Scarborough is a town on the North Sea coast of North Yorkshire, England. Historically part of the North Riding of Yorkshire, the town lies between 10–230 feet (3–70 m) above sea level, rising steeply northward and westward from the harbour on to limestone cliffs. The older part of the town lies around the harbour and is protected by a rocky headland.
With a population of just over 61,000, Scarborough is the largest holiday resort on the Yorkshire coast. The town has fishing and service industries, including a growing digital and creative economy, as well as being a tourist destination. People who live in the town are known as Scarborians.
The most striking feature of the town's geography is the high rocky promontory pointing eastward into the North Sea. The promontory supports the 11th-century ruins of Scarborough Castle and divides the seafront into two bays, north and south.
The South Bay was the site of the original medieval settlement and harbour, which form the old town. This remains the main tourist area, with a sandy beach, cafés, amusements, arcades, theatres and entertainment facilities. The modern commercial town centre has migrated 440 yards (400 m) north-west of the harbour area and 100 feet (30 m) above it and contains the transport hubs, main services, shopping and nightlife. The harbour has undergone major regeneration including the new Albert Strange Pontoons, a more pedestrian-friendly promenade, street lighting and seating.
The North Bay has traditionally been the more peaceful end of the resort and is home to Peasholm Park which, in June 2007, was restored to its Japanese-themed glory, complete with reconstructed pagoda, a new boat house was added in 2018. For many years a mock maritime battle (based on the Battle of the River Plate) has been regularly re-enacted on the boating lake with large model boats and fireworks throughout the summer holiday season. The North Bay Railway is a miniature railway running from the park through Northstead Manor Gardens to the Sea Life Centre at Scalby Mills. The North Bay Railway has what is believed to be the oldest operational diesel-hydraulic locomotive in the world. Neptune was built in 1931 by Hudswell Clarke of Leeds and is appropriately numbered 1931.
Northstead Manor Gardens include the North Bay Railway and three other attractions: a water chute, a boating lake with boats for hire during the summer season and an open-air theatre. The water chute is now grade II listed and is one of the oldest surviving water chutes in Britain, with the ride of today being the same as when it was opened in the 1930s. The Lord Mayor of London opened the theatre in 1932 and audiences flocked to see Merrie England, the first production to be staged at the outdoor venue. Productions were put on during the summer seasons until musicals ceased in 1968 after West Side Story, apart from a YMCA production in 1982. In 1997 the dressing rooms and stage set building on the island were demolished and the seating removed. The last concert to be held at the open-air theatre before it closed in 1986 was James Last and his orchestra. Scarborough's open-air theatre was reopened on Friday 23 July 2010 by Queen Elizabeth II with an operatic concert starring José Carreras and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, accompanied by the Opera North Orchestra, concluding with a firework display.
North Bay and South Bay are linked by Marine Drive, an extensive Victorian promenade, built around the base of the headland. Overlooking both bays is Scarborough Castle, which was bombarded by the German warships SMS Derfflinger and SMS Von der Tann in the First World War. Both bays have popular sandy beaches and numerous rock-pools at low tide.
The South Cliff Promenade above the Spa and South Cliff Gardens has excellent views of the South Bay and old town. Its splendid Regency and Victorian terraces are still intact, with a mix of quality hotels and flats. The ITV television drama The Royal and its recent spin-off series, The Royal Today were both filmed in the area. The South Bay has the largest illuminated 'star disk' anywhere in the UK. It is 85 feet (26 m) across and fitted with subterranean lights representing the 42 brightest stars and major constellations that can be seen from Scarborough in the northern skies
To the south-west of the town, beside the York to Scarborough railway line, is an ornamental lake known as Scarborough Mere. In the 20th century the Mere was a popular park, with rowing boats, canoes and a miniature pirate ship – the Hispaniola – on which passengers were taken to 'Treasure Island' to dig for doubloons. Since the late 1990s the Mere has been redesigned as a natural space for picnics, fishing and walkers. In 2012 a new snack bar was built alongside the Mere. The lake is now part of the Oliver's Mount Country Park and the Hispaniola now sails out of Scarborough harbour during the summer season.
Surrounding the River Derwent as it flows into the sea are high hills with tall, dense grasses and fertile soil, due to the stream 'Sea Cut' leading from the River Derwent to the estuary at the North Sea. The area has flourishing and vibrant flora and crop growth.
Scarborough and its castle changed hands seven times between Royalists and Parliamentarians during the English Civil War of the 1640s, enduring two lengthy and violent sieges. Following the civil war, much of the town lay in ruins.
In 1626, Mrs Thomasin Farrer discovered a stream of acidic water running from one of the cliffs to the south of the town. This gave birth to Scarborough Spa, and Dr Robert Wittie's book about the spa waters published in 1660 attracted a flood of visitors to the town. Scarborough Spa became Britain's first seaside resort, though the first rolling bathing machines were not noted on the sands until 1735. It was a popular getaway destination for the wealthy of London, such as the bookseller Andrew Millar and his family. Their son Andrew junior died there in 1750.
The coming of the Scarborough–York railway in 1845 increased the tide of visitors. Scarborough railway station claims a record for the world's longest platform seat. From the 1880s until the First World War, Scarborough was one of the regular destinations for The Bass Excursions, when fifteen trains would take between 8,000 and 9,000 employees of Bass's Burton brewery on an annual trip to the seaside.
A young Malton architect, John Gibson, designed the Crown Spa Hotel, Scarborough's first purpose-built hotel. In 1841 a railway link between York and Scarborough was being talked of and he decided that the area above the popular Spa building could be developed. He designed and laid the foundations before passing the construction of this hotel to the newly formed South Cliff Building Company. On Tuesday, 10 June 1845 Scarborough's first hotel was opened: a marketing coup, as the Grand Hotel, soon to be Europe's largest, was not yet finished.