An ultimate guide to Scarborough holiday cottages

An ultimate guide to Scarborough

Courtney Kelly 08 May 2023

Did you know that Scarborough was Britain’s first-ever seaside resort? The healing properties of the water led tourists in their droves to visit the spa and in the mid-18th century, it was the first place to introduce bathing machines.

These days, holidaymakers are not as reserved and are happy to swim in either North Bay or South Bay without such archaic contraptions. As well as the stunning beaches, there are incredible walks, attractions and places to eat in Scarborough that are not to be missed.

Scroll on to read our ultimate guide or just tap the button below to find your perfect holiday home in Scarborough.

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Scarborough beaches

North Bay

North Bay from the air and its colourful beach huts

Of Scarborough’s two main beaches, North Bay is the quieter and more rustic. That being said, it is still close to amenities and attractions, including North Bay Railway, Scarborough Open Air Theatre and Scarborough Sea Life Centre.

The long, sandy stretch of beach is popular with swimmers and surfers, and you can hire one of the brightly coloured huts if you want to spend the day here in style. At the north end of the beach, there are rocky outcrops where you’ll find rock pooling opportunities (make sure you check the tides to avoid being cut off), and to the south is the imposing 11th-century Scarborough Castle.

Restrictions: No dogs permitted on most of the beach from May to September

Parking: Car park near the beach

Facilities: Cafes, shops and toilets

Safety: RNLI-qualified lifeguard service during the summer season

South Bay

Beautiful South Bay, the coastal path and a couple in deck chairs

Scarborough is, after all, a seaside resort town; you certainly get that feeling when you visit South Bay. Its beach is backed by a promenade filled with amusement arcades, ice cream parlours, eateries and shops. If you love the water but don’t particularly want to get wet, then head to the harbour where you can charter a boat or alternatively join a speed boat tour or a cruise on a more leisurely vessel.

South Bay is likely to be the busier of the two beaches and is popular with families and surfers alike. However, the large arc of golden sand should provide plenty of room to build sandcastles or kick back in a hired deck chair so you can top up your vitamin D.

Restrictions: No dogs permitted on the beach from May to September

Parking: Car park near the beach, with a park-and-ride service operating too

Facilities: Cafes, shops and toilets

Safety: RNLI-qualified lifeguard service during the summer season

Cayton Bay

Cayton Bay from atop a cliff

If the bustling nature of Scarborough’s bays is a little too much for you and you prefer your Scarborough beaches quieter, more remote and backed by cliffs and dunes rather than arcades and shops selling sticks of rock, then head to Cayton Bay. Just 3 miles south of Scarborough, this rugged bay is hemmed in by rocky promontories and is exposed to the full force of the North Sea, making it a great spot for surfing. In fact, the Scarborough Surf School is located here rather than at one of the earlier-mentioned bays.

Have a paddle in the waters at this dog-friendly beach but we advise against swimming here as the currents are known to be strong. Fear not, there’s plenty to do out of the water, with the beach renowned for its fossil hunting prospects. There are also World War II relics to be found; the pillboxes used to sit atop the cliffs, but coastal erosion saw them slip onto the sands, where they remain as a reminder of the area’s wartime history.

Restrictions: None; dogs allowed all year

Parking: Car park by the beach

Facilities: Beach shack on the beach; toilets, shops and cafes nearby

Safety: RNLI-qualified lifeguard service on weekends and bank holidays in May and June; daily service during May half term and from July to September

Scarborough walks

Raincliffe Woods

An example of a wooded walk

Described as the ‘creme de la creme of woodland’ by the Woodland Trust, the walks at Raincliffe Woods boast a little bit of everything: sun-dappled ancient woodland, spectacular coastal views and attractive flora and fauna.

There are, in fact, three circular walks here, named Rowntree, Graham and Wallis, and they are all easily waymarked and colour coded. It’s quite an up-and-down walk, so be prepared for that, and choose your attire carefully as it can get quite muddy when wet and pretty overgrown during the summer months.

Type: Circular

Length: 5.2 miles

Elevation gain: 314 metres

Car park: Either Old Man’s Mouth car park or Raincliffe Gate car park

Cloughton and Hayburn Wyke

The waterfalls and coast of Hayburn Wyke

A walk comprising an impressive rocky cove featuring monstrous boulders and a cascading waterfall, Hayburn Wyke is the midway point of this Cleveland Way National Trail walk which follows the old Scarborough to Whitby railway line on its return to Cloughton.

Be careful of the cliff edges on the way out, especially with children and dogs, and be aware that there is a steep ascent and descent that can get quite slippery when wet. If you get to the woods of Hayburn Wyke, listen out for woodpeckers and their distinctive drumming sounds. The route back is level and easy to negotiate and is often used by cyclists and horse riders too.

Type: Circular

Length: 5 miles

Elevation gain: 204 metres

Car park: Use the old railway station in Cloughton 

The Cinder Track

The Cinder Track

This memorable route follows the old Scarborough to Whitby railway line. When the line closed in 1965, the track remained, leaving a picturesque off-road path for walkers and cyclists. Although this 21.5-mile walk may seem like a bit of a trek, there are lots of options for getting off the track and just committing to a shorter section.

If you are compelled to complete the entire route, you’ll be blessed with magnificent coastal sights and access to secluded coves along the way, and you’ll also pass the tourist hotspots of Scarborough Castle, Whitby Abbey and the Captain Cook Memorial Museum.

Type: Linear

Length: 21.5 miles (one way)

Elevation gain: 192 metres

Car park: There is a Sainsbury’s car park next to the starting point in Scarborough

Scarborough to Filey

Filey Brigg, the Cleveland Way and a cormorant

This walk, which takes in part of the Cleveland Way, is a fairly challenging route which is popular with backpackers and hikers. Despite being a walk beloved by many, you should still be able to find quiet spots for moments of solitude along the way.

The route takes you along inland pathways but also on beaches so you can get your toes wet as you walk beside your loved one, hand in hand. Part of the stroll passes the golf course at Wheatcroft to Cornelian Bay before emerging at Cayton Bay where you can walk a wooded section along Cayton Cliff. Before reaching the sands of Filey, why not stop off at the promontory of Filey Brigg? The variety of seabirds on offer is well worth the slight detour.

Type: Linear

Length: 10.5 miles (one way)

Elevation gain: 347 metres

Car park: To save walking back, you could park at Station Avenue car park in Filey and get the train to Scarborough to start your walk

Days out in Scarborough with the kids

Alpamere Water Park

Splashing great fun with flumes, a wave pool and an infinity pool

Set back a little way from North Bay, Alpamere offers a wet day out without the risk of bringing a beach-worth of sand home with you afterwards. If you’re looking for things to do in Scarborough with the kids (or even if you’re just a big kid), this water park is the place to come.

With four state-of-the-art water slides, a large wave pool with metre-high waves, a splash zone for the little ones, and a warm garden pool, you’ll easily be able to spend an exhilarating day here. And if you’re looking for a bit of relaxation after the excitement of the flumes, either take in the sights of the bay from the infinity pool or visit the wellness spa for a bit of ‘me time’ and a treatment or two.

Location: 28 Burniston Rd, Scarborough YO12 6PH

Opening hours: See here

Price:  See here

Scarborough North Bay Railway

The Oriental-style Peasholm Park and a small waterfall

Britain’s ‘biggest’ miniature railway has been running for over 90 years and offers so much for families and groups of friends. Running between Peasholm Station and Scalby Mills, this heritage railway offers classic locomotives that will delight young and old, and scenery that everyone can appreciate. You can grab snacks and drinks at either station or, for a real treat, book yourself in for a fish and chip supper aboard the train!

Get off at Scalby Mills for the SEA LIFE Centre or stay on for the return journey and take advantage of the historic water chute, one of only three vintage seaside attractions of its kind left in the country. Step into the boat-like vessels and fly down the ramp at speed, ending up in the boating lake after a bit of a splash.

Peasholm Park, which was once voted the 6th best park in the UK, is an Oriental-style municipal park just a few hundred metres from Peasholm Station. Wander over the mini bridges and take in the wonderful streams and waterfalls, or get out on the boating lake in one of many types of vessel on offer. There’s a putting green, a mini 18-hole golf course, cafes, kiosks and toilets. Also, check for events as there is usually something interesting going on.

Location: Station Building, Burniston Road, Scarborough, YO12 6PF

Opening hours: From 1 April to 5 November

Price: Train rides – £5.40 adult return, £4.90 child return, £3.90 single, £1.50 dogs; water chute £3.50 per person; charges apply for activities at Peasholm Park

Luna Park

Swing rides, hook-a-duck and dodgems

Located at the north end of South Bay, near Scarborough Harbour, Luna Park is a small, family-friendly theme park full of rides, attractions and refreshments. Whilst you’re building up the courage to ride on Cyclone, a one-of-a-kind ride featuring daredevil twists and turns, why not take it a bit easier on the dodgems or the teacup ride with the little ones?

There are chances to win prizes at the hook-a-duck and basketball stalls, and when you get peckish, there’s a choice of freshly made treats to fill your bellies. Don’t eat too much though, as you’ll need to finish your day off with some more adrenaline-fuelled rides such as Exposure and King Frog.

Location: Sandside, Scarborough YO11 1PG

Opening hours: See here

Price: Credit system using Funcards, see here

Sea Life Centre

SEA LIFE Scarborough from across the waves

At the north end of North Bay, past the golf club, lies SEA LIFE Scarborough. As mentioned earlier, you can get the North Bay Railway from Peasholm Station and get off at Scalby Mills, or if you’re feeling energetic, you can join the Cleveland Way from multiple points in Scarborough to reach the centre.

With more than 2,500 creatures to investigate and explore, you can dive into an amazing underwater world full of excitement. Visit Penguin Island and meet the colony of flightless birds as you walk through their ranks. Come face to face with blacktip reef sharks in the 200,000-litre Ocean Tunnel. And if you’re more of a land-lover, head to the Rainforest Adventure where you can marvel at critters such as green tree pythons and poison arrow dart frogs.

Location: Scalby Mills Road, Scarborough, YO12 6RP

Opening hours: See here

Price: Tickets from £16, see here

More things to do in Scarborough

Scarborough Open Air Theatre

An example of an open-air theatre

Having been originally opened by the Mayor of London in the early 1930s, the Scarborough OAT has gone from strength to musical strength. The stage used to be in the middle of the lake, but following a huge investment from the local council, the newly refurbished version, which sits near the edge of the water, was opened by the Queen in 2010.

The natural amphitheatre of this venue produces amazing acoustics for the audience and with just under 5,500 seats as well as standing room, everyone can get a good view of the stage. It’s an incredible place to watch a performance and recent acts have included Elton John, Britney Spears, Gary Barlow, Kylie, Noel Gallagher, Lionel Richie, Nile Rodgers, Biffy Clyro, Little Mix and Lewis Capaldi.

Location: Burniston Rd, Scarborough YO12 6PF

Price: Varies depending on the artist, see here

Scarborough Spa

Scarborough Spa up close and in the distance

Like Scarborough’s Beachcomber seafront open-top buses, two fantastic open-air venues have come along at once! Scarborough Spa is home to the Scarborough Spa Orchestra which holds morning and evening concerts as well as special gala nights. Now in its 111th year, the UK's only remaining professional seaside orchestra has an enviable repertoire including classical greats, Viennese waltzes, operettas and even songs your children might recognise.

The venue has a bar and brasserie, as well as fine dining options. If it’s just the music and the gorgeous seaside view you desire, grab a deck chair and sit back and relax while beautifully crafted compositions transport you to another time.

Location: South Bay, Scarborough YO11 2HD

Opening hours and price: See here

Scarborough Castle

Scarborough Castle from different angles at different times of the day

Sitting atop the 16-acre headland that bisects Scarborough’s beaches, the imposing and dominant figure of Scarborough Castle keeps a watchful eye on both North and South Bay. The English Heritage-owned castle suffered attack after attack from Vikings, Tudors and a Parliamentary army during an epic Civil War siege, so it’s little surprise that the fortress was left in ruins. However, that which remains is majestic and offers panoramic views over the coastline.

Take an audio tour to learn all about the castle’s past, climb the towers to find viewing platforms or just explore the grounds, keeping a lookout for wildflowers and wildlife. If all this takes it out of you, head to the Coffee Shed to replenish your fluids and grab a snack.

Location: South Bay, Scarborough YO11 2HD

Opening hours and price: 10am to 5pm every day, see here for up-to-date times and prices

Sea fishing

A man sea fishing

If you’re looking to fish whilst on your Scarborough holiday, you’ll be pleased to hear that the Yorkshire coast possesses a wealth of species to hook including cod, bass, whiting, pollack, coalfish, wrasse, dabs, thornback rays and mackerel. You can choose from boat angling and charter a vessel to head a bit deeper, or you can try your hand at shore fishing, joining the locals at the popular rock mark in front of the Sealife Centre at Scalby. The sea wall here is a lovely spot to fish when the tide is high but do note that it can get busy.

There are many companies offering boat fishing trips so do shop around and if you’re on holiday in September, look out for the Scarborough Angling Festival.

See here for fishing charters in or near Scarborough.

Places to eat in Scarborough

Mother Hubbard’s

A classic portion of fish and chips

Located less than half a mile west of South Bay, Mother Hubbard’s is a family-run, award-winning fish-and-chip restaurant. Utilising high-quality ingredients, the staff of this air-conditioned restaurant produces traditional, belly-filling meals and it’s fully licensed with a lovely selection of beers, wines and spirits.

There are seats for 150 customers so you’re likely to get a table but for groups of six or more, it’s advisable to book. They have lots of specials including seasonal choices and senior citizens options, and the menu has plenty for the non-fish lovers in your group.

Location: 43 Westborough, Scarborough YO11 1UN

Menu: See here

Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday 11.30am-6pm

Top pick: Fish ‘n’ Fizz Fryday (served every day)

Harbour Bar

A selection of ice creams and children eating them

Now, Harbour Bar isn’t a one-man show, but the factory at the back of the famous ice cream parlour only fits one person and that’s where Giulian Alonzi, the owner, spends most of his time. He’s a man that knows pretty much all there is to know about ice cream creation and he can make between 1,500-2,000 litres of ice cream in a day. If the Scarborough sun is out, that’ll only last 48 hours!

If you’re in Scarborough, Harbour Bar is a must-visit. This award-winning parlour does all the staples like vanilla, strawberry and chocolate, then there’s a range of sorbets to choose from, and not forgetting their mouth-watering sundaes: Knickerbocker Glory, Bananarama and Eton Mess to name just three!

Location: 1-3 Sandside, Scarborough YO11 1PE

Menu: Check out all the delicious treats here

Opening hours: See here

Top pick: Toasted waffles with ice cream and fruit toppings


A wood-fired pizza oven

Using locally sourced Yorkshire produce (and some home-grown ingredients), Embers Restaurant fuses creativity and craftsmanship to produce phenomenal dishes from its wood-fired kitchen. The owner and head chef, Dan Hargreaves, says that he strives for excellence and we think that he’s achieving just that with a menu full of British classics with international twists.

The excellent selection of wines, craft beers and cocktails will keep you at your table long into the night, even if you decide against one of their lip-smacking desserts. If you try to reserve a table and they are fully booked, fear not as Embers often does pop-ups in the area where you can taste the wood-fired brilliance. If you’re looking for places to eat in Scarborough, this has got to be at the top of your list.

Location: 138 Victoria Road, Scarborough, YO11 1SL

Menu: See the Facebook page for the menu

Opening hours: Wednesday-Friday 5pm-9pm and Saturday 12pm-3pm

Top pick: Embers Brisket Burger

Clark’s Restaurant

Two high-end meals and some fine wine

If it’s a true fine dining experience in Scarborough that you’re after, a visit to Clark’s Restaurant will be the easiest decision you make all holiday. Located in the historic Old Town, Clark’s produces food that is so pretty, you won’t want to eat it… except that you definitely will want to eat it!

Local seafood features heavily on the menu, but there are tantalising options to suit most members of your group (please note that there are no vegan options and no children’s menu). Opening only for a few hours in the evening, this gives the head chef, Rob Clark, plenty of time to create his masterpieces. If you want luxury, this is it.

Location: 40 Queen Street Scarborough, YO11 1HQ

Menu: See here

Opening hours: Wednesday-Saturday 5.30pm-8.30pm

Top pick: Clark’s Surf and Turf

Pubs in Scarborough

Old Scalby Mills

A traditional, nautical pub

Located at the end of the promenade at the north end of North Bay, the Old Scalby Mills is a friendly pub that welcomes children and dogs. It’s the perfect destination if you’ve just visited SEA LIFE Scarborough as it’s only 150 metres away.

Inside, you’ll find exposed stone walls complemented by modern seating and a bright decor with nautical touches giving you the best of both worlds. Its enviable position offers sea views whilst you eat homemade meals, drink superb real ales and chat about the next Scarborough attraction to visit. If the weather’s fine, head out onto the covered terrace where you can enjoy the sea breeze and rest a while.

Location: Scalby Mills Road YO12 6RP

Opening hours: Monday-Thursday 11am-9pm; Friday and Saturday 11am-10pm; Sunday 11am-8pm

Dog friendly: Yes

Food available: Yes, see menu here

Quayside Bar

A long line of craft beers on tap

If you’re looking for pubs in Scarborough that focus on their craft beer offering, then your best bet is Quayside Bar. Situated amongst the hustle and bustle of South Bay, they are the only craft beer bar on Scarborough seafront. They have eight craft lagers on tap as well as an abundance of exciting and brightly coloured cans comprising some adventurous flavours. If you’d prefer to stick to what you know, they also provide the usual lagers, ciders and ales, as well as Guinness.

Sit indoors or outdoors, depending on the weather, and order from the tempting menu which includes homemade scones and authentic German hot dogs. In fact, nearly everything on the menu is made in-house, meaning you know that the quality is there even if the meals themselves are quite naughty!

Location: 25-26 Sandside, YO11 1PE

Opening hours: Open seven days a week

Dog friendly: Yes

Food available: Cakes cream teas, burgers, hot dogs, loaded fries, sandwiches and bar snacks

Tunny Catch

A family having fun, a pool table and hunter's chicken

The Tunny Catch is the perfect journey's end after a joyful day out with the family. You might just have finished an afternoon of splashing great fun at Alpamere Water Park which is 300 metres away. If so, continue the family-friendly vibes at the Tunny which boasts a family area with children’s games, a pool table, a gorgeous outdoor patio and a children’s play area.

The menu does all the classics you might expect from a traditional pub including mac and cheese, hunter’s chicken, burgers, steaks, and fish and chips. There’s even a pizza kitchen as well as vegan options. And then, if you or the kids have any room left, finish off with a bowl of your favourite flavours from the ice cream parlour.

Location: 24 Burniston Road, Scarborough, YO12 6PH

Opening hours: 11am-11pm every day

Dog friendly: Yes

Food available: Yes, see menu here

The Stumble Inn

A selection of high-quality beers

Despite the name, you might want to make sure you don’t ‘stumble out’ of this lovely little Scarborough pub, what with all the high-quality beers, ciders and spirits on offer. The Stumble Inn offers six hand pulls, that often change daily, and a 14-line tap wall serving irresistible craft beers.

Located 300 metres from the train station, this award-winning micro-pub is a great option for a car-free outing in Scarborough. As they have so many locally and nationally sourced drinks, you can sample the wares before you buy and, once you’ve decided, you can take your drinks out to the pleasant roadside beer garden and watch the world go by as you sup your tipple.

Location: 59 Westborough, Scarborough, YO11 1TS

Opening hours: Monday 3pm-10pm; Tuesday-Thursday 1pm-10pm; Friday-Sunday 12pm-12am

Dog friendly: Yes

Food available: No

Places to stay in Scarborough

Now that we’ve covered almost everything there is to do in Scarborough, all that’s left is to find a holiday cottage that’s right for you and your group. Throughout Yorkshire, we have cottages with enclosed gardens, and in Scarborough itself, we have holiday lets with sea views, dog-friendly accommodation and homes-away-from-home large enough for big groups. Find your perfect Scarborough spot today.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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