With its 3,000 year history, stunning location and panoramic views over the dramatic Yorkshire coastline, Scarborough Castle fully deserves its place as one of the finest tourist attractions in the North. It started life as an Iron Age Fort, was occupied by the Romans, became a Viking settlement and reached its heyday under Henry II.
This royal stronghold, built by successive medieval kings over two centuries has seen more than its fair share of conflict and sieges. Learn how it was fought over in the English Civil War and came under bombardment during the First World War. And to complete your family day out in North Yorkshire, enjoy a hearty tea in the Master Gunner’s House.
During severe weather please call the site to confirm opening - 01723 372451.
Iron Age tools dating back to around 500 BC have been found on the rocky headland where Scarborough Castle now stands, demonstrating Scarborough's antiquity. The Iron Age settlement on Castle Cliff was followed in 370 AD by a Roman signal station, one of a number along the Yorkshire coast.
The Signal station at Scarborough consisted of a square tower set within square courtyard, but it is difficult to separate the Roman remains from those of the later medieval chapels that existed within the castle.
The Roman signal stations on the east coast were designed to protect the shores from the ravages of Anglo-Saxon pirates from southern Jutland and Frisia but after 410 AD the Romans had vacated our land and the Anglo-Saxons established were free to invade and settle at places like Scarborough. Over four-hundred years later they would be succeeded by yet another wave of raiders and settlers known to history as the Vikings.
SCARBOROUGH'S VIKING ORIGIN:
Scarborough's Viking name is first mentioned in Viking sagas. In the 'Kormakssaga, Flateyjarbok' Scarborough is called Skarthborg and in the 'Orkneyingasaga' it is referred to as Skarthabork.
The 'borough' in the name of Scarborough derives from the Viking word 'Borg' meaning 'stronghold' and Scarborough means Skarthi's stronghold. According to the 'Kormaksaga' two Viking brothers called Thorgils and Kormak went harrying in Ireland, England and Wales and established a stronghold called Scarborough on the English east coast. Thorgils was known to his brother by the nickname 'Hare Lip', or in the Viking language 'Skarthi' . It is probable that 'Hare-Lip' gave his name to Scarborough.
The brothers Kormak and Thorgills were in the service of King Harald Grafeld, who was king of Norway from 960-965AD. This dates the Viking foundation of Scarborough to the mid tenth century.
Kormak and Thorgils accompanied the king's expedition to Bjarmaland or Permia in northern Russia in 966AD. It is known that the expedition to England immediately followed this and that Kormak died in the year 967AD.
This would date the Viking foundation of Scarborough even precisely to the year 966 or 967 AD. The Vikings were not the first to settle at Scarborough. There may have already been an Anglo-Saxon settlement on the site and there was certainly a Roman signal station here. The Viking raids on Scarborough in 967 would not be the last. In 1066 in the months before the Battle of Hastings the town was attacked by Harald Hardrada the King of Norway. It would prove to be an eventful year.
Scarborough Castle stands on a cliff top promontory overlooking the rest of the town and was built around 1130 by William Le Gros, Earl of Albermarle in the reign of King Henry I. Le Gros defeated the Scots at The Battle of the Standard near Northallerton in 1138. The castle was captured by Henry II who rebuilt the keep between 1158 and 1168 and the castle became a Royal castle.
Further improvements to the castle were carried out by King John, Henry III and Edward I. Around 1312 Scarborough Castle was given to Edward II's favourite Piers Gaveston. The unpopular Gaveston was besieged in the castle by the barons, captured and carried to Oxford for execution. Edward would himself be murdered for his weak leadership and rather amorous friendship with Gaveston. He would die at Barclay Castle in Gloucestershire in 1327 after a burning hot poker was apparently inserted into his bottom.
The capture of Gaveston was not Scarborough Castle's last siege. In 1536 the castle was held by Sir Ralph Evers in the name of King Henry VIII when it withsoood the siege of Robert Aske during the Pilgrimage of Grace. In 1653, during the reign of Queen Mary, the castle was taken by Thomas Stafford who was later captured by the Earl of Westmorland and beheaded on Tower Hill in London.
During the Civil War in 1644, Scarborough castle's commander was Sir Hugh Cholmey who switched his allegiance from the Parliamentarians to the Royalists and had to withstand a siege by Parliamentarians who eventually captured the castle in 1645.
A Colonel Boynton was put in charge of the castle but like Hugh Cholmley