Scarborough Castle – History and Visiting Information

Steeped in more than 3,000 years of history, Scarborough Castle has a whole anthology of stories to tell. From clifftop views to ghost tours, there’s something for the whole family. Grab yourself some Scarborough Castle tickets and see what God’s own country has to offer.

When visiting the famous seaside, you might be tempted to visit Scarborough’s beaches alone. But don’t let the town’s cultural side elude you – Scarborough Castle’s history has tales of the Romans, Vikings and Tudors to name but a few!

We’re so impressed with this 12th Century ruin that we’ve named it #1 on our list of the best castles in Yorkshire.

Keep reading to discover the interesting history of Scarborough Castle and everything you need to know about visiting this once mighty fortress…

History of Scarborough Castle

The ruins of Scarborough Castle

The first records of Scarborough Castle date back to 2100BC, when we see evidence of human activity near the castle site in the form of pottery. Of course, it wasn’t until 800BC that indicators of human settlements began to arrive.

Fast forward to 300 AD and we begin to see evidence of a fortified tower constructed on the headland near Scarborough’s South Bay. It’s been suggested that these served as signal stations for the northeastern coast, but they were soon abandoned some 100 years later.

Jumping forward another 500 years, we have much clearer evidence that these constructions were in fact signal stations for the Romans. Remains of human cemeteries have been found on the headland, and by the mid-12th Century, we had the first signs of Scarborough Castle.

Construction of the Castle

Count of Aumâle William le Gros, who was later made Earl of York by King Stephen in 1138, is credited with the creation of Scarborough Castle. In the same decade, he began work enclosing the structure with a wall and erecting a tower at the entrance.

His ownership was short-lived. By the time Henry II came to the throne in 1154, all royal castles had to be returned to the crown. The castle was known as a royal manor by this point and therefore given back to the royals.

By 1159, Henry II would set to work rebuilding the castle, creating a town beneath its walls over a period of 10 years. King John, who was crowned in 1199, would visit the castle regularly and spend more on this castle than any in the United Kingdom. He added an outer wall in 1202 and an extension of the wall down the cliff in 1207. He also built new halls and royal chamber blocks.

From the Middle Ages and Beyond

The castle would go on to serve as royal lodgings throughout the Middle Ages, as well as a holding place for prisoners during Edward I’s Scottish wars. In 1308, Lord Percy and his wife were granted the right to live in the castle and added a bakehouse, brewhouse and kitchen. Richard III would be the last king to stay, preparing himself for an invasion from Henry Tudor, later Henry VII.

In the Tudor Age, the castle became a refuge for those besieged for pledging their support to King Henry VIII. Wars raged on with revolts against Queen Mary. By the 1600s, Scarborough Castle was captured during the Civil War, with Parliamentarian forces closing in. Half the building was lost to colossal explosions of gunpowder.

By 1650, the castle was serving as a prison and barracks, housing prisoners such as Quakers founder George Fox. The barracks would remain in operation until the mid-19th Century.

The castle would succumb to violence once again in the First World War, after two German warships fired shells on the town. In 1920, the castle was taken into state guardianship by the Ministry of Works, and later handed over to English Heritage in 1984.

Visiting Scarborough Castle

Views of Scarborough Castle with Scarborough Beach in the background

Scarborough Castle is one of the best things to do on the Yorkshire Coast. When visiting, be sure to climb the viewing platforms in the Inner Bailey and Great Tower. You can also enjoy an audio tour, explore Roman signal stations, and see collections from prehistoric pottery to Bronze Age armoury.

Make your way through the Master Gunner’s House exhibition and discover links to Scarborough’s past with ancient artefacts. Once you’re all explored out, kick back with a hot drink and cake at the castle’s on-site coffee shed.

The castle also holds regular events including open days, half term performances and ghost tours. Keep an eye on the castle’s events page for the latest goings-on. There are provisions in place for sensory impaired visitors, as well as mobility aids and tours for those with learning difficulties.

Scarborough Castle Parking

There is no parking on-site at Scarborough Castle. Instead, it’s best to take the Park and Ride bus service from Seamer Road or Filey Road. Alternatively, there is pay and display parking at Marine Drive, starting from £2.20 per hour or £1.80 for residents.

There is limited parking on-site at the castle for disabled visitors, but this must be booked in advance on 01723 372451.

Prices and Tickets

The best way to secure great value Scarborough Castle tickets is to book online. Admission with a donation is £9 per adult, £5.40 per child, or £8.10 for students and over-65s with valid ID. Alternatively, family tickets are available with two adults and up to three children at £23.40, with a donation. Under 5s go free, and if you’re a member of English Heritage, your admission is free!

Scarborough Castle Opening Times

Scarborough Castle is generally open six days a week, from 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Sunday. It is closed weekdays throughout November 2022 and December 2022, save for Tuesday 27th to Friday 30th. The castle will reopen during the week full-time from March 2023 onwards. The castle is closed on bank holidays and other public holidays.

These dates and prices are subject to change, so it’s always best to book your visit online and check on the calendar. Whenever you visit, you and your family are guaranteed to have a fantastic day out!

Has our guide to Scarborough castle got you itching to visit the Yorkshire coast? Put your feet up and stay in style with our selection of Scarborough holiday cottages.