Scarborough Castle’s story stretches back 3,000 years. It’s run by English Heritage and costs us £13 for the family to get in. At first, windswept, and staring at gulls screeching and waves battering the North Bay, it seems an expensive view. But English Heritage is running activities for the little pirates we have in tow.
It all started with sharpened flints and bows and arrows. The site was settled properly in 800 and 500BC. Sketches show men with droopy moustaches, greying hair and flowing robes, with the mournful faces of Celts.
Lots of trading went on with the Dutch, although it’s not known if any giant foam orange hats or pointy hands were sold. Some years later the Romans came and set up a signalling system to warn if the Saxons were about. The Saxons were followed by the Vikings who seemed to prefer the beach to the castle and abandoned longboats for Lilos.
The keep, built by Henry II, is hewn from the local sandstone and pocked and scored by the North Sea winds (check out the photo). I love to see weathered stone. In a churchyard near to where I live the graves that face the westerly winds have had their letters scorched and blasted. Scarborough was an important medieval castle and saw action in the Civil War and Jacobite Rebellion. Nowadays it tends to be invading seagulls. Some are the size of a small dog and can spot a dropped Cornetto from the Norfolk coast. That’s the serious bit over, but what about the cutlasses?
English Heritage had an enthusiastic young crew who really made the castle an exciting diversion for our two pirates. There was cutlass drill, painting and drawing, trying on of pirate clothes and a treasure hunt that took in most of the grounds. We were lobster-red with exhaustion and exposure by the end, but left tired and happy. And I learned that Whitby had a pirate called Gunpowder Gertie. Her treasure is still out there, somewhere. I’m waiting for the Hollywood movie and looking forward to seeing how the Californians rename her.
Back at the harbour the four of us ate cooked lunches (with drinks) for £17 in a café. The waitress was cheery, kind and brought the boys a lollipop. Best of all at the British seaside, there was plenty of food and it was piping hot. Finally, we headed to the sands and sprawled out while our pirates braved the breakers. They weren’t alone. Scarborough it seems, is increasingly popular with surfers. AA Gill can stick to the Dordogne. I’ll happily return to sip my Yorkshire Tea in Scarborough. Read Scarborough part one here.