Wednesday, 27 April 2016


The pretty spa town of Harrogate in North Yorkshire, famous for its healing waters and the Great Yorkshire Show is one of our regular haunts.

We are frequent visitors to Harrogate (Anne H also used to live here once upon a time) and often find ourselves in the town – for shopping, meeting friends for lunch or coffee, and even on business.

Harrogate rose to fame  in the 1500s  after its waters, which contain iron, sulphur and common salt, became famous for its healing powers.  Known as 'The English Spa' in the Georgian era, wealthy visitors flocked to the town to take advantage of the waters and green spaces which include the Valley Gardens and the 200 acre Stray that wrap round the town. Today there is still a Turkish Bath and spa in the town offering traditional treatments from a dip in the plunge pool to reiki and reflexology.

As a result there are a large number of hotels and B&Bs in the town, and during the latter part of the 20th century the local council built a huge conference centre which now attracts a large number of conferences from art and crafts to political and corporate meetings. 

The Great Yorkshire Show ground on the outskirts of the town houses the annual agricultural show, but the ground is also used year-round with a number of specialist shows and fairs.

Shopping in Harrogate is a delight, with many small independent shops in addition to well-known high street names. Hoopers is the department store in Harrogate, a small chain with just three other department stores in what they term quintessential English towns - including Tunbridge Wells, Torquay, and Wilmslow.

There are also cute Victorian arcades and small squares tucked away off the main road with small local shops selling unusual gifts and crafts.  Mr C just managed to sneak into the photo below (on the left).

Harrogate also has a number of independent specialist stores, including antiques, vintage and specialist shops.  Waitrose is the supermarket of choice in the town centre, and there is also the largest M&S Food store we have ever seen, situated just outside the town centre.

There is a huge choice of restaurants, cafes and bars.  Obviously we love Betty’s Cafe – where the waitresses are properly trained before they are allowed near customers, and wear delightful black dresses with white frilly aprons and caps.  The food is traditional English and their afternoon and cream teas are just to die for.  They also have a fabulous shop with tasty treats (the Fat Rascals are just amazing) and the very good news is that they also have a mail-order service. Be warned however, that the queues are very long at peak times and in the tourist season. If learning specialist cookery techniques is more your thing, then Betty's Cookery School offers a wonderfully decadent selection of cookery courses.

So if you don’t have the patience to wait for a table at Betty's, there are a number of excellent restaurants and bars:

The Drum and Monkey is a fabulous seafood restaurant, which has recently undergone an extensive refurbishment.  The menu changes daily and offers up freshly caught and delivered seafood from whatever has been caught the day before.  If you are looking for a menu created by an award winning chef, then head for Van Zeller in the Montpellier Quarter, an intimate restaurant serving lunch or dinner, where the tasting menu is to die for.  For the more relaxed vibe head to William and Victoria, winner of Yorkshire Life's Restaurant of the Year in 2015, where you have a choice of downstairs wine bar/bistro or upstairs restaurant.  

There’s also Weeton’s – another independent premium store which started life as a farm shop.  They specialise in high quality premium meat supplied by local farmers, but this has diversified into a true food destination allowing customers to shop for delicacies, dine on the rich fresh produce or enjoy a coffee in the presence of food experts. 

Staying with the fresh produce cafes, if you’re in the car, nip to Fodder, which is right next to the Yorkshire showground.  They too have a small food store specialising in fresh local meats, fruit, vetegables and produce, alongside a cafe serving simple but wholesome food.

We love the menu at the Hotel duVin, a boutique hotel featuring a French Bistro theme. It is part of a national chain, but a great place to meet friends for coffee and isn’t too crowded for lunch. It is also a great place to base yourself for a weekend stay.  

Alternatively you could try Studley Hotel for a more intimate environment.  With only 28 bedrooms the Studley is a true "town hotel".  If you prefer to cater for yourself then over the road from the Studley is Rasmus Living luxury serviced apartments for a true home from home experience.  Both of these are close to the gates into the Grade II listed Valley Gardens which includes beautiful historic buildings, walks and cafe.  

There are also the usual coffee shops, but we love the Bean and Bud which serves gorgeous coffee, a choice of teas with delicious sandwiches and home-made cakes and pastries, but it is slightly out of the main shopping thoroughfare in Commercial Street.  It's worth a stroll to find it however, as you will pass The Cheeseboard – a fabulous deli specialising in – wait for it – Cheese!  The Cheeseboard has become one of the finest cheese stores in the UK with more than 200 cheeses, including one called The Stinking Bishop!  

If you are on Oxford Street, where Harrogate Theatre is located,  then make sure to visit Baltzersen's for a Scandi inspired dining experience, with some fabulous open sandwiches and amazing cinnamon buns.

Then there are the bars/restaurants.  We love Banyan and The Pit – both owned by Arc Inspirations based in Leeds, which is fast growing its brand across the north.  They also serve cocktails – from the traditional mojitos and daiquiris to our favourite lemon cheesecake cocktail (it sounds awful but it is quite delicious!) and Cosmopolitans.

Another great thing about Harrogate is its close proximity to other great places to see in Yorkshire. The beautiful historic city of York is just 20 miles away, while the Yorkshire Dales National Park is also close by, but since Harrogate has a great rail service, it's just as easy to jump on a train.



  1. Beautiful. That theatre is stunning
    Yes, I knew Hoopers from Tunbridge Wells.
    Lovely post

  2. Thanks for sharing this. The Victorian arcades look so pretty and I would love to try Betty's café.

    1. Harrogate is a really lovely town and Betty's is truly the icing on the cake.

  3. Looks lovely - reminds me of Ilkley. Even though I grew up in Yorkshire, I have never visited Harrogate, so it will go on my list, as I do still come up to visit family regularly. Absolutely loooooove Bettys - been to the one in Ilkley a few times. Such a great service and worth the inevitable queue at certain times, but a real 'stepping back in time' experience! Sounds like you had a fabulous time there and weren't you lucky with the weather! x

    1. We love Betty's too, but during the summer it's full of tourists!!! There is another Betty's at Harlow Carr just outside Harrogate so we've been there a few times too - I think there's one in Northallerton too, but we don't get p there much. Love Harrogate and Ilkley for shopping, eating and occasional cinema visits because we can park close by!


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