The small Yorkshire town of Harrogate has been a popular spa town since the late 16th century when William Slingsby drank from one of its wells and discovered that its water tasted like that of other British spa wells. The Spa well was what is today known as chalybeate, meaning that it contained iron and it is the water from these wells that was first believed to have healing powers.

By the mid 17th century a sulphur well had also been discovered and this was followed in 1895 by a magnesium well, leading to the erection of the Royal Baths at the end of the 19th century. By that time the population of Harrogate had increased rapidly and, due to the construction of a new railway, people had started to come from all over the country to bathe and gain respite in Harrogate’s waters. In the 20th century, many invalids were sent to the baths by the NHS, for recovery from ailments and that continued until 1969 when funding stopped and the Royal Baths were closed for good. Today, Harrogate continues to be a popular flourishing town and many people visit the town to sample its spa heritage through the luxurious Turkish Baths that were established alongside the Royal baths but have never closed down.


Whilst Harrogate is not known simply for being a spa town, visitors can take the opportunity to learn about the history and science spa wells through the former Royal Pump Room, which was built in 1842 as the discovery and popularity of the wells increased. Today, the pump room is a museum in which the visitor can discover the story of Harrogate’s rise from sleepy hamlet to important tourist town. As well as gaining a historical insight into the town, visitors also have the opportunity to sample a taste of the odorous sulphur water that attracted tourists from far and wide.

Whilst the Turkish Baths are far removed from the baths of the 19th century, they act as respite for visitors wishing to unwind from the stresses and strains of 21st century life. The baths offer a variety of treatments including massaging, steam rooms, facials and reflexology.

Harrogate is also known for its impressive flower displays that bloom all year round, and of particular worth is the RHS gardens, Harlow Carr, a favourite of Alan Titchmarsh and a haven of peace and inspiration for those wishing to stroll leisurely through the 58 acres of meticulous glass and beautiful flower beds.

The Victoria Walled Gardens are also worthy of a visit, boasting 150,000 breeds of flowering bulbs, most notably the National Hyacinth collection. The gardens are in the grounds of Ripley Castle, home to the Ingilby family for 26 generations. Visitors to the castle will be treated to a magnificent display of fine art, china, furniture and decorative objects as well as informative and entertaining tours that discuss the English history in relation to the Ingilby family and the changing role of the castle over the last 700 years.

The nearby [http://www.knaresborough.co.uk/castle/index.html Knaresborough Castle] is one of the few Royal Castles that still exists in Britain today and, standing on a cliff that towers over the River Nidd it is a magnificent medieval castle with a long and colourful history. The castle houses the Old Courthouse museum in one of its oldest surviving buildings, which tells the story of Knaresborough’s history and the characters who have made an important contribution to the small town over the centuries.

Harrogate itself is not bereft of culture and it has a collection of art galleries and gallery shops exhibiting traditional and contemporary art. The chief art museum is the [http://www.harrogate.gov.uk/harrogate-995 Mercer Gallery] that is housed in one of the town’s oldest Spa buildings. The gallery shows Harrogate’s diverse collection of fine art as well as displaying a range of noteworthy temporary exhibitions, showing worthy examples of local, national and international works.


Harrogate is a haven for the keen shopper, with its fusion of high street names and individual boutiques. Its main arcade has four floors of shops selling everything from arts and crafts, flowers and antiques to contemporary cutting edge fashion. Harrogate also maintains a sense of place through its monthly Farmers market which sells high quality local Yorkshire produce at reasonable prices.

Eating out and nightlife

For food, Harrogate is undoubtedly most renowned for its tea-rooms selling traditional Yorkshire cream teas. At a cut above the rest is Betty’s tea room which, whilst being pricey, adheres to its founding principle that its food should be fresh and dainty. The shop sells delicious cakes, breads and cakes that are baked on the premises each day and between them the two branches, one in the town centre and one in the grounds of the RHS gardens attract hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.

For heartier meals there is a range of restaurants in Harrogate’s town centre selling high quality food to suit any taste. Alberts on Albert street is a recently opened upmarket bar and restaurant that opens during the day and night for drinks, bar snacks and three course meals. With its home-made food and stylish décor the restaurant attracts a host of visitors all day long and in the evening is particularly popular for both diners and those wishing to sample its commendable cocktails.

There is an array of clubs and pubs for anyone from the quiet drinker to late night party goer but particularly notable is the Blues Café Bar which has been officially voted Britain’s ‘second best musical pub’ of the year. The bar, with its unique interior and laid back atmosphere was established in 1987 and has since had the pleasure of welcoming to Harrogate acclaimed musicians such as Van Morrison and Jools Holland.

Tourist Information

Royal Baths, Crescent Road, Harrogate, HG1 2RR

  • Tel: +44(0)1423 537300
  • Fax: +44(0)1423 537305


Harrogate’s nearest airport is Leeds Bradford, just outside of Leeds, which is served by regional and international airlines, including the low- budget airline Jet2.

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