top of page

Are you going to Scarborough…?

Updated: Oct 10, 2022

Well I’m glowing today, because I’m quite delighted with my presentation to AusAPT last night.

The time difference was fascinating because it was 11pm on Saturday night here in the UK, but it was 9am on Sunday in Australia. For that reason the Zoom turnout may not have been as large as it could have been, but enough were there to make it matter, and it seems like people really enjoyed and got a lot out of it. At some point I’ll probably turn it into a video on my website or something because it expresses much of the current frustration I feel when speaking with others about psychological types. Often they are in one paradigm while I’m in another.

In other news, we’ve been out sightseeing! Inspired by the song, we went to visit Scarborough.

Scarborough is a touristy town located on the North Sea coastline. The oldest seaside resort in England, it is also the largest holiday resort on the Yorkshire Coast. Tourism plays a major role in the local economy with Scarborough enjoying its status as the second most-visited destination in England by British holidaymakers (some say first most-visited). Residents of the town are known as Scarborians.

The Scarborough Fair actually refers to an annual trading fair from the Middle Ages that was given a royal charter by King Henry III of England in 1253. It used to last around 45 days and was a venue for tradesmen all over England to bring their wares.

Merchants came from all over Europe: Norway, Denmark, the Baltic, and Byzantine empires also came to trade, and it continued to be held for 500 years, from the 13th to the 18th century.

You already know its commemoration in the song Scarborough Fair:

Are you going to Scarborough Fair? —parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme....

As part of the festivities that drew crowds with thousands of people, there would be feasts, horses decorated for competitions, bands playing music, jesters entertaining the crowds, and all sorts of pleasure-seeking people would attend, until it fizzled out by the 18th century.

The most striking feature of Scarborough’s geography is the high, rocky promontory pointing eastward into the North Sea that divides the seafront into two bays, north and south, and supports the 11th-century ruins of Scarborough Castle.

Here’s a sweet little 5:21 YouTube video I found that provides an overview of the town’s history:

We decided to take advantage of our English Heritage membership and visit Scarborough Castle. A wise decision!

Scarborough Castle towers above the village situated on a sheer cliff that rises 300 feet above the North Sea. It was once the largest castle in England! Even today it comprises 16 acres of land.

A great deal of speculative history pertains to the Vikings, but we know for certain that a 4th century Roman signal station found in the 1920s stood on the site near the cliff’s edge. This station was no doubt built to warn of approaching hostile vessels.

Upon entering the castle, one immediately encounters an ambitious and elaborate series of stone defenses, starting with an impressive gatehouse barbican. Eventually one continues uphill over a stone bridge toward the imposing tower and inner bailey.

During the 13th century, visitors would have crossed two drawbridges divided by a second towered gatehouse and then would have been faced with a third gatehouse nestled in the wall of the inner bailey (see diagram below).

If this entrance seems elaborate, that's because it is. With the tower deliberately placed in a commanding position viewable from all sides, medieval visitors would have found themselves spiraling up from the barbican, moving clockwise around the whole tower before entering. This would have symbolized the authority of the owner and have the desired effect of wowing visitors.

The castle was initially founded in the 1130s, but remaining stone ruins only date from the 1150s. Over the centuries, other structures were added, with medieval monarchs investing heavily in what was then an important fortress guarding the Yorkshire coastline from invasion.

It became one of the greatest royal fortresses in England and figured prominently in national events during the Middle Ages. Its buildings are mostly relatively recent additions to a site which, as a natural fortress, has been intermittently inhabited and fortified for nearly 3,000 years.

The image below, which shows the likely construction of the castle in about 1300, gives a sense of its immense size. Remarkably, most of this large perimeter wall built by King John still stands today. It runs the entire length of the inner and outer bailey and is viewable from Scarborough’s south bay.

© Historic England (illustration by Chris Jones-Jenkins)

Way out on the windy headlands, within the foundations of the Roman signal station, remains of an eleventh-century Anglo-Saxon chapel can be found as well as a small cemetery that evidence how there was human activity on the headland by 1000. Below is a hypothetical reconstruction of the original 4th century signal station.

© Historic England (illustration by Richard Lea)

The station lies near a natural source of fresh water known as the “Well of Our Lady” that sinks 150 feet deep.

The grounds are reputed to be haunted by three ghosts, among them a Roman soldier at the signal station site.

The castle was fortified and defended for various civil wars, sieges, and conflicts, as kings fought with rival barons, faced rebellion, and clashed with Republican forces, although peace with Scotland and the conclusion of civil and continental wars in the 17th century led to its decline in importance.

The castle’s founder was William le Gros, who established himself as the political master of the region. His work at Scarborough probably began in the 1130s. Eventually it was commandeered by Henry II, who rebuilt the previous structure using stone between 1159 and 1169, with its impressive 90 feet-tall tower as the centerpiece of a royal castle.

It is somewhat remarkable to mount the stairs into the tower and imagine what life was like in this imposing tower back when it was first built. There would have been magnificent fireplaces and tapestries and luxurious rooms with guards standing duty overhead.

Below is an illustration of what the tower might have looked like in the year 1200:

© Historic England (illustration by Chris Jones-Jenkins).

King John is known to have visited Scarborough several times and developed it as a major royal castle in order to control Yorkshire. He built a lovely two-story home for himself here and visited four times (which they say is a lot for a king!).

We mounted a viewing platform where, even under a cloudy sky, you can still see for miles around. It’s the only place in the town where you can enjoy fantastic views of both the north and south bays of Scarborough. Robin shot a 1:23 video from this observation deck surveying the scenery in a 360-degree spin:

Having said that, it was a bit unpleasant how windy it was up there.

But for the few minutes I could stand being up on the platform, I enjoyed marveling at the village of Scarborough and reveling in its ongoing popularity. In nearly the center of the picture you can make out the Grand Hotel, which was once the biggest hotel and largest brick structure in all of Europe. Look for yellow brickwork with red detailing about 2-1/2 inches to the left of my eye.

Completed in 1867, its design was based around a theme of time: four towers represent the seasons, 12 floors the months, 52 chimneys the weeks, and the original 365 bedrooms represented the days of the year. A funicular still runs alongside.

Astoundingly, the hotel escaped bombing during WWII, and the story is that Adolf Hitler planned to occupy it when he took over England, so he instructed his generals not to drop any bombs on it or damage it, even though other parts of Scarborough were bombed. Can you imagine?

A blue plaque mounted outside the hotel marks where Anne Brontë died in 1849. I’ll say more about her in a minute.

A 14:46 video I found on YouTube talking about just the Grand Hotel may be found here:

I really want to convey the size and orientation of Scarborough Castle, because it is so remarkable. This drone photo of the headland shows the extent of the outer bailey. The inner bailey sits in the top left corner, and near the cliff edge are the remains of the Roman signal station and medieval chapel I’ve already mentioned:

© English Heritage

It was fun spending time wandering around this 3,000 year-old site and experiencing its ambience.

On our way out, we made a brief detour to pay our respects at the grave of Anne Brontë, one of the famous Brontë sisters and author of Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, the latter of which is considered to be one of the first feminist novels. Written under the pseudonym Acton Bell, her novel sold more copies in 1848 than Wuthering Heights!

She died of consumption (now known as tuberculosis) in 1849 at the tender age of 29, and it must have been an awful loss. Evidence of the Brontë sisters are all over this area and it’s fun to encounter them. (Although I’m more interested in what they wrote rather than where they lived.)

Nearby, I noticed this monument reminding us of the Viking influence in this area. Called the “Viking Millenium Stone,” it was erected in St. Mary's church as part of the Scarborough Viking Festival in 2000. The carving depicts a longship with Yggdrasil (the world tree) in its center, and a sail on top.

Maddeningly, we could hear organ music coming out of the church, but all the doors were locked—we were hoping to enjoy a free choir rehearsal.

Afterwards, we headed for Wintringham to visit St. Peter's, a marvelous church in the care of Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) that features many wonderful gargoyles and other stone visages around the rooflines.

Unfortunately, CCT churches are a bit sparse in appearance, since most of the decorations and wall hangings are gone. But usually the “bones” are still good and well worth seeing.

This church featured a 14th century nave and west tower, Jacobean wood pews, 15th-century carved parclose screens, and white and yellow Flemish 14th century stained glass appearing in the upper lights of many of the windows.

The church has 8 misericords among other charming wood carvings—however, these are Victorian and not from medieval times. (I loved them nevertheless.) Carvings included Green Men, mythical beasts, and dragons—all typical misericord themes.

Robin is here posing with what I take to be a griffin, the original totem animal for Theorists according to Dr. David Keirsey (so Robin was obligated to have a picture taken with it).

It began raining when I went back outside to examine the roof carvings, and my heart sank that our run of fair weather in Great Britain is ending.

This is our final week in Littlebeck, but the owner has already said she would like us to return in 2023. I suspect she knows we’re dotty about her cats, and we love this beautiful, eccentric location.

The sitting engagement we were supposed to start after this one has been canceled. The homeowner got into a horrible car wreck she was lucky to survive. Apparently she suffered a broken back, and doctors are saying it will take a year for her to heal. How awful!

Robin has lined up an alternative sit a little ways north of here caring for one old cat, and that location will allow me to take in some sightseeing I have been longing to do… We always try to find the silver lining.

In a couple of weeks I’ll be writing to you from that location. I’m excited! I will tell you more about it then.

Here’s a cute cat pic to warm your heart as I close out this week:

warmly, -Dr. Vicky Jo

15 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page