Scarborough has been one of our family seaside destinations for years, but our day trips have always been of the ice cream/bucket and spade/sand in your shoes variety. Shamefully, we’ve never really noticed Scarborough Castle, let alone visited it. But we had a tip-off that it was a fantastic place for kids, so it was our Little Vikings duty to go and check it out. And we’re really glad we did. Getting up to the castle requires a bit of commitment and some leg-work. It’s on top of a hill and there’s no dedicated car park, so you’ll probably end up parking further down and having to walk. But the reward for your breathlessness is instant: the castle – and the views from it – is nothing short of stunning. It sits on a huge expanse of headland that overlooks the north and south bays so you can watch the boats out at sea and watch out for invaders (you can’t be too careful). There’s fresh air in buckets, and a lovely feeling of freedom.
What’s in it for kids
What’s not to love about visiting a castle? The castle itself has had a hard time over the centuries, and all that remains are beautiful ruins with a fascinating past. It was the sight of Iron Age settlements, has a Roman signal station and medieval chapel, and it’s been the site of many a battle so there are lots of stories to tell.
Our kids absolutely loved it. They spent more than three hours exploring: running around the headland, playing with the Frisbee (it’s a windy spot that’d be perfect for kites too), throwing coins down the well, climbing the steps to admire the views, eating a picnic, reading about the artifacts on the touch screen in the visitor centre and then finding the real things on display. We also had the obligatory ice cream. We all came away feeling completely invigorated from all the fresh air and exercise – the eldest two (7 and 4) skipped back down the hill to the car, despite having been on their feet for hours. They’d been so busy having fun that they forgot to complain about being tired – a rare thing! We even ran out of time for a trip to the beach, but we’d had such a good time that it didn’t matter.
Food and drink
If you’re after the perfect picnic spot, Scarborough Castle is it. There are several picnic tables if you’re feeling fancy or huge expanses of grass for you to roll your blanket onto. Can’t be bothered to make your own lunch? You’ve still got options. The little tearoom in the Master Gunner’s House has a small but appealing selection of hot and cold snacks – including kids’ options – as well as hot drinks and ice creams.
Good to know
Keep an eye out for fun special events and activities at Scarborough Castle, like the Kite Festival and a variety of history-related events. As we mentioned, there’s no parking at the castle – we parked at Marine Drive. English Heritage members visit free, so it’s worth thinking about whether you would visit enough sites in a year to make it worth investing. Other local sites to York include Helmsley Castle, Clifford’s Tower Rievalux Abbey and Whitby Abbey.
– Travel time from York (approx) – 1 hour
– Opening hours – 10am to 5pm Monday to Sunday (summer)
– Cost – adult from £7.90, child (5 to 16) from £4.70, under 5s and English Heritage members free
– Parking – Blue badge holders only. We parked at the Marine Drive pay & display car park down the hill