: seagulls crying as we took in the view of the bay and the cliffs. The cacophony of sharp cries surrounded us. The sound really put a smile on my face. Having grown up close to the sea, those cries awoke this warm feeling of home in me.
Not just beach and a spa
The walk down the steps to the seaside promenade revealed the view of a Ferris wheel and the harbour, and we could see the castle resting on the hill above the town. We had already decided we had to go to the castle, but we decided to walk the seafront first, and see what else there was to do on this early spring day.
As more of the seafront came into view, the town surprised me once more; I was not sure if we had wandered into an England of the fifties or modern-day Las Vegas. Here, there were quaint, old fashioned shop fronts mixed in with the neon signs of the arcades. I had to laugh. It was so unexpected. It was a strange mix of old and new.
New and exciting experiences
There were the many fish ‘n’ ship shops and their familiar smell, along with the salty smell of the ocean and fish nets lying in the harbour. Then there were the bright neon signs, arcades, bowling and casinos. None of this reminded of home, yet that did not matter. After all, the point was to experience something new. As more and more of Scarborough revealed itself to us, the more exciting it was to explore this place which was totally new to us.
The castle, and being open minded
When we finally got to the castle, it was not quite like I had imagined. The castles I had visited in my childhood bustled with life. This was a more serene scene, with the ruins standing in the middle of a small field. Even though it wasn’t what I had imagined beforehand, I had a great time trying to picture what things would have looked like in earlier days based on the information signs. It was also great to see how this castle was part of people’s everyday life, as there were many people walking their dogs up on the castle hill.
Going to the arcades
Now, fast forward and we still had a few hours to kill before we had to get back to the train station, and we decided to waste some money. In other words: we went to the arcades. A stark contrast to the Harbour Café where we had eaten our lunch. The American 50’s vibe in there was so thick you could cut it with a knife. The waitresses wore yellow uniforms; the only thing that was missing was the roller skates.
But, back to the arcades: buzzing machines, blinking lights and children laughing. We had a great time, and even managed to win a few prices. However, we quickly understood we could be trapped in there forever, trying to win a certain price, listening to that mesmerizing sound of coins jingling out of the machines.
The arcades can be a few hours of good fun, but don’t spend too much time there, as Scarborough has more to offer.
Killing time at the end of the day
Having left the arcades with only an hour to spare before the train left, we now had to decide what to do.
This is the pro and con of a day trip; your stay is short enough to not get bored if it is a smaller town or city, but at the same time you only have a limited amount of time. At least for us, this was a dilemma.
We had an hour to spend, but we did not want to commit to doing something that was too far from the train station or would take too much time.
We ended up wandering the streets, and among other things, we found a shop that sells American sweets. As we both have a sweet tooth and a natural curiosity towards new foods, we took great delight in this. We spent the rest of our time in this shop, trying to decide on what to get.
Having satisfied our sweet tooth and seen some historic sights, we were quite happy with our trip. Even so, I realise there are many other things to do and see in Scarborough in addition to the quaint side streets, historic buildings and the arcades. I would be more than happy to go back. Next time, I’ll make sure to make some more plans, and to sea the North Bay and Peasholm Park.
Hi, I'm Else Kosberg, a Norwegian woman who is passionate about travel, languages, photography & filming, and learning about other people and cultures. I'm a writer, motivational speaker and broadcaster who wants to empower others (and especially women) to live unapologetically on their own terms. I will forever be a Warrior for Peace, love and understanding across the borders, and with this blog I hope to inspire, motivate and empower YOU to start exploring the world and maybe follow the roads less traveled.