Scarborough, East Yorkshire popular tourist resort

PUBLISHED: 21:27 14 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:05 20 February 2013

Westborough Precinct, the main shopping area

Westborough Precinct, the main shopping area

Scarborough is a favourite with holidaymakers, Yorkshire's artistic community and house hunters with an eye for a property bargain. Tony Greenway visits this popular East Coast resort <br/>PHOTOGRAPHS BY MIKE KIPLING

I had always pegged Scarborough as good entertainment value. You know: a stroll along the beach; a plate of cockles or fish and chips; an icecream at blissful 1960s-style The Harbour Bar (a must); and, finally, a wander around the shops and amusements which make up the resort's charmingly faded seafront.

But Scarborough is more than just a grand day out and is currently undergoing something of a renaissance. It became a spa town in the 1620s with the discovery of a mineral spring and by the 19th century was known as THE leading seaside resort in Britain.

Scarborough's tourist fortunes took a dive with the advent of cheap-and-easy air travel in the 1960s (along with every other UK seaside town), but it's always been one of the most popular destinations on Yorkshire's East Coast.

It's now a property hotspot, too. People are relocating there, or buying second homes, and it's easy to see why. There are great restaurants in town, four theatres (one of them Sir Alan Ayckbourn's), fabulous views, a golden crescent of sand and great links to other parts of the county.

According to The Times, prices are higher in South Bay than North Bay, with small flats in Victorian houses in South Bay costing 120,000, and two-bed Victorian seafront flats from 190,000. In Olive Mount, South Bay, a three-bed semi is 250,000. Interior designer Lisa Skelton owns a four-storey, hillside house with stunning views across South Bay to the lighthouse at the entrance to the harbour.

'The view is terrific at night, too,' she says. 'It's really atmospheric to see all the lights dotted along the bay. Even in winter, this town is a really interesting place to live because we get really rough, grey seas crashing onto the sands. I love it here.'

Another convert is Sally Greaves Lord, a textile designer of international repute (and a former creative director of global fashion design king Issey Miyake) whose work has featured in acclaimed national exhibitions and international glossy magazines. She relocated to Scarborough from London at the end of the 1980s. 'I'd been regularly visiting Scarborough since I was seven,' she explains. 'I used to holiday there as a child, and it felt like a second home to me. I had such strong memories of the place, and it was a location I felt drawn to.'

Now she is frequently inspired by her Yorkshire surroundings. 'It seems to be the perfect location to me,' says Sally, 'and living so near water is lovely, I have to say. My designs are fairly abstract and yet I feel inspired by landscapes, towns or buildings. I feel immersed in my surroundings - and that comes out in my work.'

Then there's painter Kane Cunningham who uses one of the vacant baiting sheds on the pier as an art studio. Kane is from Manchester, but reckons that Scarborough is a gift because the light and the sea views practically beg to be interpreted. 'The landscape here is endlessly fascinating,' he says. Many TV and filmmakers have agreed with that sentiment.

Over the years Scarborough has been used as a location for Where the Heart Is, A Touch of Frost, Heartbeat and, for the big screen, the Oscar-winning Little Voice and Michael Winner's film version of Alan Ayckbourn's A Chorus of Disapproval. Sir Alan, one of the UK's most prolific playwrights, is probably the town' most famous resident, and has been artistic director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre since 1971.

Last year, though, he announced he was to step down from this role in the summer, although he intends to continue to direct the premieres of his new plays and revivals at the theatre. Later this year Alan will premiere the first new play he has written since the stroke he suffered in 2006. Called Life and Beth, it will form part of a summer season also featuring his plays Haunting Julia and Snake In The Grass.

Sir Alan is a big fan of Lanterna restaurant, which he first discovered one night in 1973, while walking home after a show. He remembers that he 'ate the first of countless memorable Italian meals' there and swore, whatever the cost, to keep the place open 'even if it meant single-handedly eating here every night...What dedication! Such sacrifice!'

Sir A isn't the only one who likes Lanterna. The Daily Telegraph, came, saw, ate and enjoyed. La Stampa, Italy's national newspaper, called Lanterna 'the English temple of Italian cuisine' and The Guardian called its chef-patron, Giorgio Alessio, 'an unreconstructed food hero.' The secret is out. Lanterna is the place to go. There is plenty of good food, great art, beautiful scenery.

Legendary cricket umpire Dickie Bird thinks Scarborough has the lot.We've interviewed Dickie elsewhere in this issue; and he named the East Coast - and Scarborough in particular - as one of his favourite places on the planet. 'I walk on the esplanade right to the end,' he told us, 'and I sit there for hours on the cliff top looking across the bay to the harbour. You tell me anywhere nicer in the world and I'd love to see it.'

Latest from the Yorkshire Life