January 19, 2014 by talkaboutyork
I had a rainy Saturday with an eight year old to fill.
(We have a new ‘Divide and Conquer’ parenting strategy in which my husband and I each take one of our children and spend some quality time with them, instead of trying to accommodate four people’s wishes which invariably leads to arguments.)
A rainy day in January might not seem like the best time to visit the seaside town of Scarborough, but throw in a train ride, arcade games and a lunch out and the weather doesn’t really matter – and waiting for good weather in England would see you never leaving your house.
So armed with a hot chocolate and a pack of cards,we caught the train from York and set off on our seaside adventure. The £15.90 ticket price was worth it simply to see the look on my son’s face as the train crossed Scarborough bridge over the River Ouse. Kids these days seem to have seen and done it all. It takes a lot to elicit genuine awe. But for whatever reason, crossing the river by train was massively exhilarating for my small boy.
We settled down to our game of cards, watching through rain spattered windows as the flat expanse of land surrounding York morphed into the beautiful rolling Howardian hills.
I’d never been to Scarborough. Frankly, I had low expectations. But given its reputation as North Yorkshire’s largest seaside resort I felt it was on my list of places I really should go visit.
After 50 minutes we arrived and made our way down along the main shopping street, the type of street that could have been anywhere in Britain featuring the same uninspiring value shops that adorn most high streets. There seemed to be a larger than average number of boarded up or empty stores and the entire place had an air of fatigue and poverty about it. The people we passed all looked equally downtrodden. It wasn’t a promising start.
We made our way down to the South Bay, straight to the arcades. There is something woefully depressing about seaside arcades. Just me? Perhaps it’s the smell of all the coppers and desperation on people’s faces to win a piece of plastic tat they could buy a job lot of at a pound shop. But when in Rome……so we put £3 into the change machine and got a large tub of 2p pieces. My son thought he had died and gone to heaven. They might be gaudy, loud and smell of fried onions, but games arcades can happily amuse a small child for hours for very little money. My advice is to get yourself a tub and just go with it. The look on your child’s face when they finally win that cheap piece of plastic will be worth it.
After finally spending all of our 2p pieces (and rather wishing I’d brought some hand wipes to remove the coppery smell from my fingers), we headed out in search of lunch. As I’m allergic to fish, the standard seaside fare of fish and chips isn’t massively helpful to me, so I can’t comment on the quality of fish vs that of Whitby. We opted for a chain pizza restaurant next to the harbour, mainly because it was dry and offered some respite from the rain, with views of fishing trawlers.
After lunch we made our way to Scarborough Castle, an English Heritage property. My son didn’t want to go. He wanted to return to the arcades, but with a bribe of some fun snaps which he could throw as he went, we made our way up to the castle. It is situated on a magnificent headland that gives impressive views of the bays to the north and south. I wanted to listen to the audio commentary about the site’s 3000 year old history but had promised that it would be a quick visit, so had to settle for a whirlwind dash around the ramparts. It is a fantastic location with history dating back to the bronze age, with the obligatory Romans and Vikings thrown into the mix with more ‘modern’ history from the civil war in the 1600s not to mention an attack during WW1.
As I looked out at the town nestled below the castle, I imagined how fantastic a place Scarborough could be or perhaps was in the past. Sadly, today, it is a town that looks like it could do with a lottery windfall. Perhaps it would be better in the sunshine over summer when the funfair is operational and more shops and restaurants are open. But I doubt that a yellow sun and sparkling sea would be able to wash away the air of faded glory that hangs over the place.
I wasn’t allowed to go see the grave of novelist Anne Bronte or explore some of the more interesting side streets off the main shopping street, although I did manage to get this snap which alludes to a more interesting seaside history than that of arcades:
We had another arcade visit and a brief game of hopscotch on the beach before the tide washed our pitch away. As more clouds rolled in, we decided to make our way home. My son would happily return if only to put 2p pieces into slot machines. I will return on a summer’s day to experience Scarborough’s famed seaside scene. Perhaps the town puts on a coat of lipstick for summer holiday makers, bringing the gaudy fun of kiss me quick holidays to life. Perhaps.
Despite my less than glowing review of Scarborough, I still had a thoroughly enjoyable adventure with my small boy. And we have one more place we can tick off our list of places to explore.