An Afternoon in Scarborough

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One of the last things I did before we left Canada was pick up a copy of Lonely Planet Great Britain. I was bound and determined to learn as much about our new home as possible and I figured the best way to do that was by planting my nose firmly in a travel guide. Plus, I am just a huge fan of Lonely Planet, so any excuse is good by me.

As I flipped through the section on Yorkshire, I became enthralled with Scarborough, a classic seaside town where rich Brits would spend their summers. It wasn’t so much the stuff of fairy tales, but the stuff of really great movies set in the 1920s, and I couldn’t wait to see it for myself.

For weeks I dreamed about Scarborough–okay, maybe that’s a stretch, but I did think and talk about it often–I wanted to wander through the town, walk on the beach and maybe, just maybe, ride one of the local famed Scarborough donkeys along the sands. But for the longest time we held off; we just couldn’t justify the cost of the train.

Then, one week, after much begging and pleading, we decided to bite the bullet and booked our tickets on the Transpennine Express. It didn’t seem like prices were going to go down, so there was no better time–at least that was my justification. I was excited. It was finally going to be my time; I was ready to revel in the glory of the roaring 1920s Britain.

I was excited. It was finally going to be my time; I was ready to revel in the glory of the roaring 1920s Britain. I was going to dip a toe in the ocean, make friends with a donkey and eat fish ‘n’ chips at one of the restaurants that do it best, as per my best friend Lonely Planet. I was ready for a magical afternoon in Scarborough.

I was ready for a magical freakin’ afternoon in Scarborough. Until I wasn’t.

“Why are you going to Scarborough?!” A co-worker asked me the night before our trip. “That place is a sh*thole.”

And just like that, the air had been let out of my dreams. 

Undeterred by this one man’s opinion, we kept our plan to visit Scarborough, and the very next morning Dave and I were off. As usual, the skies were grey, cloudy and exactly what you’d expect from northern England in early-December, but we happily hopped aboard and zipped our way to the coast, marvelling at the countryside that sped past our window seats.

We arrived in Scarborough just over an hour later and made a beeline for the coast. We took a rock-lined path that led us through a sea of colourful houses until we found ourselves with our toes in the sand (the toes of our boots, it was far too cold for bare feet).

The beach was less impressive than I had imagined. Instead of miles of sand with colourful huts and umbrellas, seagulls and revellers, we were met with merely a few meters of beach lined with arcades and casinos, and a couple of sad looking donkeys.

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It was not at all what I had imagined. But then again, maybe I hadn’t been properly imagining Scarborough in winter.

Regardless, we walked down along the sand, petted the donkeys and made our way up and around to Scarbrough Castle, where we looked over the quiet resort town and out into the abyss of the North Sea.

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After a quick pitstop at Anne Bronte’s grave, we made our way back into town and capped off our day by the sea the best way I could imagine: by digging into a plate of fresh, hot and crispy fish ‘n’ chips.

Bellies full, we waddled ourselves to the train station as the winter sun began to set and hopped the train back to Leeds.

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While I can’t say I welcomed the unsolicited negative opinion on the eve of our trip, it turned out to have been the harsh slap back to reality that I needed. I’d built Scarborough up so much in my head that no matter how magical it could have been, there was no way it could live up to my expectations. Now, in no way would I describe Scarborough as a sh*thole, but I would say it’s a town that’s maybe seen better days, or maybe is a town that’s better seen in summer.

Regardless, I’m glad we bit the bullet, bought the tickets, and took the time to experience a classic seaside town.


World's Fastest Trains

The Petite Adventures Guide to… A Day in Scarborough

Getting There

The TransPennine Express runs hourly services from Leeds, York and Manchester, making it very easy to reach the coast.

I’ve also heard fantastic things about the Coastliner bus, which you can pick up in Leeds City Centre. The journey takes upwards of three hours but is said to offer some pretty great sights.

What to See/Do

Where to Eat

The Lonely Planet Guide to Great Britain is available from both Amazon and Chapters, and it’s pretty great – I’d highly recommend it if you’re planning a trip to GB.


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