During lockdown, many of us made the pilgrimage back to our family homes – and rediscovered them through fresh eyes. Part guide, part love letter, “Home towns” is a series in which we celebrate where we’re from.
Growing up on the coast in Scarborough, I was the typical angsty teenager. I had zero appreciation for the fact that I lived right by the beach and could be by the sea in minutes, and was desperate to leave the town I’d spent all my life in.
At 18 I headed off to university in Newcastle, fully expecting never to return. Over the years I travelled a lot and lived in a number of places, but always felt myself being drawn back to the sea. After years in Brighton, I moved to my current hometown of Reading – and it was only then that I fully began to appreciate Scarborough and the childhood I’d had there.
We didn’t need to go on holiday to get our beach fix, and every summer we’d spend endless days building sandcastles, exploring rock pools and eating hot, salty chips straight from the newspaper they were wrapped in.
Day trips to Filey, Robin Hoods Bay and Ravenscar provided opportunities for more seaside adventures, discovering old smuggler coves and chasing after the whimsical music of ice cream vans.
The link between Scarborough and wellbeing goes right back to the 18th century, when holidaymakers travelled for miles to take its spa waters. In the 1960s and 1970s it was still the place to go, with coach trips arriving daily and homely guest houses lining the roads which lead to its two beaches. But by the time I was a teenager, the town was struggling to compete with cheap package tours abroad, which could guarantee not only beautiful beaches, but the weather, too.
However, in recent years Scarborough has seen a quiet revival; as an adult my trips home to visit my family became important, grounding moments. They became even more poignant following the birth of my two children. As I watch them experience the joy of hours spent on the beach – and the sheer thrill of a donkey ride – my own idyllic childhood becomes more apparent.
Even so, it has only been during this last year of lockdown, when my access to the sea has been cut off, that I've realised just how integral it is to my own wellbeing. It was the longest period of my life that I had gone without seeing the ocean, and knowing that I couldn’t get to it left a longing deep in my bones.
I guess it was a classic case of “don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”. The sea, to me, was always just a car journey or train ride away. I could visit my parents whenever I wanted and, even if we were busy, a day trip to Brighton could still my restlessness.
As the world slowly began to reopen and we started to take our first tentative steps back outside, I was talking to a friend about my impatience to get to the beach. As I talked, assuming that everyone must feel the same after months confined to their own towns, I saw a look of confusion pass over his face. “I think it must be a Scarborough thing,” he said.
If the pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that there’s no point running away from it when the sea is in your soul
And maybe it is. Maybe this restlessness and constant need to move, which can only be quelled by a stomp along the seashore, no matter the weather, is the result of years and years spent watching the tide’s gentle ebb and flow on summer days, and listening to the crash of its waves on its ferocious ones, knowing that achieving perspective is always a little easier when staring out across the sea’s unfathomable vastness.
If the pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that there’s no point running away from it when the sea is in your soul.
Here’s how to quench your own thirst for the seaside on a trip to Scarborough.
Take a walk
Join the 109-mile Cleveland Way in Scarborough and walk the picturesque coastal path to one of the nearby towns. Discover Ravenscar, ‘the town that never was’; explore the narrow cobbled streets of Robin Hood’s Bay; or get your history fix at Whitby Abbey.
For a fry-up with sea views, head to The Watermark Cafe on the North Bay for breakfast. The Green Room of Bar Street proudly serves a locally sourced menu, including fresh fish and Yorkshire cheeses. Plus every trip to Scarborough should include a knickerbocker glory eaten at the yellow topped counter of the Harbour Bar, which has been serving ice cream since 1945.
Scarborough’s first micro pub, The Stumble Inn, offers a large selection of craft beers and ales and has vowed never to have the same beer on twice. To take a taste of local beer home with you, visit Bellyrub Beer.
Scarborough Market Hall has seen quite the transformation in recent years, thanks to a £2.7m redevelopment. It’s now home to a range of independent business, ranging from fresh fruit and veg stalls on the ground floor, to artists and jewellers up in the gallery. There’s also an Aladdin’s cave of eclectic shops down in the vaults. While you’re there, check out the treasure trove that is Homebird House right opposite. Plus, if you’re a fan of antiques and kitsch seaside memorabilia, take a peek at The Vintage Window.
Get in the sea
No trip to Scarborough is complete without a dip in the sea. But if you’re after more of a workout, head to Scarborough Surf School for surfing and stand up paddle boarding lessons. Or if it’s team bonding you’re looking for, try a super SUP, for five to eight people.
Time for bed
If travelling with your pooch is a must, then check in to Bike and Boot, which caters for dog owners, hikers and surfers; doubles from £66.
Self-catering five-star luxury can be found at the newly renovated Crab and Shark townhouses, which have stunning sea views and sleep six people; from £1,527 for seven nights.