Visit the Yorkshire town for a vintage spa experience and
indulge your appetite for afternoon tea and antiques.
The Victorians got the spa
experience just right. No
kale-green smoothies and
hot yoga for them; it was all about promenades in
the park followed by hot, buttered buns
and a pot of tea. The first mineral spa was discovered in the Yorkshire town of Harrogate in the 16th century but it was during the Victorian era that it became a fashionable place to take the waters. Members of ever European Royal family visited and legend has it Princess Alix of Hesse (granddaughter of Queen Victoria) liked to race her sister Victoria through the streets in their bath chairs. From then the town’s reputation for clean air and reviving waters grew, with fashionable city dwellers frequenting the town’s elegant boutiques and tea rooms between hydrotherapy sessions. To find out more about the spa traditions, visit the Royal
Pump Room Museum.
The town’s genteel traditions are kept
alive today by Harrogate’s best-loved and most enduring businesses. Woods Fine Linens (woodsfinelinens.com) opened in 1885, when it was originally called Woods of Harrogate, and soon became known for its exceptional textiles. A year later, in 1886, the famous purveyors of Yorkshire Tea, Taylors of Harrogate (taylorsofharrogate.co.uk) began trading. Refined refreshments are a local institution and the town’s most famous teashop has to be Betty’s (bettys.co.uk).
It was established in 1919 by Frederick
Belmont, a Swiss baker, who wanted to
put an English spin on European café
culture. If you’re feeling indulgent, try
the Fat Rascal, a super-sized and fruity
regional creation that’s somewhere
between a scone and a rock cake. And
don’t forget to take home some Farah’s
toffee (farrahs.com). Sold in classic blue
tins, it was first made in 1840 to help spagoers
replace the rotten-egg taste of the
You’ll find Betty’s in the Montpellier
and once fortified with a strong brew
and pastry, you’ll be ready to explore.
The quarter is home to the town’s many
antiques shops and galleries. Whether
you’re after a 19th-century Windsor chair
or some new cushions, you’re bound
to find them here. For some fresh air,
take a stroll in the Grade II-listed Valley
Gardens, where many of the springs were
discovered. The Stray is another green
oasis: 200 acres of parkland created
in 1778. And if you’re starting your
Christmas shopping early, make a beeline
for either the Pavilions of Harrogate
Antiques & Fine Art Fair on 1st
or the Yorkshire Antiques and Art Fair
the following week (antiquesfairs.com).
01423 537300; visitharrogate.co.uk