7 reasons to visit Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK


Often called “The Jewel of the North”, Harrogate attracts visitors for its urban charms, stunning gardens and its position as a Gateway to the Dales. It is close to Nidderdale, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, as well as the UNESCO world heritage site of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden. Within easy travelling distance of Harrogate are castles, stately homes, abbeys,  cathedrals and medieval market towns.

The Spa

It was something in the water – some hoped for cures for epilepsy and scurvy – that first enabled Harrogate, with its 85 wells and springs, to boom. The opening of the Royal Baths in 1897 confirmed its status as one of the world’s premier hydrotherapy centres. Visitors of note included Oscar Wilde, Tsarina Alexandra of Russia and Winston Churchill.

Today the Royal Pump Rooms are a museum which celebrate the town’s glamorous spa history. A strong sulphuric pong to the water is unlikely to tempt you to drink the water but back in 1926 consumption peaked at 1,500 glasses a day.

In 2004, a £1m refurbishment not only restored the Turkish Baths to their original Victorian splendour but also installed a menu of contemporary treatments to encourage visitors to Harrogate for some pampering.

Fine gardens

As regular winners of Britain in Bloom, Harrogate’s civic gardeners seem to have greener fingers than their competitors. Swathes of formally planted gardens cut through this pretty town. There is a plethora of hanging baskets cascading down towards the 17 acres of the Valley Gardens. With their band-stand and model boating pool these gardens have been awarded English Heritage Grade ll status. In The Stray’s 200 acres, 7 million crocus flower amidst the trees’ spring blossom.

In addition Harrogate hosts two flower shows, including floristry and flower arranging, one in spring and the other in the autumn, attracting gardening enthusiasts from the rest of Britain and beyond.

Betty’s Tea Rooms

Betty’s was founded, in 1919, by Swiss baker and chocolatier Fritz Bützer who allegedly lost his job offer letter during a rough sea cruising to Britain and accidentally ended up in Harrogate. Nor is there any explanation of why he choose the name Betty’s for his tea rooms.

A century on, people queue for a table, unless they have reserved a table for the full afternoon tea. Waitresses are dressed in black and white, as if it were still 1919 and the suffragettes had just won them the vote from the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George. Many guests depart with a quarter or more of loose tea as a souvenir, chosen from an extensive range from Assam through Lapsang Souchong to whatever the Z of tea is.

Cultural hotbed

Throughout the year many cultural events are held at the Harrogate Convention. It’s an eclectic mix ranging from the Czech Symphony National Orchestra to the Knitting and Stitching Show. Harrogate’s festivals include Children’s, Comedy, Crime-writing, Gilbert and Sullivan plus the renowned Literary Festival.

Many cultural visitors also call into the Mercer Art Gallery to catch the latest exhibitions.

Country Living St George Hotel

Situated across the road from Harrogate’s Theatre and just two minutes stroll from the Turkish Baths, this hotel brings the stylish pages of the Country Living Magazine to life in an urban setting. Set in a rambling Grade 2 listed Edwardian mansion, the hotel promises, “An escape from everyday life.” Exuding a  Country Living heritage, the hotel creates an eclectic rural style in the heart of Harrogate.

With tall Palladian symmetrical columns, the two AA Rosette Swaledale restaurant provides an example of Harrogate’s fine dining sourced from local produce: fish from the seas off Whitby, Dales-bred lamb, plus local beef and duck, fresh asparagus and rhubarb in their season.

Shopping

Harrogate has four distinct shopping districts: Montpellier, Kings, West Park and the Victoria Quarter. Then there are the charity shops of Beulah Street too.

For big name brand stores, the Victoria Shopping Centre is at the heart of the Victoria Quarter. But many visitors seek out the flower decked charm of the Montpelier Quarter with around 50 independent shops, restaurants and pavement cafes. Amongst the boutiques, delis and galleries there are some avant-garde and quirky offerings.

Britain’s home of cycling

Harrogate created cycling history when it provided the first finish line of the 2014 Tour de France which attracted massive crowds to the town.

Offering a vast range of challenging and spectacular routes, many with breath-taking views of the local landscape and landmarks, Harrogate provides a perfect venue for many cycling road races.


Comments (6)

  1. Jen says:

    Betty’s is an absolute institution. Afternoon tea is such a great British tradition and Betty’s is one of the ultimate places to take it. When I last went, there were about a dozen nationalities in the queue. If you’ve never been you’ve got to do it.

  2. Janet Gordon says:

    What Harrogate does so much better than most other British towns and cities is civic pride. When I was a little girl almost every town had flower displays like those in Harrogate. They made people proud of their town and they looked after them.

    Now that there’s been budget cut after budget cut there’s no money for things like flower displays which are considered “unessential.”

    Just take a look though at how well Harrogate does from all those thousands of visitors who are attracted to such a lovely city.

  3. Karen Morris says:

    The idea of bringing a magazine’s design principles to life in a hotel is very intriguing. I suppose the advantage with Country Living is that they’ve got a reputation for style. Though designing something that stands up to heavy duty wear in a hotel is completely different to decorating your dining room at home. Maybe other magazines will cash-in on their brand name – perhaps we’ll see a Vogue Hotel?

  4. Lynne Gardner says:

    From what I’ve heard, Harrogate can get very busy with all the festivals and that hotel rates can soar and parking can be a nightmare. I think if you study the Harrogate events calendar carefully you will find some low spots and pick up some good value breaks.

  5. Julia Harper says:

    Bath is incredibly well known for spas, but Harrogate far less so. It’s nice to see them getting a little recognition here. I’ve never actually been to Harrogate but I have family in Yorkshire so maybe I’ll have to pay a visit when I’m next in that neck of the woods. The place reminds me a little of Cheltenham with the gardens and the festivals, and the shopping districts too.

    • Michael Edwards says:

      Interesting point, Julia, especially as the other Country Living hotel is in …. guess where? Bath.

      Obviously, Country Living have decided that their stylish English Country brand matches in very well with the grandeur of classic English spa towns.

      Though I’m not complaining, I enjoyed the hotel in Harrogate and would like to try the Bath one next.

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