Scarborough: The Italian Gardens

Scarborough was once called The Queen of Watering Places. In my great grandparents time it was a town of beautiful shops and a ‘church parade’ along the cliff top terraces after Sunday service for everyone to view the finery of the female congregation. It’s still a very beautiful place. Two sandy bays linked by a rocky cliff with an ancient castle facing the sea, but some areas are dowdy and Scarborough is no longer a place where the well-to-do visit for a summer of concerts in the bandstand and shows at The Spa.

But I would never denigrate Scarborough, there is lots to do and interesting architecture too including Woodend, the home of the Sitwell’s (Osbert, Edith and Sacheverelle) once a museum and now a ‘creative industries centre’ for artists.

The Italian Gardens sit above the south bay on wooded slopes and have always been one of my favourite places. We went about two weeks ago and sat in the sun.  All you could hear was the rhythm of waves on the beach below and really there is no better place in the world to relax and recharge.

C had a treat for us when we return to family in Filey, a guidebook from the early years of the last century with the Italian Gardens looking much as they do now, except the planted urns are missing.

As we walked round the gardens one inscription on a seat resonated. It’s easy to plan ahead and never live in the moment and so it was a timely reminder of the pleasure of ‘now’.

I have just searched for family photos of the gardens but can’t find them so this photo of my family on the beach at Scarborough in the early 1930’s will have to do. They all look rather stern said B, I have it on good authority that they were actually ‘nithered’, a Yorkshire, or maybe Hull word for extremely cold. There may be Italian Gardens and Italian style sunshine in Scarborough but it’s on the north coast of Yorkshire and even in this summer photo everyone is tucked up in warm coats and hats!


All photographs: TheBigForest

Poster image: Duke University Archive

About TheBigForest

TheBigForest. A silly artist maker creating in felt and paper construction. Like us on Facebook: TheBigForest. Find us at Twitter : twitter/TheBigForestuk


  1. There’s a kind of blues, when you get back somewhere and you find out that things have changed. But I can tell you that your gardens seem to stand out better than those my grandparents took me when I was a little child, lucky you! 🙂

  2. wonderful photos, wonderful writing. It provokes my wanderlust 😉

  3. Truly nithered! Poor Scarborough has seen better days, it’s so sad.

  4. Susan Bruce

    Lovely , evocative post . C or Mm always have some book of interest on their shelves !!!

  5. A lovely post! I have such good memories of Scarborough and Witby family holiday. I must get back! A lot more fun than being crammed in an easyJet plane to no where!

    • I only really appreciated the diversity and beauty of England when I had an extended stay in Canada (which is a very beautiful country too he adds hastily). Thanks for the positive feedback 🙂

  6. ann perrin

    Brilliant will have to go back soon thinking campervan and North York Moors National Park. Was running one of our marionette companies on The Spa in Scarborough in 50s, found Ann Bronte’s grave, bought set of Shakespeare in second-hand shop, was only 15!
    Love you beautiful pics. history and envy family connections! x

    • Mmm, that sounds a good idea! Lots of other interesting places to visit too, Whitby, Pickering for the railway used in the Harry Potter films, Filey for Sterchi’s chocolates….the list is endless. That old church with Ann Bronte’s grave is lovely. My grandparents loved shows at The Spa – very politically incorrect but The Black and White Minstrels were there even in the early 70’s. I think in a previous life I would have liked to have been a beach pierott in Scarborough- they look fantastic in old photos!

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