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Why Yorkshire’s seaside towns are perfect for social distancing

By Natalie Bowen
Traditionally, from October, British coastal resorts hunker down and wait for spring, when fair-weather crowds return to fill the beaches and B&Bs. This year may herald a change of heart. Once the second lockdown lifts, many of us will be eager to explore closer to home.

We had waterproofs, solid shoes and a rain cover for the pram – yet on the first morning, the sun fought through the clouds to welcome us into Filey. This former fishing village, 10 minutes’ drive south-east from Cayton, has transformed itself into perhaps the perfect day trip destination.

There are plenty of independent retailers, a healthy number of fish and chip shops, and an outrageously long stretch of golden sand, which gradually revealed itself as the tide drew out.

This is protected by a high, narrow, rocky peninsula called Filey Brigg, which protrudes like a densely packed row of sandbags north of the bay. The resulting calm waters were particularly striking in contrast to the whitetips we could see crashing out to sea.

Pod life
Forced to return to the pod early due to the rain, we found it was like staying in an Ikea show-home: every nook and cranny had a nifty use, from the double bed that folded up into a wall, to the bunk-bed ladder stowed behind the bathroom door.

As it was only a step up from camping, there were limited cooking facilities but a hob, kettle and microwave were more than enough to whip up a simple dinner – and eating in front of a TV felt luxurious. Outside was a balcony area that would have been perfect for sitting out on, with sausages sizzling on the personal barbecue stations, had the rain let up.

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
The next day was brighter, so we drove 10 minutes north-west, to Scarborough – and after Filey, the town seemed huge. Its late Georgian and Victorian architecture is beautifully maintained, particularly the skyline-dominating Spa Bridge and Grand Hotel, although this sits uneasily beside the brown hulk of the Olympia Leisure bowling alley overlooking the South Bay.

This main beach was another long swathe of sand that in summer would be filled with families with buckets and spades. In October, dogs are allowed to run free and almost everyone was in waterproof coats and wellies, with about 20 brave souls surfing in the North Sea.

Rather than starting with the beach, we explored the Rose Garden and Italian Gardens in the South Cliff area of town, in which our daughter was entranced by squirrels so unafraid they came almost close enough for her outstretched fingers to touch.

There was a panoramic spot that offered views of the sweep up to the impressive clifftop ruin of Scarborough Castle, which waits patiently to greet the tourists prepared to pre-book tickets before hiking up. It is worth the climb to gaze over North and South Bay, and because the youngest Brontë sister, Anne, is buried nearby in St Mary’s Churchyard.

Social, yet distant
Back at sea level, the amusement arcades were not packed with weary parents and hyperactive children; instead, entrances and exits were clearly marked and coin-pusher machines were largely unattended. Some bars and restaurants were better at observing the distancing rules, but all seemed busy.

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