A sizable town on the Yorkshire coast, Scarborough became famous as a seaside resort in the Victorian period. The oldest building in the town is Scarborough Castle, built by Henry II on a site used by the Romans, Saxons, and Vikings. Scarborough is still popular as a resort today, with holiday facilities clustering around the Old Town and harbour.


A Roman signal station was established on the cliffs here in the 4th century, but the town itself was founded by the Viking Thorgils Skarthi around 966 AD.

Scarborough Fair, commemorated in the popular song of the same name, was held annually from the 13th to the 18th century. In 1253 Henry II granted the first royal charter allowing Scarborough to hold an annual fair. What made this particular fair so important was its length; Scarborough Fair lasted 45 days, from 15 August-29 September by modern reckoning. The size and length of the fair brought traders from all over Britain and from places as far afield as the Byzantine Empire and the Baltic States. The fair was at its height until the late 14th century, and eventually ceased in 1788. A much smaller, shorter celebration usually takes place each September, but its not a patch on the medieval Scarborough Fair!

Scarborough Spa

Scarborough can make a fair claim to being the world's first seaside resort. The discovery of mineral springs here in 1626 led to Scarborough's growth as a popular destination for a bit of "R&R" as people came to enjoy the supposed health-giving benefits of the mineral-rich waters. Long before 'taking the waters' became popular in Bath and Brighton visitors were flocking to Scarborough to enjoy the mineral springs and the lure of the seaside.

The number of visitors enjoying the waters here makes it no surprise that the first bathing machines were employed at Scarborough, enabling bathers to enjoy bathing in modest comfort. The popularity of Scarborough as a seaside destination led to new purpose-built hotels, such as the Crown and The Grand.

There are 2 main beaches, each with its own distinct character. North Bay is quieter, with a nostalgic feel, while South Bay is a bustling place, bustling with people and a profusion of amusement arcades and ice-cream stalls. North Bay Miniature Railway is one of the oldest miniature railways in the country and takes visitors from Peasholm Park to Scalby Mills.

The Castle

Long before the coming of the Romans, the cliffs at Scarborough were used as a natural fortress by Iron Age peoples. Pottery finds suggest the site was used as early as 2100 BC, but not permanently settled until 800 BC. The Romans built a timber signal station in the late 4th century, then around AD 1000 a Saxon chapel was built within the Roman fort.

In 1138 William le Gros, Earl of York, built a wall across the headland and began a new stone fortification. A settlement grew up outside the castle, and this settlement expanded and grew into the modern town of Scarborough. The castle was strengthened by a succession of kings, including Henry II and King John, and was a major royal stronghold in the north for centuries. The castle was held by both sides in the Civil War, and would have been sighted by Parliament had the townsfolk not objected. The castle was used as a military garrison and prison until 1920, when it was restored and put into the care of English Heritage.

The Rotunda, more properly known as the William Smith Museum of Geology, is the second oldest purpose-built museum in England. It was constructed in 1828 by William Smith, a prominent geologist, and houses local finds, plus an exhibit on the heritage of the Scarborough area.

A bit further afield is the popular vintage North York Moors Railway, linking Whitby with Pickering, and taking in some of the best scenery in the North York Moors National Park.