Ah, Scarborough, the jewel of the North Sea coast; a charming town located on the east coast of England and a popular destination for tourists since the 17th century.
Legend has it that a guy named Thomasin Farrer discovered the town’s healing waters back in 1626 when he noticed that his wounded horse was cured after drinking from a local spring. You heard it here first…Scarborough was once known for horse medicine!
Fast forward a few centuries, and Scarborough became a bustling resort town, attracting vacationers from all over the UK. The town’s most famous landmark is its castle, built way back in the 12th century and has played a significant role in English history.
But what’s a seaside town without its beach? Scarborough’s sandy shores have been a hit with sun-seekers for centuries, and in the early 20th century, the town’s beach was home to a peculiar attraction – a swimming donkey (no joke). For a few pennies, tourists could ride a donkey that would swim out to sea with them on its back. I’m sure it was probably safer than it sounds…
Scarborough has had its share of famous visitors over the years, too. The town’s most famous guest was Anne Bronte, who visited with her family in 1849. During her stay, Anne fell in love with Scarborough’s rugged coastline and used the town as inspiration for her novel, “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.” Sadly, Anne died just a year later at the age of 29, but her love for Scarborough lives on.
In recent times, Scarborough has become a popular destination for music festivals, attracting top acts from around the world. The town’s most famous festival is the Scarborough Fair, which is held every September and features a mix of folk, rock, and world music. So if you’re looking for a good time and perhaps a little horse medicine, Scarborough is the place for you.
Ready to explore the best things to do in Scarborough for your next visit? Let’s get to it.
Explore The Best Things To Do & See In Scarborough, UK
1. Visit Scarborough Castle
Famous for: Its prominent location on a headland overlooking the North Sea and its role in various historical battles and sieges throughout the centuries.
Scarborough Castle is a ruined medieval castle located on a headland overlooking the North Sea in Scarborough. The castle has a rich history dating back to the 12th century and has been the site of many battles and sieges over the centuries.
The castle is made up of several distinct parts, including the Roman signal station, the medieval keep, and the 17th-century artillery fortifications. The keep is the oldest part of the castle and dates back to the 12th century. It is a large, square stone tower with walls that are over 3 meters thick in places.
Visitors to Scarborough Castle can explore the various parts of the castle ruins, climb to the top of the keep for panoramic views of the surrounding area, and learn about the castle’s history through interactive exhibits and displays.
The castle also hosts special events throughout the year, including reenactments, performances, and guided tours.
Scarborough Castle is a fascinating and historically significant site that offers a glimpse into medieval life in England. It is definitely worth a visit if you are interested in history or just want to enjoy the beautiful views of the North Sea coastline.
2. Take a walk along Scarborough Beach
Famous for: its long stretch of sandy shoreline, beautiful views of the North Sea, and its popularity as a popular tourist destination with a variety of attractions and activities.
Scarborough Beach is a long, sandy beach that sits proudly as one of the most popular tourist destinations in the area, attracting visitors from all over the country. If you’re looking for the best place to see in Scarborough to pass a sunny afternoon, then you’ve just found it.
The beach stretches for approximately two miles and is divided into two parts: North Bay and South Bay. North Bay is generally quieter and has a more relaxed atmosphere, while South Bay is busier and has more tourist amenities like cafes, restaurants, amusement arcades and the Sea Life Centre.
The beach is ideal for swimming, sunbathing, and playing in the sand. There are also many water sports available, including surfing, kayaking, and paddleboarding.
Scarborough Beach is also home to a number of events and activities throughout the year, such as beach volleyball tournaments, sandcastle competitions, and kite festivals.
Overall, Scarborough Beach is a beautiful and vibrant destination that offers something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a relaxing day in the sun or an action-packed adventure on the water.
3. Discover Scarborough Spa
The Scarborough Spa is a historic venue located on the South Bay seafront in Scarborough. It was originally built in the 19th century as a Victorian-era bathhouse and spa, and today it serves as a cultural and entertainment hub for the area.
The Spa complex includes several different spaces, including a grand concert hall, a theatre, and a spa and wellness centre. The concert hall is the largest space, with seating for over 2,000 people, and is used for concerts, comedy shows, dance performances, and other live events.
The theatre is a more intimate space, with a capacity of around 600, and hosts plays, musicals, and other theatrical productions.
The Spa also has a spa and wellness centre, which offers a range of treatments and therapies, including massages, facials, and body wraps making it a perfect escape for a few hours for the ladies of the group.
In addition, there is a restaurant and cafe on site, as well as a gift shop, to keep the boys entertained until the wives get back!
Visitors to the Scarborough Spa can enjoy the historic architecture and elegant surroundings, as well as the many events and activities that take place throughout the year.
The venue is known for its high-quality entertainment and has hosted many famous performers over the years, including The Beatles, Elton John, and The Rolling Stones. You can find out what’s on from the official Scarborough Spa website.
Overall, the Scarborough Spa is a unique place to see in Scarborough with the whole family; an impressive venue that combines history, culture, and entertainment in a beautiful seaside location.
4. Explore Peasholm Park
Famous for: Its picturesque lake, Japanese-style pagoda, and the popular miniature naval battle reenactment that takes place on the lake during the summer months.
Peasholm Park is a beautiful public park created in the early 20th century and has become a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.
The park features a large lake that is surrounded by gardens, woodlands, and other green spaces. Visitors can rent rowboats and paddleboats to explore the lake or simply relax on the grassy banks and enjoy the peaceful scenery.
The lake is also home to a miniature naval battle reenactment, complete with model battleships and pyrotechnic effects, which takes place regularly during the summer months and is something the kids often love.
In addition to the lake, Peasholm Park has several other attractions and amenities, including a Japanese-style pagoda, a bandstand that hosts live music performances, a children’s play area, and an onsite cafe and gift shop in case you forget to pack lunch.
Throughout the year, the park hosts a variety of events and activities, such as open-air theatre performances, outdoor film screenings, and seasonal festivals. The park is particularly popular during the summer months when visitors can enjoy picnics, outdoor concerts, and other warm-weather activities so check the official website to see what’s on.
Overall, Peasholm Park is a beautiful and tranquil oasis in the heart of Scarborough that is well worth a visit for half a day. It offers something for everyone, whether you’re looking for relaxation, recreation, or entertainment, and whether you’re coming as a couple, with friends or with the kids and family.
5. Visit the Rotunda Museum
The Rotunda Museum is a unique and fascinating museum, housed in a circular building that was originally built in 1829 and is one of the town’s most distinctive landmarks. And in my opinion, it’s one of the best things to do in Scarborough.
The museum’s collection focuses on geology and natural history, with a particular emphasis on the local area. Visitors can explore the museum’s many exhibits, which include fossils, rocks, minerals, and other geological specimens.
One of the most popular exhibits is the “Gristhorpe Man” – an ancient burial site that dates back to the Bronze Age and was discovered near Scarborough in 1834.
In addition to the geological exhibits, the Rotunda Museum also features a number of interactive displays and multimedia presentations that bring the history and science of the exhibits to life. The museum is staffed by knowledgeable and friendly volunteers who are happy to answer questions and provide further information.
Overall, the Rotunda Museum is a fascinating and educational place that is well worth a visit, especially for those interested in geology, natural history, or local history. Make sure you get this added to your travel itinerary since it’s a super popular thing to do in Scarborough and shouldn’t be missed.
6. Take a ride on the North Bay Railway
Famous for: Miniature train run from Peasholm Park to Scalby Mills serving awesome views of the coastline
The North Bay Railway in Scarborough is a delightful little train ride that will transport you back in time to a bygone era of steam engines and vintage locomotives.
It’s the perfect entertainment for kids and adults alike, especially if you’re a fan of trains, or if you simply want a break from walking around the town.
The train chugs along at a leisurely pace, giving you plenty of time to take in the stunning coastal scenery, and maybe even spot some seagulls who are often seen hitching a free ride.
It’s a great way to relax and enjoy the view, especially if you’ve had one too many ice creams and are feeling a bit lethargic (we’ve all been there).
One of the highlights of the North Bay Railway is the miniature railway that runs alongside it. If you’re lucky, you might even get to see some miniature people waving at you as you pass by, which is always a good laugh. It’s like being in a real-life model train set, except you’re the one in the big train, and they’re the tiny ones!
Overall, the North Bay Railway is a charming and fun-filled attraction that is sure to put a smile on your face. It’s perfect for a family day out in Scarborough, a romantic ride with your partner, or even a solo trip if you’re a train enthusiast.
Hop aboard and enjoy the ride – just watch out for those pesky seagulls…
Visiting the north of England? Make sure you check out my other city guides;
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7. Visit the Scarborough Fair Collection
Famous for: Eclectic museum dedicated to vintage fairground rides and organs which you can ride and try your hand at.
The Scarborough Fair Collection is a unique museum and one of the more quirky, unusual things to do in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, England, that is dedicated to the history of fairground rides and organs. It features a vast collection of vintage fairground rides, organs, and steam engines, which have been carefully restored and preserved.
Visitors to the museum can enjoy a range of rides and attractions, including a giant Ferris wheel, traditional carousel, and an old-fashioned helter-skelter. There are also a number of vintage fairground games to try, such as hoopla and darts.
One of the highlights of the museum is its collection of fairground organs, which are displayed in all their ornate and colourful glory. Visitors can listen to the organs being played and learn about their history and mechanics.
The museum also hosts regular events and special exhibitions throughout the year, including classic car shows, steam engine rallies, and even a Christmas market.
Overall, the Scarborough Fair Collection is a fascinating and fun-filled attraction that offers a unique glimpse into the history and culture of fairgrounds and steam power. It’s a must-visit for anyone interested in vintage technology, or simply looking for a quirky and entertaining day out.
8. Explore the Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre
Famous for: Dedication to the history of Scarborough’s maritime past, fishing industry and seafaring traditions.
The Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre is a museum dedicated to the history of the town’s maritime past. The museum is housed in a former church, which has been beautifully restored and now serves as a fitting setting for its fascinating exhibits.
Visitors to the museum can explore a range of displays and interactive exhibits, which tell the story of Scarborough’s fishing industry, its seafaring traditions, and its role in maritime trade and exploration. You can learn about the town’s famous shipbuilding and boatbuilding heritage, see models of historic vessels, and even climb aboard a replica of a fishing trawler.
One of the highlights of the museum is its collection of artefacts and memorabilia, which includes everything from fishing nets and lobster pots to historic navigational equipment and ship’s bells. There are also displays dedicated to famous local seafarers, such as Captain Cook and William Scoresby.
The Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre is a fascinating and engaging museum and quirky place to see in Scarborough, offering a unique insight into the town’s seafaring past and well worth the visit.
9. Visit the Stephen Joseph Theatre
Famous for: Renowned theatre pathing the way for new writing, playwrights and emerging writers.
The Stephen Joseph Theatre is a renowned theatre founded in 1955 by the playwright and director Stephen Joseph. Since then, it has become a leading venue for new writing, producing world premieres of plays by well-known playwrights as well as emerging writers.
The theatre is known for its intimate and innovative productions, which often involve the audience in unique ways. The theatre has two auditoriums, the Round and the McCarthy, which offer a variety of seating arrangements to suit different productions.
The Round is a unique theatre in the round, which means that the audience is seated on all sides of the stage, creating an intimate and immersive theatrical experience. The McCarthy is a more traditional theatre space, which offers a more conventional seating arrangement.
The Stephen Joseph Theatre is a vibrant and innovative venue that is well worth a visit for anyone interested in theatre and the arts and definitely something quirky to do in Scarborough. To find out what’s on, you can visit the official SJT website.
With its commitment to new writing and its focus on audience engagement, it offers a unique and exciting theatre experience that is sure to leave a lasting impression.
10. Visit the Scarborough Market Hall and Vaults
Famous for: Airy continental style market serving delicious eateries, unique stalls and interesting shops selling all kinds of quirky goods from antiques, vintage clothing to art supplies.
Ah, the Scarborough Market Hall and Vaults! Such a wonderful place that’s full of character and charm.
The Market Hall is a bustling hub of activity, where you can find everything from fresh produce to handmade crafts. And the Vaults… well, let’s just say they’re perfect for those who like their shopping experiences to be a little more… underground.
But don’t worry, it’s not as sinister as it sounds! The Vaults are actually a series of historic arches and passageways that have been turned into quirky little shops and cafes. It’s like a hidden gem waiting to be discovered… or a secret lair for all your shopping needs.
The Scarborough Market Hall and Vaults are definitely worth a visit if you’re looking for fun things to do in Scarborough as a couple or with family, even if it’s just to grab yourself some fresh food for lunch and poke your nose around a few stalls and shops.
11. Wander around St Mary’s Church and Anne Bronte’s Grave
Famous for: Soaring, vaulted ceilings and stunning and Norman style architecture dating back to the 12th century
St. Mary’s Church is a beautifully historic church that dates back to the 12th century. The original church was built in the Norman style, but it has undergone many changes and renovations over the centuries.
One of the most significant events in the church’s history occurred in the 16th century, during the reign of Henry VIII, when the English Reformation led to the dissolution of the monasteries and the seizure of church property.
St. Mary’s Church was fortunately spared thanks to the intervention of the Archbishop of York, who persuaded Henry VIII to spare the church because of its historical significance.
Another notable event in the church’s history occurred in the 19th century when the Bronte family visited Scarborough and Anne Bronte died of tuberculosis at the age of 29. Anne was buried in the churchyard, and her grave has become a popular destination for literary pilgrims.
Throughout its history, St. Mary’s Church has played an important role in the spiritual and cultural life of Scarborough. Today, it continues to serve as a place of worship and a reminder of the town’s rich history and heritage and is a great place to visit to pass an hour when visiting Scarborough.
12. Tour the Scarborough Brewery and enjoy an IPA or three
Famous for: Fruity session beers and refreshing, citrus golden ales and IPAs
The Scarborough Brewery is a craft brewery located in the seaside town of Scarborough tucked away on the outskirts of town in a not-so-easy-to-find industrial estate.
The brewery first opened its doors with a single-barrel brew but has now expanded to a large plant working with 10+ barrels producing a variety of high-quality beers. Of course, they stick with traditional brewing techniques and locally sourced ingredients which adds to the appeal, and you can grab a tour of the place along with a few cheeky drinks for just £10 at the time of writing.
if you like what you sample, then there’s also a shop where you can purchase bottles and cans to take away with you and indulge in later on.
Some of the brewery’s most popular beverages are the golden ale Sealord and the pale session beer Trident. All refreshingly tasty and you’ll see why they’re so popular for yourself by the end of this little stop
The Scarborough Brewery is a must-visit for beer lovers or if you are looking for unusual things to do in Scarborough with friends, so make sure you get it on your travel itinerary.
13. Spend the day at Alpamare Waterpark
Famous for: Surprisingly large and incredibly thrilling indoor/outdoor alpine-themed waterpark
Alpamare is the ultimate water playground in Scarborough that’s sure to make a splash with everyone who visits. It’s a place where you can let loose and forget about your worries as you shoot down water slides and splash around in the thermal waters of Scarborough (don’t worry, the pools are all heated!)
With thrilling rides like the Black Hole and the Cresta Run, you’ll feel like a kid again as you scream and laugh your way through the twists and turns…and an 11-metre high drop reaching speeds of around 30mph.
But Alpamare isn’t just about the rides. You can also take a dip in the wave pool, float along the lazy river, or relax in the heated outdoor pool. And if you’re in need of some pampering, the spa and wellness centre has got you covered with hot tubs and saunas.
Of course, no day out would be complete without some delicious food and drinks, and Alpamare has you covered with its restaurant and bar. And did we mention the stunning views of the North Yorkshire coast? It’s the perfect backdrop for your watery adventures.
So grab your swimsuit and pack your sense of adventure because if you’re looking for something thrilling and fun to do in Scarborough for the day with kids – big or small – then Alpamare has you covered. You can book tickets from the official website here. Expect to pay around £17 for an adult ticket with tickets starting from £7 for kids.
14. Take a ride at the Central Tramway
Famous for: Its 50% gradient connecting Marine Parade with the beachfront
Hold onto your hats, folks, because the Central Tramway in Scarborough is one wild ride! It’s like a roller coaster on rails, but instead of hurtling through loops and twists, you’re slowly chugging up a steep hill while taking in some of the best views in town.
The tramway has been in operation for over 140 years, carrying visitors up and down the hill from the South Bay to the town center. It’s a real nostalgia trip, and the vintage trams are a sight to behold.
From February to October, you can hop on the Central Tramway and take a journey back in time to an enchanting, Victorian-style upper station. With a tea room and outdoor seating in the front yard, it’s the perfect spot to relax and soak up the scenery before or after your ride.
Despite being almost 140 years old, the tramway is still the most convenient way to get from the town centre to the South Bay. It’s like stepping into a time machine and experiencing a piece of history while you travel – but without the risk of getting lost in the past!
So if you’re in Scarborough and looking for a fun and unique way to get around town, hop on the Central Tramway and take in the scenic views of the coast and the Grand Hotel you’ll be chugging up and down alongside.
15. Grab some of the best Fish & Chips in Scarborough
Famous for: Errr, fish n chips…
When it comes to the battle of the best fish n chips in town, the competition is fierce. But fear not my fellow seafood aficionados – I’ve discovered the ultimate winner during my own visit to Scarborough.
Winking Willy’s is the place to be if you’re craving mouthwatering hot cod and haddock, paired perfectly with salty chips that are simply to die for. You can enjoy your delicious meal inside the cosy restaurant or take it outside to one of the benches by the harbour for a more scenic dining experience.
But beware – the local seagulls are always on the lookout for their next meal, and they won’t hesitate to swoop in and steal a chip or two if you’re not careful. So keep a watchful eye and hold on tight to your meal
Winking Willy’s is a true gem in the sea of fish n’ chip shops in Scarborough. So if you’re looking for a tasty treat that will satisfy your seafood cravings in Scarbrough, head on over and indulge in the best fish n’ chips in town.
16. Learn to Surf
Famous for: Waves for all levels of surfers
Surfing in Scarborough is more popular than you might expect with its location on the North Sea coast. The waves here can be quite powerful, making it a great spot for surfers of all skill levels.
There are a few different surf spots around Scarborough, including North Bay, South Bay, and Cayton Bay. North Bay is popular among beginners, with smaller waves and a more forgiving shoreline. South Bay and Cayton Bay offer larger and more challenging waves for more experienced surfers.
If you’re new to surfing, there are several surf schools and rental shops in Scarborough that offer lessons, equipment rentals, and advice on the best surf spots for your skill level. Scarborough Surf School is a great shout, and you can grab a group lesson for just £40
But even if you’re not a surfer, it’s still worth checking out the local surf scene in Scarborough. Watching the surfers catch waves and ride the swells is a mesmerizing sight, and there’s always a fun and friendly atmosphere at the beach. So whether you’re a seasoned pro or just a spectator, surfing in Scarborough is an experience not to be missed!
16 Best Things To Do In Scarborough
- Visit Scarborough Castle
- Take a walk along Scarborough Beach
- Discover Scarborough Spa
- Explore Peasholm Park
Visit the Rotunda Museum
- Take a ride on the North Bay Railway
- Visit the Scarborough Fair Collection
- Explore the Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre
- Visit the Stephen Joseph Theatre
- Visit the Scarborough Market Hall and Vaults
- Wander around St Mary’s Church and Anne Bronte’s Grave
- Tour the Scarborough Brewery and enjoy an IPA or three
- Spend the day at Alpamare Waterpark
- Take a ride at the Central Tramway
- Grab some of the best Fish & Chips in Scarborough
- Learn to Surf
Best 2-Day / Weekend Travel Itinerary For Scarborough
Scarborough has a lot to offer, so planning a weekend itinerary can be a bit overwhelming. Here’s a suggested itinerary for the perfect weekend or 2-day visit in Scarborough:
- Morning: Start your day with a hearty breakfast at one of Scarborough’s many cafes or restaurants. Try Eat Me Cafe or El Gringos for a delicious start to the day.
- Mid-morning: Head to Scarborough Castle, an iconic medieval fortress perched high above the town. Take a tour of the castle and soak in the stunning views of the coastline.
- Lunch: After exploring the castle, head back into town for a seafood lunch at one of Scarborough’s many fish and chip shops. Winking Willy’s is a local favourite.
- Afternoon: Take a stroll along Scarborough’s North and South Bay beaches, soaking in the sun and sea air. If you’re feeling adventurous, rent a surfboard and catch some waves!
- Evening: For dinner, head to the Scarborough Brewery. Enjoy a pint of their locally brewed beer and some delicious pub grub while taking in the atmosphere of this historic brewery.
- Morning: Start your day with a leisurely walk around the Scarborough’s Peasholm Park, a beautiful and tranquil Japanese-themed park.
- Mid-morning: Take a ride on the Central Tramway, a historic funicular railway that takes you from the town centre down to the South Bay. Enjoy the views from the top and check out the Victorian-style upper station.
- Lunch: After your ride on the Central Tramway, stop for a light lunch at one of the many cafes or pubs in the South Bay area. The Watermark Cafe is a great option.
- Afternoon: Head to the Scarborough Sea Life Sanctuary and explore the fascinating world of marine life. Get up close and personal with penguins, otters, sharks, and more. Or if you’re in the mood for a bit more excitement, head to the Alpamare Waterpark.
- Evening: For your final night in Scarborough, enjoy a romantic dinner at Lanterna Ristorante, a charming Italian restaurant with excellent food and service.
Of course, this itinerary is just a suggestion – feel free to mix and match activities to suit your own interests and preferences. Whatever you decide to do, you’re sure to have a great time exploring this beautiful and historic seaside town!
What is the best time of year to visit Scarborough?
The best time to visit Scarborough depends on your interests. If you enjoy the beach and warm weather, the summer months of June to August are the best time to visit. However, if you prefer fewer crowds and cooler temperatures, the shoulder seasons of May and September are also good options.
What are some popular attractions in Scarborough?
Some popular attractions in Scarborough include Scarborough Castle, Peasholm Park, Scarborough SEA LIFE Sanctuary, and the North and South Bay beaches.
How do I get to Scarborough?
Scarborough is easily accessible by train or car. There are regular train services from major cities such as London, Manchester, and Leeds, and the town is well-connected by road.
Where can I find the best fish and chips in Scarborough?
Scarborough is known for its delicious fish and chips. Some popular spots include Winking Willy’s, The Magpie Cafe, and The Golden Grid.
Is Scarborough a family-friendly destination?
Yes, Scarborough is a great destination for families. There are plenty of family-friendly attractions such as the SEA LIFE Sanctuary and Peasholm Park, as well as lots of beach activities, water sports and other fun things to do in Scarborough during your visit.
What are some outdoor activities to do in Scarborough?
Scarborough is a great destination for outdoor activities. Some popular options include hiking along the Cleveland Way trail, surfing and water sports, and cycling along the Scarborough to Whitby route.
Is Scarborough a dog-friendly destination?
Yes, Scarborough is a dog-friendly destination with many dog-friendly hotels, restaurants, and beaches. However, it’s important to check local rules and regulations regarding dogs on the beach before bringing your furry friend along.