Traveling in the UK: Scarborough

Sometimes when you live in a busy city and spend your days rushing from one study session to the next, you need to pack up the car with good friends and go see the ocean. Lucky for us Leeds students, it’s not too far away!

With exams quickly approaching and to-do lists mounting, I knew I needed to schedule in some time to unwind. I and three of my friends had been brainstorming ideas for a quick one-night trip and we decided on the cute (but very windy!) town of Scarborough.

Scarborough is only about 1 ½ hours away from Leeds by car but if you don’t have any friends who can drive here, you can get there in about the same amount of time by train, or by bus for about double the time. However when you do get there, make sure to watch the passing countryside- it is beautiful!

Although napping in the backseat while your friend drives is certainly much easier, taking the train is by far my favorite way to explore England. Traveling by train is not common in the United States so every time I board one here I feel like I’m setting off to my first year at Hogwarts.

When we arrived, we quickly checked into our hotel and went right back out to explore. It’s always fun to travel as an international student because you’re almost guaranteed good conversation with the locals wherever you go- once they hear an accent, they want to know more!

The layout of Scarborough is quite fascinating- it’s situated on a cliff peninsula with the highest point being the site of the old castle ruins. When you drive up to the town, be prepared for hills! The windy roads host a mix of old and new constructions and you won’t want to take your eyes off the gorgeous multi-colored houses that line the cliff face.

One of the very first buildings we saw – the white hotel in the picture above – had ‘BOSTON’ written right across the front- I felt like I was back in Massachusetts for a moment!

The shoreline was breathtaking. Even though it was quite cold, there is something about the intensity of English beaches that really draws you in and makes you want to jump right into the water. We were definitely tempted!

As we stopped to look at the map of the beach, a sweet local couple from around the corner came right up and asked about our trip- our confused looks must have given us away. It made me reflect on how often I am approached by locals wherever I go who are so enthusiastic about lending a hand. Whether it was during the first few days I lived in Leeds when I needed help finding my way around campus or when I traveled to neighboring towns, I’ve always been met with such kindness and hospitality. It certainly makes being an international student a lot easier.

After a lovely chat, we descended towards the water and looped around some steep paths to make our way to Scarborough Castle. What a sight to be seen! From afar the grounds look quite small but if you walk up towards the site from near the water and crest the hill, the castle grounds are actually quite large. If you ever get the chance to go, bring good shoes! My poor friend Holly wore flats the whole trip and had to buy some plasters pretty early on. But she looked great!

After walking around all day visiting the shops, arcades, and old buildings and even taking a £1 trip up a funicular to help Holly avoid more steep hills, we stayed at an absolutely charming little bed & breakfast just a couple of minutes from the shore. Our room was at the very top of the building and our back window looked right out onto a massive cricket stadium.

The next morning might have been the highlight of the entire trip for me- I had my first ever full English! I was as happy as a clam. Between the front-row seats to the cricket match and an early start with tea and a full English, I felt like I got the complete British experience!

Before we left the next day, we spent the afternoon walking around Peasholm Park which stretches along a brook leading to a Japanese-style pond and garden. We had wanted to have a weekend full of nature and budding Spring flowers and this park was a perfect way to end the trip. Peasholm Park is an absolute must if you are in Scarborough!

Both semesters in Leeds have been quite busy and have absolutely flown by. Although there is always work to be done throughout the year, it’s really important to take the opportunity to do some exploring around the country. Not only does it recharge your batteries for exam time, it gives you a chance to appreciate the people and history all around you to build new understandings about what British culture is all about.

I am so lucky to have met friends who want to show me these little gems in their country. When my friends dropped me off at my house at the end of our mini-excursion, I was touched to hear them say how much they loved watching me react to all the new things I saw everywhere. Even though they grew up in Britain and had both been to Scarborough many times, they said that watching me explore was like seeing the town again from a completely new perspective. Leeds really brings people together!