The sky was overcast, a chill wind blew in from the sea, and everyone was wearing coats. But for four-year-old Caitlin and two-year-old Jim, there was little to complain about – they were on a beach and they were building sandcastles.
For their parents, Lindsay and Jim Roger, a week’s holiday in the North Yorkshire seaside town of Scarborough was a blessed relief. Lindsay is a nurse who has been working on Covid wards, while Jim works in construction. As key workers with young children, lockdown has been difficult but they were “really pleased” to be able to travel again. “It’s just nice to get out and nice to see the sea,” Jim said. “It makes such a change from the house and the garden.”
This is the first weekend hotels and guest houses have been able to open and, despite the weather, the amusement arcades and chip shops are filling up with holidaymakers grateful for a break and a change of scenery.
“We actually booked this last year. It’s a good place to bring the kids, they love the beach and there’s lots to do,” said Lindsay. “We have a timeshare in Lanzarote and were supposed to go there this year but obviously that hasn’t happened.”
Elsewhere in Scarborough, many hotels and bed-and-breakfast residences were welcoming back their first guests in more than a year. “We reopened Monday and it’s been very good. It’s like a bank holiday weekend and lots of guests have arrived saying the traffic has been really bad,” said Kevin Makepeace, who owns Blands Cliff Lodge B&B with his wife Carys.
“People are so glad to be here, even though the weather isn’t very nice. They just want a break. They want to get away and they don’t mind where they go.”
The guesthouse has been closed since the start of the first lockdown last March, but has survived thanks to the support of “generous” government grants, which Makepeace said have been a lifeline for leisure and hospitality businesses in the town. Not only is their guest house surviving, he said, “we’re looking at a really good year.”
The couple have run the guesthouse for 20 years and have noticed that bookings for this year have come from much further afield than before the pandemic. The number of people coming from the south of England has doubled, he estimates. “We have someone staying from Dover, and someone who just left came from Portsmouth.”
As an archetypal seaside resort, Scarborough’s arcades, donkey rides and chip shops have always attracted families but these days they are also home to a thriving surfing community, which includes Karl Jones, a surf instructor at Dexters in North Bay.
“It’s brilliant seeing people out. You can feel the excitement because of the freedom coming back. People are more friendly and happy,” he said.
He is expecting to be very busy during the summer – Dexters is training up two additional surf instructors — as more people are attracted to the idea of lessons.
His pupil, Daniella Poyner, an ex-servicewoman who now works in IT, was visiting from Leeds for her lesson after starting surfing only a couple of months ago. “I’m hooked now,” she said. “I’ve started looking at houses here.”
The conditions were excellent for surfing but the nine-foot waves meant RNLI lifeguard Cade Dickinson was considering closing the road that leads to the bay.
Though he said his job had been fairly quiet over the winter, having carried out only a couple of rescues, he was alert to people taking more risks than usual after being cooped up at home. “People can get a bit silly. A lot of them don’t realise the danger,” he said. “But we’ve been doing a lot of training and educating people so hopefully we’ll have a good summer.”