It’s 10am on a rainy Tuesday morning in November and John Dalton and Peter Bailey have just finished their swim in the sea. Emerging from the waves, the two wander into a seaside cafe to change and warm up with a cup of coffee.
Dalton is 70 and swims in the North Sea here in Scarborough most days, “except when the weather is really bad,” he says. He is a member of three outdoor swimming clubs in Scarborough (there are four or five in total), but the Salted Seanuts is the one he spends the most time with. That’s when he’s not playing his harp to entertain residents in one of the local care homes, going to a jive dance class every Tuesday evening, learning to tap dance, riding his bike on the nearby Yorkshire Moors hand or hanging out at a Scarborough jazz club. .
Dalton retired here from Glastonbury four years ago, not knowing anyone but wanting to be closer to his mother who lives near Peterborough and her daughters in Scotland – as well as being near the sea so that he could swim as much as he liked.
“Yorkshire people are very friendly, and property is much cheaper here than anywhere else,” he says. And he likes that Scarborough is a proper resort, with plenty to do, a good cultural life and close to York and beyond on the hourly trains.
He is not the only one. Last week, Scarborough was named Britain’s retirement capital, with more than one in four of its 62,000 residents (27.6 per cent) aged 65 or over. It’s not hard to see why: the town has two incredible beaches and is situated right next to the North York Moors, as well as good infrastructure in the form of regular bus and rail links to York and Hull, a hospital with A&E big new department and housing abundant and cheap. There’s also plenty going on, from Alan Ayckbourn plays at the Stephen Joseph Theater to rock concerts in the open air theatre; tea dances at the pavilion to pleasure gardens in Peasholm Park.
But really, the allure of the sea is the most attractive thing about it. As Tobyn Dickinson, who recently opened a residential care home, the Mayfield, up the coast in Whitby, and is opening a second in Scarborough next September, says, “people love the sea and there are a lot of people trying to retire to be. by the sea”. When you have the ever-changing water to look at, life never gets boring.
The town has a fascinating history as a place of holiday and healing: in 1626, Mrs Thomasin Farrer discovered a stream of acidic water running from one of the cliffs on the south side of the town, which led to the establishment of Scarborough Spa; A book about the waters published in 1660 brought a flood of visitors. The first rolling swimming machines were reported in 1735 and Scarborough became a popular summer destination for wealthy Londoners, only to be added to by the arrival of the Scarborough to York railway in 1845.
And today, while Scarborough retains its attractions for summer holidaymakers (and summer day-trippers) with its long sandy beaches, colorful beach huts, amusement arcades and fish and chip shops, many of its residents current those who decided to turn their summer holidays. of the old in permanent reality.
Ken and Irene Barlow are one such couple. I met them in the magnificent art deco Stephen Joseph Theater – incredibly busy even on a Tuesday evening – just after lunchtime; they came in to book tickets for a cinema matinee a few days later.
The couple, who are in their 70s, are originally from Liverpool, but retired here 20 years ago, to a small village called West Ayton, just outside the town proper. They keep themselves busy: Irene goes to a dance class every week, Ken plays golf at the North Cliff Golf Club and they love long walks on the beach and a seafood platter lunch at The Lookout on the pier, especially on a sunny day. in the winter. Moving to Scarborough, Ken says, was “one of the best moves we’ve ever made”.
“It’s easy to integrate here and I feel welcome,” says Phil Fletcher, director of local estate agency CPH Property. Fletcher has lived in Scarborough for 20 years and says he sees many older clients coming through the doors, attracted by the low property prices and the fact that the town has “everything on the doorstep”. Certainly, when it comes to buying a home, there’s plenty on offer, from 15th and 16th century cottages in the old town to newly built flats on the North Beach, with everything from bungalows to Victorian terraces in between – and nothing for . sold for well in excess of around £400,000.
The exterior seems to be the main attraction for most of the people I meet – all of whom are more than happy to talk to a random reporter. Sue Wood, 68, is enjoying a cafe outside her bright yellow beach hut on North Bay, after taking her three-year-old golden retriever Barley for a walk on the beach.
Making me coffee in her small kitchen, she tells me about coming back to live here, having grown up on a nearby farm, and her plans to buy her beach shack next year now that they are all for sale ( she’s renting it). for the past seven years). She spends a lot of time here, she tells me, with her three grandchildren, walking the dog and watching the waves.
It all sounds idyllic, and it mostly is, but there are undoubtedly downsides. Although the town has a certain grandeur, it is sad to see its faded diversity; the high street is “a bit bleak”, as Dickinson says. Even in the nicer old town, East Gate Main Street can be “really depressing”, says Maggie Corder, 75, who is renovating an “abandoned old house” in the area for retirement. “There is no deli, and nowhere to get decent coffee.” It’s a shame, Corder says, that the council often doesn’t care – the bins aren’t empty during the summer months, and “why don’t they have swimming huts on the beach like in the Victorian era, or art on the beach to show it all. artists who have moved here?”
For its part, the local authority informs me of the recently completed refurbishment of the South Cliff Gardens, jointly funded by the National Lottery and the council, which contributed just over £2 million to the £7.158 project a million; an upcoming West Pier refurbishment scheme and a plan for Scarborough Fair’s year-round cultural offering, starting with the recently installed winter lights display.
Other areas have their own distinct character. The South Bay is what the locals wryly refer to as the “Blackpool” part of town: it has a classic seaside town feel, with entertainment, ice cream parlours, fish and chip shops and donkey rides on the beach. The North Bay is wider and wilder, a place for windy walks, surfing or enjoying the sight of brightly painted beach huts on the sand; both shared by the old town with its higgledy-piggledy cobbled streets, and the small villages that crowd around the outside of Scarborough are generally considered a bit smarter.
Top of the heap is Scalby, where Bryan Jaram and his wife Pam retired permanently in 2008. Jaram, now 77, was born and raised in Scarborough and used to run an estate agency in York; Now he paints and goes for bike rides on the moors on his electric bike. “It feels so healthy here – as soon as you get here your lungs open up and you feel like you can breathe again,” he says. “Even Pam, who doesn’t come from Scarborough, thinks it’s great.”