Charles Dickens once remarked: ‘Harrogate is the queerest place with the strangest people in it, leading the oddest lives of dancing, newspaper reading and dining.’
It sounds like the Victorians were having a lovely time. But has that charm endured in today’s Harrogate?
An enchanting, upmarket town on the outskirts of the Yorkshire Dales, Harrogate is 15 miles north of the city of Leeds and acts as the western point of the Golden Triangle, an area that encompasses some of the most sought-after real estate in Yorkshire. Splendour and style emanate from this corner of the UK.
With an abundance of tearooms, cafes and restaurants, it’s no surprise to find residents reading the paper while making the most of the quaint eateries with an afternoon tea or evening of fine dining. As for the dancing, Harrogate plays host to live musicians at The Blues Bar, an annual month-long music festival that’s internationally famous, not to mention the many great music events that take place throughout the year at the Harrogate Convention Centre and Theatre. There is a wealth of choice for a little dancing elsewhere in Harrogate too.
If you prefer lazy days to late nights, there are delightful activities to suit families, large groups or couples. Let us tell you about the attractions on offer in and around Harrogate:
Indulge in a spa
Luxuriate in the famed healing waters of Harrogate.
As this spa town is known for its natural springs, you can’t stay in Harrogate without spending a couple of days pampering yourself. The ancient springs contain waters are believed to have healing properties due to the high concentration of minerals such as sulphur.
The Turkish Baths offer a stunning setting for bathing, with intricately decorated walls and a sophisticated olde world atmosphere. If the Baths don’t take your fancy, head to The Rudding Park Spa where they also take advantage of the natural wells and you can try their rooftop spa experience.
The spring with the highest concentration of sulphur emerges in the Royal Pump Room Museum. You can’t bathe here, and from the smell of it you wouldn’t want to, but visitors can uncover the ways in which Harrogate’s history is intertwined with its unique springs.
Wander through the gardens
Stunning Harrogate is interspersed with gorgeous cultivated parkland.
Harrogate in bloom is a stunning sight so take a trip during the spring or summer months to see the parks, gardens and estates come to life or make a journey to take in the range of colours that are introduced as autumn falls and the natural landscape transforms.
If you would rather escape during the festive season, there’s nowhere better than this stylish town where you can warm yourself by the fire or with a steaming mug of tea before partaking in the British tradition of a winter walk through peaceful natural surroundings.
The most popular grounds in the area are Valley Gardens, an expanse of land that contains park lawn perfect for picnics and games; pinewoods that are ideal for a little exploration, and seasonal floral gardens. The most special thing about this stretch of space - and the key to its popularity - are the springs that flow throughout the area. Of the 88 mineral wells found in Harrogate, 36 are situated in Valley Gardens making this area a must-see for anyone travelling to this spa town.
Another gorgeous garden that you can visit in Harrogate is RHS Harlow Carr. It’s a Horticultural Society venue with delightful and unusual shrubbery and a tea room where you can stop for lunch. There are regular galleries and events held there for adults and kids throughout the year. Harlow Carr has a hedgehog garden, a kitchen garden and an Alpine House for species in need of a warmer climate.
The largest stretch of common ground is The Stray where there are 200 acres of public parkland to run around on. Linking the town centre to springs and wells, it’s a great place to unwind after a morning shopping in the local boutiques. Events that take place here include fairs, circuses and an annual bonfire for Guy Fawkes night.
Adventure in the Dales
Take a trip into the National Park for spectacular scenery and exciting activities.
As this spa town sits on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, it’s essential that you take the time to venture into this spectacular National Park.
How Stean Gorge is a great place for activities including rock climbing, caving and canoeing the gorge. It’s an excellent place to take the stag do for a reckless weekend and they regularly host small and large groups looking for that rush of adrenaline.
Roam the region
The area is crisscrossed with excellent walking and cycling trails.
Walkers and ramblers, you should grab your hiking boots and head into the Yorkshire Dales National Park to test yourself with its three peaks, step into Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty for spectacular scenery or take a tour of the town to hear about its history and see the startling architecture.
Cycleways in the area include the Nidderdale Greenway, Beryl Burton cycleway, Yorkshire Showground Greenway and Harland Way. If you love cycling, you won’t want to miss the Tour de Yorkshire that takes place every year.
Family-friendly things to do
Kids will have a great time discovering all the fun attractions on offer.
Mother Shipton’s Cave should be the first place on your list if you’re searching for places to take the kids. The special attraction is the mystical petrifying well that can turn any object dipped in it to stone. Find it in the next town over, hidden amongst forested land, and enjoy the picnic areas, play areas, adventure playground or make a wish in the wishing well.
Another attraction where you could take the little ones is Stockeld Park - this place is great fun! It has a maze, an enchanted forest, boats, go-karts, lasers and adventure playgrounds. With so much to do you could spend a fun-filled day exploring all the fantastic things there are on offer.
RHS Harlow Carr, already mentioned on this list, often has themed events for children and there’s a treasure trail around Valley Gardens that could be good fun for kids. Take a look at Knaresborough Castle which has a computer game providing a virtual tour to guests, and Ripley Castle, which offers zorbing and archery - great for groups!
A game of golf
Spend some time on the oldest course in Yorkshire.
In a prime position between Harrogate and the neighbouring town of Knaresborough, you’ll find Harrogate Golf Club. Established in 1892, it claims to be oldest in Yorkshire, so head down for a round before grabbing a drink in the clubhouse.
The big city
Turn it up a notch with a trip into the city of Leeds.
Leeds is 16 miles away so if you get tired of luxuriating in the spas and soft cakes for afternoon tea, travel down for the bustling atmosphere of this metropolitan. Fit in some shopping, tour a museum or visit Tropical World Leeds - a zoo containing the largest UK tropical plants collections outside of Kew.
Events in and around town
Sept: Harrogate Flower Show
Oct: Harrogate Comedy Festival is in its 8th year.
Nov: Art & Antiques Fair
Nov: Harrogate Christmas Market
July: Great Yorkshire Show is a 3-day event in July taking place in Harrogate itself.
July: Yorkshire Dales Food and Drinks Festival in the nearby town of Skipton.
August: The internationally famous music festival, Leeds Festival, takes place in Wetherby.
For more events in and around Harrogate take a look at this schedule.
Properties and retreats in Harrogate
For a relaxing holiday, you could walk the moors, valleys and hills of the Dales and visit the pretty villages scattered throughout the region. If you prefer the city life, use Harrogate as a high-end base and spend busy days and engaging evenings at the theatres and restaurants of Leeds. There’s so much to see and do in this area – we’ve barely touched on all the activities on offer!
What kind of holiday will you have? We have townhouses in excellent city-centre location, cosy cottages in countryside villages, and holiday homes hidden in the beautiful natural spaces of the Dales. Our collection includes homes with hot tubs, gardens, swimming pools, wood burners and endless other fantastic features.
Get inspired by taking a look at our excellent range of cottages and find the perfect place to suit your retreat to Harrogate.