south, Scarborough couldn't be further removed from the timeless peace
and tranquillity of the coastal villages. It first became famous in 1626
when a Mrs Tomyzin Farrer discovered the medicinal properties of the town's
spring waters. Faster than she could shout the news from the rooftops,
their fame spread and Scarborough was established as the first seaside
spa resort, attracting people from all over the region who wanted to "take
the water" for their aches and pains. To meet the needs of this influx
of visitors, the town provided every fashionable amenity, from nightly
dancing and gaming tables to afternoon theatre and horse-racing on the
sands, as well as a huge range of accommodation. The Victorians brought
a touch of elegance and glamour to the seaside town, introducing some
of the finest formal gardens in Britain, the magnificent Scarborough Spa
and the Esplanade.
Since then the town has spread along the broad twin bays, topped by the
castle on the mighty headland which overlooks the harbour below. Visitors
from all over the country and abroad now flock to Scarborough for a taste
of a true British holiday beside the sea, complete with miles of golden
sands, well maintained amusement arcades, traditional gift shops and harbour-side
stalls selling locally made rock and fresh shellfish. Climb the steep
cobbled streets to the top of the cliff for spectacular views across the
bay, or browse around the bustling shopping centre and the old town where
trade and tourism keep the atmosphere vibrant throughout the year.
Fewer people will appreciate the town's less publicised assets. The Rotunda
Museum, for example, with its striking circular plan, was built in 1829
by Scarborough Philosophical Society to display the collection fossils
and geological rocks of William Smith, a native of the town who was the
first to identify the age of rocks through studying fossils in the different
strata. Known as the Father of Geology, he designed the museum in layers
from floor to ceiling to show the periods in a very visual fashion. He
also installed a platform on wheels so visitors could view the exhibits
more closely. The platform still remains although the museum concentrates
on archaeological displays rather than geological finds.
Another fascinating treasure is the easily missed Three Mariners inn which,
according to a modest plaque at the rear, is one of the earliest pubs
in the town. It is now a maritime museum dedicated mainly to the history
of smuggling in Scarborough, although at one time the tiny building was
used as a temporary mortuary for the bodies of sailors brought ashore
in the wake of a disaster at sea.
Tragedy also struck Anne Bronte in Scarborough when, in 1849, at the age
of 28, she visited her favourite seaside town with her sister Charlotte.
Desperately ill with consumption, she hoped the sea air would do her some
good, but just days into the visit she died and her grave - still beautifully
kept - can be seen in the churchyard of St Mary's.
Scarborough's links with literature and drama remain strong, thanks to
British playwright Alan Ayckbourn, who premiers his plays at the celebrated
Stephen Joseph Theatre. People flock from all over the country to see
his work performed and the more observant among them may well catch a
glimpse of the writer himself as he watches from shadows.
Visitors from even further afield make an annual trek to the town for
the International Bike Week and regular race meetings at Oliver's Mount,
a breath-takingly twisty road which tests the riders' skills to their
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