Scarborough and over the Irish Sea

Scarborough Harbour

Ice-cream, chips and amusement arcades cheek by jowl with hidden heritage. Waiting for buses, trains and planes. Manchester airport mayhem. Joining the Front Row Forwards

I load up my travel back-pack and leave the Crow’s Nest in Staithes for the last time. I am en-route to Scarborough today ready for an early train tomorrow morning. There is a wait at Whitby for a bus connection and I watch the town coming to life in the early morning sunshine with seagulls swooping on the bin lorry.

I arrive in Scarborough earlier than planned and phone to check that I can leave my bag at the Raincliffe Hotel before following Google there along a busy road. The AI behemoth doesn’t know about the shorter walking route which I discover later so takes me along the main road over the high, windy, Valley Bridge. I probably could have hiked today but I have planned things poorly and my hiking gear is all packed so I decide to discover what Scarborough has to offer.

I visit the Rotunda Museum: mostly geology and fossils but a display of finds from the Mesolithic site at Star Carr is something special. Afterwards I climb the hill to the art gallery which has an exhibit from the Printmakers Council (the gallery holds their archive) and a help-yourself tea room where I have to wait for the coffee to brew.

Scarborough cliff lift
Scarborough cliff lift

I take the cliff lift down from the Grand Hotel to the promenade and sit to eat a very early lunch, mainly to lighten my small day-pack which is stuffed full and too heavy.

Scarborough is a mixed bag of yesteryear’s grandeur, tawdry tat and hidden heritage. There is a noticeable dichotomy between work and leisure with fishermen, arcade attendants, ice-cream vendors and street sweepers hard at work servicing the day-trippers and fleecing their pockets. There are the worlds of the old and young: the elderly sit in their warm coats in sunny shelters drinking tea from flasks while bare-topped male youths show off by drinking beer from bottles and young children play with buckets and spades on the beach. There are disabled people in wheelchairs and infants in buggies, all with their hard working carers. There are quiet, shady gardens and brash, noisy arcades and fairgrounds; fresh fruit in the spacious Market Hall and fruit machines on the busy prom; wide tree-lined boulevards and hidden, dark lanes and alleyways behind the main drag; Medieval, Victorian, and 20th century heritage all mixed together; but somehow the 21st century feels absent.

1901 Toll House
1901 Toll House

I sit on the terrace of the Sunrise Cafe opposite the thrills of Lunar Park funfair which opened in 1939, and draw the 1901 Toll House which charged a penny for “…each person walking, riding on horseback or bicycle, travelling in a carriage, motor car or bath-chair.”

Scarborough Castle
Scarborough Castle

I climb the steep path up to the castle perched on the North Cliff high above the harbour. It is a massive site with Iron Age, Roman and Medieval remains. In contrast to the brash offerings down in the town, English Heritage are running a genteel wine and jam tasting outside the Master Gunner’s House but there aren’t many takers.

Scarborough Harbour
Scarborough Harbour

I come back to the Old Town past St Mary’s Church and onto the harbour. After another sketch as the ‘Pirate Boat’ offers today’s last trips around the bay, I have had enough fun so go back to my hotel for a while. Later I venture out again to find something to eat and then explore the back streets just behind the promenade. There are old half-timbered buildings with new red-brick terraces alongside them and I think what a shame that planners have apparently lost sight of the value of the heritage of the town in favour of the ‘traditional seaside’ experience.

Scarborough Station
Scarborough Station

In the morning I make an early start and have enough time for a sketch of the magnificent station structure while I wait for my train. On the train to York the man sitting next to me in the packed train is a professional guide on long distance walking trails and he has some wonderful tales to tell. I particularly like the one about a client who booked on the Coast to Coast hike but refused to walk through puddles. They soon found themselves on a bus back to base.

Train interior
Train interior

A change at York and the woman sitting next to me doesn’t want to chat so I draw the view.

Manchester Airport
Manchester Airport

At Manchester airport station the lifts have baffling signage and there are lost tourists of all nationalities going up and down; the concourse moving pathways are broken so it’s a 10 minute walk to departures and, as usual, the Manchester security queues are horrendous. The departure ‘lounge’ is hell. After negotiating the compulsory snaking route past the disgusting perfume shops which make me wheeze, I am confronted by a jostling mass of people. It is absolutely heaving and buying a salad box takes forever. Finally I find a quieter seat with a view over the apron.

On the ‘Aer Lingus Regional operated by Stobart Air’ plane (ie small) I am seated in the midst of a rugby team who are large, loud and drinking heavily. It’s not a peaceful flight and I have the prop forward’s knees in my back most of the way, but I don’t argue with him and am relieved and happy to be welcomed in the very civilised arrivals hall of Cork airport by Herself who drives me home to West Cork.

It is good to be back with rich memories of my hike around the North Yorkshire Moors, but I have caught the walking bug and it won’t be long before I am off again – but a little closer to home this time…

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