Self-Catering Holidays in Harrogate (Gateway to the Dales)

April 21, 2021

How many towns have been built around a parkland where you can wonder at leisure whether meeting friends, walking the dog, or taking a short cut to the shops and restaurants?  Harrogate has an amazing array of outdoor places for you to explore - without the crowds.

Harrogate as a Spa Town is especially designed to meet the needs of tourists.  The town planners of the 19th Century realised the potential of the towns’ springs. They incorporated the wells into a vast parkland and gardens at its centre. 19th century tourists were thereby able to experience the waters whilst enjoying exercise and relaxion.  A taste of the countryside in the centre of a town.   They designed a town with a large railway station beside the main shopping area, so you have no need to walk long distances with heavy shopping.  So it‘s easy for day trippers and shoppers to access the town on public transport. Today the bus station is alongside the railway station.  

Todays' tourists and locals enjoy the open expanse of the Stray as a place to experience nature, wonder, go jogging, meet friends, walk the dog.

The wide pavements and streets mean there is never over-crowding, no matter the number of visitors.  
The beautiful Valley Gardens, located in the town centre, make it possible to walk through the gardens and the Pine Woods to the famous RHS Gardens at Harlow Carr. These alone are sufficient reasons to come to Harrogate.

The town is built of York stone, a light bright stone, giving an atmosphere of solid permanence. The shopping areas are full of independent shops as well as the famous high street names such as Primark, M&S, WH Smiths, Ecco, Russel and Bromley, White, Miele, Waterstones and many others, together they cater for a broad range of ages as well as tastes, from ultra-modern kitchens, great beds, bespoke sofas, independent dress shops, book shops, gift shops, chocolate shops to Aga. Shopping is a great browsing experience in Harrogate. Harrogate has great on street parking as well as two multi-storey car parks.

Harrogate Water is famous. We get to drink it every day!

The renowned Turkish Baths offer alongside a traditional Turkish Bath, various spa treatments, but you do need to book.  There are female only sessions, very popular with groups coming for weddings.  Harrogate has 2 theatres, The Royal Hall, beside the HCI and Harrogate Theatre near to the station.  As well as supporting the local community theatre groups and their own productions they also offer a regular number of national performances   The HCI hosts many famous names throughout the year as well as hosting business, international events and professional gatherings. 

There are two cinemas, The Everyman with a great coffee bar, an at seat service while you watch and the Odeon with a more traditional approach.  Both are in the town centre.

There are free daily organised walks from the Tourist Office, showing you the highlights and historical spots. Always well attended and great fun.

From the centre of town heading North there is a marked walk, bridal and cycle track to the picturesque estate and village of Ripley Castle. A stopping-off place for James l on his way south to claim the English Crown in London.  An  interesting historic castle, lovely deer park, grounds and great ice cream.  The Boars Head, part of the estate, has accommodation and famous restaurant and bistro.  Today Ripley Castle is better known as a wedding venue.  The Castle and gardens are open to visitors, see their website for details

A little further on is NT Fountains Abbey, A ruined Cistercian Monastery in a wonderful Dales setting.  Not to be missed!  A great day out. Tea rooms, gardens and walks.  A place to experience nature and feel the peace and tranquillity which drew the monks and subsequent generations to this place.

Back in town. You can explore the Montpellier district – actually a few small streets packed with thriving small businesses selling all manner of things and of course coffee bars and restaurants including the well known Drum and Monkey. Up the hill you find the world-famous Betty’s Tea rooms – always queues!  I love it for early breakfast – hot muffins, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs.  What’s your favourite? I forgot to mention they are famous for their tea, coffee and pastries. Did you know Taylors Tea is part of their brand?

Betty’s has fierce competition from the many independent cafes which you will find all over town, some are quirky, some are hidden, most are selling fantastic coffee, offering great service and delicious snacks.

With some 250 restaurants and takeaways Harrogate is a great place for foodies.  You are sure to find somewhere to suit your tastes.  Fish is delivered daily from Grimsby, so for a town so far removed from the coast there’s an extraordinary array of first-class fish restaurants from The Drum and Monkey to Drakes. Needless to say fish and chips in Harrogate are some of the very best. Harrogate is situated in the centre of one of the finest agrarian areas in the country and the produce from the local farmers finds its way into the local shops and restaurants. There is a farmers market in the town centre on Thursdays. 

Just beyond the town centre on the Duchy Estate is Grade 1 listed St Wilfred’s C of E Church. Construction began in 1904, designed by Temple Moore, it is considered his finest work. Built in the Anglo-Catholic tradition featuring a carved and painted rood screen, bas relief panels by Francis Darlington, a font of Verona marble, the pulpit designed by Temple Moore himself and stained-glass windows by Victor Milner, Harry Harvey and Francis Stephens.

More recent additions to the towns’ attractions include Clue HQ Escape Rooms ( ) located above Crew in the town centre. Great fun – they have recently added a new room (ideal for families and small groups).  Pots to Go provides fun for all the family – on Montellier Parade ( you will need to book!

For the more physically adventurous - Parthian Climbing Wall in Hornbeam Park hosts events as well as providing some first-class training.  If you prefer outdoors – try NT Brimham Rocks, located a - short drive to the north of town – where some of the most prestigious climbers are known to practice and hone their skills.  For those less adventurous the rocks and marked walks provide great views over the surrounding area.  The view from the top well worth the walk, and on most days you can reward yourself from the cafe.

Back in town, the Yorkshire Event Centre provides acres of grounds in which to wander. Great for dog walkers and joggers alike.  In July it hosts the Great Yorkshire Show.  In spring and autumn, the flower shows, and in between everything from bridal to antiques to ice cream!

The Pavilions hosts fairs and weddings throughout the year.

This is just a small taste of what Harrogate and its environs and has to offer.  Come and see what you can discover!