I did not know which of two large Yorkshire resort towns to include in the title of this section as both Scarborough and Bridlington have their own charming and individual features. I chose Bridlington in the end because, being smaller, less well-known and less hectic, I picked up a warm, homely feel about the place that created images in my mind of happy, family holidays and hard-working fishermen battling the weather, casting their nets and laying their pots and landing their catch.
Scarborough originated from a 10th century Viking fishing settlement in the shelter of a craggy sandstone headland, where there had earlier been a Roman signal station. In the 12th century a Norman castle was built on the headland. Ruins of Henry II’s castle stand on a knob of land high above the town. It retains high, buttressed walls and an impressive keep. During the 17th century the town declined as a fortress town. With the improvement in transportation and with the advent of the railways in particular, Scarborough reinvented itself as a spa resort. Later sea bathing, which, it is said, first began here, contributed to the town’s growth as a fashionable 18th-century resort. Overlooking the bay, terraces of elegant building were built to cater for the new holiday makers of Georgian & Victorian times, with grand hotels dotted freely amongst them.
The resort has everything required for a traditional seaside holiday experience. Along the seafront are traditional amusement arcades, ice cream parlours, shellfish stalls, deckchair sheds and beach huts, even donkey rides on the beach. It is a tribute to the seaside splendour of yesteryear. Elements include South Cliff Italian Gardens, the derelict Sun Bathing Pavilion, the Vernacular Railway, tea and dancing in the Spa Centre, the splendour of the Grand Hotel and a small funfair on the quay between the two beaches. The glare from the glitter & the neon of the arcades & fairground hide the old alleys and steps that lead up into the old town and the castle. Shops selling gems and fossils compete for space with the bright shops selling sweet rock, candy floss or Kiss Me Quick hats. Fishing vessels berth in the inner harbour, with pleasure boats in the outer, are a reminder to visitors of the town’s long association with the sea.
Small amusements, Crazy Golf, a kiddies’ roundabout, a rock shop and a café with those square, aluminium tables and chairs outside, share the space with fishing paraphernalia – nets, pots, buoys, crates. A few fishing boats, along with their tractors, wait at the top of the cobbled slipway, poised for a Le Mans style dash to the beach and the sea.
Two rusty tractors and 3/4 cobles are a reminder that, in the past, 50 or so boats used to go fishing for cod & crabs from this pretty cove. A track leads down to a small sand & pebble beach
The Old Tower lighthouse, built in 1674, is a reminder of a fishing tradition going back to the 9th century. The 1806 lighthouse is on the headland above steep steps leading to a chalk beach.
The town was originally two settlements that merged over time – the Old Town, with its fishermen’s cottages and narrow streets was about a mile inland and the Quay area was where the modern harbour now lies. In 1837, the old wooden piers of the port were replaced with two new stone ones to create the quay. Working boats still land their catch here, leaving nets, pots and crates on the quay. Bridlington is known for its shellfish. The Gansey Girl is a sculpture, situated on the North Pier, to bid farewell to fishermen as they leave the harbour and welcoming them back as they return. She depicts a young woman sitting on a plinth knitting a gansey, a traditional jumper that contains a rich pattern of symbolism passed down through generations of fishing families around the coast of Britain.
As well as landing fish, it was used to transport corn. The 1826 Corn Exchange can still be seen in the market place. There used to be mills in the town for grinding, which led to local breweries starting up, but like most industry, these petered out by the latter part of the 20th century.
Bridlington’s first hotel opened in 1805 and it soon became a popular holiday resort for industrial workers from the West Riding of Yorkshire. A new railway station was opened in 1846, between the Quay and the historic town and the two settlements merged together. The harbour divides North and South Parades, each with a mile-long, soft ,sandy beach. The two promenades run along the top of each beach with gift shops, tea & burger bars, seaside goods, spreading out onto the pavement.