GREAT REASONS TO VISIT HARROGATE – THE PEARL OF YORKSHIRE
Located equidistant between Leeds and York, the leafy spa town of Harrogate has always been a byword in the affluent part of the North. A town that reached particular levels of prominence in Victorian times when its burgeoning wealth of spas provided a very popular wellness retreat. This was the place to go to feel that refreshing spa treatment reaping the benefits of the nearby springs.
Although today the grand Turkish Bath House is as popular as ever, Harrogate does not possess the great range of spa houses as it did before. The advancements in modern medicines of the 20th Century rendering many of the old treatments obsolete.
Overall, Harrogate is one of the most well preserved towns that resemble vintage England. With a wealth of boutique stores and gardens and green spaces as well as its close proximity to the Yorkshire Dales, it is clear to see why Harrogate recently came top of a survey of happiest places to live. More so, on 24th April 1982 the town even hosted the Eurovision Song Contest where 18-year-old Nicole from Germany was the runaway winner sitting on a stool guitar in hand gently strumming about world peace. “Ein Bisschen Frieden” instantly became a no.1 hit in many countries including the UK.
As I discovered when recently visiting, Harrogate is one town I would aspire to live in if I could, and here are some of the reasons why you should as well.
RHS HARLOW CARR AND VALLEY GARDENS
It is no secret that Harrogate is top of the radar of places to visit for the keen horticulturalists out there. The town has been a regular winner of various categories the annual “RHS Britain in Bloom” contest. This you can certainly tell by the colourful displays along the promenade overlooking Parliament Street.
A short distance outside of town is the splendid RHS Harlow Carr Gardens. One of four official Royal Horticultural Gardens in the UK, a day out here is a treat for families and visitors of all ages. Among the many stand out features is the temperate greenhouse, which stores a number of cacti and other exotic plants. In addition, there is a pleasant little bird watching hut too. A further stroll past the rhododendrons and the mounted rockpool stream leads through the dense Woodland and Arboretum. Look out for some very quirky wicker statues in the Betty’s Trees For Life garden.
What is worth noting is the not-so-secret pathway linking the Valley Gardens in the main town with the gardens here at Harlow Carr. Starting at, or finishing at the entrance to Harlow Carr depending on which way you go, this is definitely the scenic route linking the town’s two greatest gardens. One public, the other private. The route would take about an hour by foot and in the Valley Gardens one of the highlights is the pitch and putt mini-golf course that delights all ages plus the Japanese Gardens.
BETTY’S TEA ROOMS
No trip to Harrogate can ever be complete without an afternoon tea at Betty’s. A grand Yorkshire institution this grand tea room has been delighting visitors since the 1920s. Such is its popularity that you will have to expect long queues to enter. Even first thing in the morning! However, once inside, you really can appreciate the cosy nature of the much cherished British afternoon (or mid-morning tea).
That sight of the super indulgent selection of cakes, sandwiches and Parisian macaroons on a three-tiered plate spindle is temptation alright! There are indeed other Betty’s locations elsewhere in the county (York, Northallerton and Ilkley) but this is its spiritual home. Yorkshire folk are known to love a proper brew and the variety of teas served by Taylor’s of Harrogate – one of the best known tea manufacturers in the UK – serves testament to this.
Aesthetically, the glorious Victorian exterior is just calling out for a photo opportunity!
Don’t forget to purchase your souvenir bag and some of the sweet treats for home too. Take a little bit of Harrogate with you! Also for the record, there is a smaller Betty’s at the entrance to RHS Harlow Carr.
HARROGATE’S ILLUSTRIOUS SPA HERITAGE
Harrogate’s status as the spa town of Georgian and Victorian England is one of its most famous attributes. This also a great source of economic prosperity to the town as well. For here was the place to go to cure all sorts of ailments and feel revitalised by the magic sulphur waters. Indeed a very ground-breaking concept at the time.
Although the many spas closed during the 20th Century, the signature Royal Turkish Baths still stand proud and serve a wealth of treatments. From massages to mud baths, all sorts of therapies are available maintaining Harrogate’s greatest tradition. I would recommend booking in advance as it can get popular.
More so, a visit to the Royal Pump Room Museum is highly recommended too. Located in an small octagon shaped building this place is a thoroughly educational and nostalgic trip back in time that really traces the growth of Harrogate as a health resort. Interesting as well to observe the links and influence between Ancient Egyptian motifs and artifacts in the Victorian times.
OUT AND ABOUT IN THE DALES
The rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales and its peaceful nature have enchanted visitors for centuries. Where sheep roam merrily in the backdrop of quaint villages, stone houses and limestone rocks. Harrogate is situated on the outskirts of the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This being right on the edge of the official boundaries of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Of great curiosity in Nidderdale being the unusual looking Brimham Rocks structure.
Hit the road and appreciate the true British countryside. Ramblers and hikers will be spoiled for choice when it comes to routes and trails! Though high on the priority list has to be Malham Cove.
The dramatic looking rock face that was the site of a waterfall thousands of years ago nowadays flows into a more calm stream. Follow the path that leads you to the cliff tops for some of the most rewarding views. Particularly so on a bright and clear day. Similarly the waterfalls at Aysgarth Falls are another one of the top trails in the Dales as is the dramatic looking cascading feature of Cautley Sprout Waterfalls.
Likewise part of the excitement of driving around the region is the chance to explore many of the attractive towns nearby. Knaresborough with its picturesque railways bridge over the river is a great place to go punting as long as it is not raining. Ripon, the cathedral city of the Dales, is another historical location with its own community spa.
For more day trip suggestions around the area, stay tuned for a more detailed guide to the Dales on this blog!