Lemon tops, beach walks and stunning architecture - what to expect from a staycation in Scarborough

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Atop the South Bay cliff, looking down on the distinctive chequerbaord floor of Scarborough spa and its opulent Victorian architecture, its white columns standing proud against the blue sky, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in a faraway place instead of one of the North’s top seaside towns.

With its stretches of beaches and bracing air, Scarborough has been attracting holidaymakers for centuries – and with good reason.

While nearby Whitby offers more of a quaint, ‘olde worlde’ charm, this North Yorkshire resort does things bigger, from the flashing neon signs of its arcades and ice cream shops on every corner to its imposing Victorian architecture which pierces the sky, from the towering Grand Hotel to the aforementioned picture-perfect spa theatre.

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On a weekend break, we stayed in one such grand building: the Derwent House Apartments.

Staycationing in Scarborough, North YorkshireStaycationing in Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Staycationing in Scarborough, North Yorkshire

Housed in the handsome Esplanade Gardens stretch of five-storey townhouses which arch their way from South Bay, it’s a stone’s throw from the beach and the perfect place from which to explore the town.

However, with every little attention to detail thought of in the apartment, you may want to spend plenty of time inside enjoying the accommodation.

The former home, which was built in 1852 as Scarborough blossomed into a holiday hot spot, has a long history of catering for visitors to the coastal spot.

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A hotel since the early 20th century due to its prime location, it even housed the men of RAF Bomber Command, before becoming a hotel once more post-war.

The view from South Bay looking down onto Scarborough SpaThe view from South Bay looking down onto Scarborough Spa
The view from South Bay looking down onto Scarborough Spa

Most recently the Derwent Hotel, it started a new chapter in 2019 and underwent an extensive and sympathetic multi-million pound renovation to transform it into five self-catering apartments, which are a mixture of either two or three-bedrooms.

Each apartment is named after a local beauty spot along the course of the River Derwent. Ours was the Ganton, a two-bedroom split level apartment at the top of the house (fortunately, there’s a lift to take you between floors.)

Elegance flows throughout this apartment from the panelled master bedroom offering views of the town’s Victorian red-brick rooftops to the kitchen which looks like it’s sprung straight from the pages of an interior design magazine.

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The latter is incredibly well-equipped, from a great range of wines, which can be purchased, to drawers filled with every piece of kitchen equipment possible to complimentary scones and a Yorkshire Post to sit down and relax with on arrival.

Derwent House houses five self-catering apartmentsDerwent House houses five self-catering apartments
Derwent House houses five self-catering apartments

Smart TVs, wifi and an Alexa come as standard, but for more traditional entertainment there’s also a range of board games, such as Monopoly (Scarborough edition, of course) and Articulate as well as coffee table fashion tomes and local history books to flick through.

There’s keen attention to detail in the bedrooms too, with earplugs in case you’re not used to the squawking of seagulls and L'Occitane toiletries in the bathrooms. Parking permits are also available on arrival for parking on the road outside.

High Victorian ceilings and large rooms, as well as an en-suite and main bathroom, means there’s plenty of space, for up to four or six people to share the apartments – making it good value for money, especially when booking off peak.

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*Prices for Derwent House start at £180 per night for the 2-bedroom apartments, but in the summer time increase up to £325 per night at the weekend. The 3-bedroom apartments start at £210 and increase up to £400 in the summer at the weekend. For more information visit derwenthouseapartments.co.uk

Visitors have been flocking to Scarborough for decades. Picture Tony JohnsonVisitors have been flocking to Scarborough for decades. Picture Tony Johnson
Visitors have been flocking to Scarborough for decades. Picture Tony Johnson

Eating Out

A lemon top, whatever the weather, is a must on a trip to the North Yorkshire coast. That tart mix of ice cream topped with a lemon sorbet is addictive stuff.

Fish and chips are also almost obligatory (just don’t feed the seagulls who’ve grown far too accustomed to discarded chips).

Like any seaside town worth its salt, seafood in general is also in plentiful supply and you won’t have to go far on a stroll along the seafront for a crab sandwich on the go or a pot of whelks.

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But while all the old coastal culinary traditions are on offer, there’s also a wave of more modern restaurants to try.

We really enjoyed our visit to Clark’s in Queen Street which uses Yorkshire produce to great effect in its dishes.

The open plan kitchen in the Ganton apartment at Derwent House. Photo by David TeeceThe open plan kitchen in the Ganton apartment at Derwent House. Photo by David Teece
The open plan kitchen in the Ganton apartment at Derwent House. Photo by David Teece

Locally-landed seafood features heavily, such as Scarborough crab, lobster and seaweed, as well as produce from around the vast farming county of Yorkshire, such as grass-fed beef and a range of game.

To start I enjoyed a rich and lustrous risotto of white truffle and parsley oil with Wensleydale, Styrian pumpkin pesto, PX sherry syrup and toasted pumpkin seeds (£9.5). It was a really inventive take on a classic dish and a great-sized portion for the price.

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My mains was also a real feast of flavours: a light, seared Scottish halibut whose delicate natural flavour was given extra depth with a scorched St Andrew’s Cheddar & Woldgold Ale rarebit, served with a moreish sprout and potato hash and a rich Scarborough lobster, oak smoked salmon & root vegetable bisque (£28).

Other things to do

::Save your legs with a trip on one of the working funiculars. Scarborough is home to the country’s first cliff-side railway.

::Take a stroll around the Orient without leaving North Yorkshire. Peasholm Park in North Bay is a charming park with its oriental theme pagoda, lake and waterfalls. Look out for the naval warfare battles which are a real spectacle.

::Enjoy a performance at Scarborough Spa. Shows this season include Carmen, Dr Hook, Russell Brand, Jason Manford and The Illegal Eagles.

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::Standing proud between the two bays, Scarborough Castle dates back to the 12th century and was once a great royal fortress. It’s operated today by English Heritage.

::Always a family favourite, Sea Life Scarborough has more than 2,500 creatures, including penguins, otters, clownfish and blacktip reef sharks.