What’s Special about Our District?
Harrogate, the Gateway to the Dales and Jewel of the North, boasts lush parkland, good shops and fine dining. The Harrogate District offers a diverse mix of market towns, Yorkshire Dales, and picturesque villages.
Featuring a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (Nidderdale), a UNESCO world heritage site (Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal), gardens, stately homes, castles, abbeys and cathedrals (Ripon is England’s smallest cathedral town) and medieval market towns (Knaresborough). It boasts outdoor adventure locations and nationally acclaimed family destinations, special places to eat, drink and stay, independent shops, cultural hot spots including museums, galleries, and theatres, and a calendar of major national events and festivals.
We’re also a great place to do business with a leading conference venue, perfectly situated for access to and from the rest of the country. Harrogate topped the ‘Happiest Places to Live in the UK’ poll for three years in a row.
Whatever reason you are here, here are a few reasons why we think we’re unique:
• Something in the Water
Harrogate is Yorkshire’s most celebrated spa town. Towards the end of the 1830s, spa tourism boomed. The Royal Baths were officially opened in 1897 and were said to be the most advanced centre for hydrotherapy in the world.
Visitors included Oscar Wilde, Tsarina Alexandra of Russia, and Winston Churchill. A £1m refurbishment restored the Turkish Baths to their Victorian splendour in 2004. The Royal Pump Rooms is now a museum, dedicated to the town’s spa history.
• Spa Breaks
The spa heritage has left a legacy of luxurious spas, from the famed Turkish Baths to bespoke spa breaks in the district’s stately Victorian and Edwardian hotels.
Rudding Park Spa is one of the finest in the country, and recaptures Harrogate’s spa heritage using natural waters from the grounds of the park. Swinton Park offers a luxury castle and spa experience in a 2000 acre estate. Combine it with boutique shopping, fine dining, and countryside walks for the ultimate weekend escape.
• Home of Events
A conference and cultural destination, the Harrogate Convention Centre hosts everything from the Czech Symphony National Orchestra to the Knitting and Stitching Show. The Royal Hall, known as the ‘glittering palace of gold’ was restored to its Edwardian splendour after a £10m fundraising campaign saw it re-opened by HRH the Prince of Wales in 2008.
The District is home to a number of festivals including Harrogate International Festival and Ripon International Festival, Knaresborough Feva, Harrogate Flower Show, a Comedy Festival, and the Northern Aldborough Festival as well as vibrant agricultural events – the largest being the Great Yorkshire Show, which attracts 135,000 visitors.
• Unique Attractions
Knaresborough is famed for England’s oldest tourist attraction, Mother Shipton’s cave and the petrifying well, which opened in 1630. The cave was home to the famous prophetess. She foretold such events as the Great Fire of London as well as the end of the world! Its thermal spring’s high mineral levels turn dangling objects to stone; everything from teddy bears to John Wayne’s hat has been petrified here.
The town also features the Great Knaresborough Bed Race, which takes place every June, where locals compete in a race involving dragging ‘beds’ through the cold and muddy River Nidd.
• Gardens and Green Fingers
Regular Britain in Bloom winners, you’ll be pushed to find a round-about that isn’t decked out in flowers. RHS Garden Harlow Carr is in walking distance from Harrogate town centre, featuring 58 acres of stunning gardens, and Valley Gardens is a 17-acre English Heritage Grade II listed garden. The Stray features two hundred acres that wraps around Harrogate. It has had seven million crocus planted for an eye-popping floral treat in spring, with spell-binding blossom trees.
Harrogate Flower Shows are the biggest exhibition of flower arranging and floristry in Britain hosted at the Great Yorkshire Showground; the spring and autumn shows attract up to 40,000 people each year as major national events in the gardening calendar.
• Walking Holidays
Nidderdale’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty - 600km2 of protected working landscape – features the Nidderdale Way, a 53-mile route. It features some of Yorkshire’s most iconic attractions, including Ripley Castle, the natural wonder How Stean Gorge with its magical ravine, the gritstone sculptures of Brimham Rocks and the scenic market town of Pateley Bridge. It also features hidden treasures and heritage sites, including Fishpond Wood – a once hugely popular tourist spot - in 1885 alone 3,000 people came by special trains to visit this ancient wood landscaped by John Yorke in the 18th century.
• Literary Heritage
Agatha Christie was famously found at The Old Swan Hotel after her disappearance in 1926. Harrogate now hosts the world’s biggest celebration of the crime genre, the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, at the hotel.
Ripon is said to be the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Lewis Carroll’s father was canon at Ripon Cathedral, a carving there depicts a griffin catching a rabbit who subsequently escapes down a hole. The Cathedral was also said to inspire war poet Wilfrid Owen, who in March 1918 was posted to Ripon. He composed and revised some of his major poems during that time.
• Food and Drink Heaven
From the Michelin starred Yorke Arms in Ramsgill to a plethora of traditional pubs and Dales’ cafes. Harrogate is tripping over itself with restaurants. Pubs include the oldest in town – the Hales Bar - complete with gas lamps, and no trip is complete without a visit to the famed Bettys Café Tea Rooms (other tea rooms are available).
Brewing history in Masham goes back six generations; T&R Theakston and Black Sheep Brewery are renowned for the their range of cask, bottled, seasonal, crafted and small batch ales.
You’ll find regular street markets, food festivals, gin festivals, beer festivals – and general celebrations of Yorkshire produce all year-round!
• A Cycling Hub
The Harrogate District offers some of the world’s most challenging and varied routes, with spectacular views, extraordinary landmarks and surprising challenges that will test the world’s top cyclists.
We hosted the opening stages of the 2014 Tour de France; Harrogate served as the finish line of the first stage of the Tour de France which attracted record crowds to the town centre. Building on this legacy, Harrogate will be the main competition hub and finish location for every race of the 2019 UCI Road World Championships.
• Family breaks
With family friendly activities all year round, there’s something to keep children entertained rain or shine. Harrogate’s Valley Gardens offers an adventure playground, skate park, crazy golf, and tennis. Knaresborough and Ripon offer similar Games in Parks.
For the more adventurous, How Stean Gorge offers abseiling and more, or for man-made adventures, there’s Stockeld Park and theme parks, including Flamingo Land. Packed with popular heritage attractions, with stately homes, castles, abbeys, and museums galore, you can have fun and learn a bit too!
We’re very handy to get to and it’s easy to travel around our district. The area is accessible through the major rail interchanges of Leeds, York and Harrogate, we have our own airport (Leeds Bradford), we enjoy a terrific bus service (Harrogate also operates the Open Transport system to encourage sustainable transport) and the A1 and M1 are within easy reach.
Want to Visit?
We’d love to host you. Let us know what you’re after and we’ll arrange an itinerary to suit, accommodation that appeals and sites that you’ll marvel at. We can guarantee that we’ll show you a place that will both surprise you and inspire you. For media information, contact Ann Chadwick at Cause UK m. 0753 489 2715 e. firstname.lastname@example.org