It’s understandable that visitors to Harrogate often spend their days outdoors, admiring the gorgeous scenery that surrounds this North Yorkshire town. After all, there are so many things to see and do in the Yorkshire Dales. But when the sun goes down and you’re looking for an entertaining way to spend the evening, a live music pub makes a refreshing change. There are a number of fun and welcoming live music venues in Harrogate and Knaresborough, to suit all tastes and budgets.
If you’re looking for a challenging and fun way to spend a short break in Yorkshire, Harrogate offers some interesting day and weekend courses. You’ll not only go home relaxed, but with your self-esteem boosted from learning a new skill.
Arts and Crafts
Rossett High School offer some one-day courses as part of their Adult Learning syllabus.
The Mercer Gallery is known for its excellent collection of Victorian paintings and eclectic temporary exhibitions, but you can also participate in their one-day life drawing or sewing classes.
Caryl Hallett is a stained-glass artist who offers a number of one-day workshops, such as making Christmas light catchers.
Ever wanted to be able to alter clothes or make a garment from scratch? Gillian Hargreaves can help you do just that at the Yorkshire School of Sewing, where she runs courses over one or two days. Whether you need to know the ins and outs of pattern drafting, or you’d love to sew a couture skirt, there’s a topic for you here.
Fans of Ray Mears and Bear Grylls will be interested to know that under Stuart Lawrence’s expert tutelage, you can make your own knife, axe or leather pouch. Everything you need for wild camping!
The renowned Bettys and Taylors Group, famous for Bettys Café Tea Rooms, Yorkshire Tea and Taylors of Harrogate, has its headquarters in Harrogate. If you’re into GBBO and MasterChef, Bettys Cookery School runs extremely popular day courses on everything from knife skills to Advanced Pâtisserie. The four highly-experienced tutors will take you through everything you need to know, and you’ll find courses suitable for novices to experts. You can see a complete list of courses at the Bettys Cookery School website.
Horticulture and more
RHS Gardens Harlow Carr is fabulous if you enjoy meandering through beautiful gardens. But they also hold a wide range of educational and creative workshops throughout the year, including orchid growing, willow basket making, and botanical drawing. You can download the 2017 programme here.
Would you love to drive but don’t want to spend weeks having lessons? Aim2drive run two-day intensive courses in Harrogate, where you’ll have eight hours behind the wheel. That should get you test-ready or well on the way.
If you have children or grandchildren, it’s always an excellent idea to learn first-aid, such as the Emergency Paediatric course run by First on Scene. You’ll know all the essential basics in a day, making you more able to deal with any first-aid emergencies involving a child in your care.
As you can see, having a short break in Harrogate can send you home with a host of new skills.
If you’re like me, the idea of jostling a hoard of shoppers in malls during the run up to Christmas fills you with dread. While it’s easier to shop online, it’s a solitary task. You miss the festive decorations, the boozy lunches, etc. And let’s face it, many virtual images bear no resemblance to what is eventually delivered (which can be after Christmas if there’s a rush on).
Having a short break in Harrogate this autumn will give you access to some fantastic stores. In addition to the common shop brands that you find on every high street, Harrogate has an appealing mix of independent retailers. Read on to see our top picks for Christmas shopping in Harrogate.
Miss Claire Rose – 4a Commercial Street
Brimming with practical and whimsical items, you’re bound to tick off several gifts at Miss Claire Rose. From pretty homeware to handmade lingerie, it’s amazing what you can find in this shop, many of which are hand-crafted or Fairtrade. And if you really can’t decide, they offer gift vouchers.
Hoopers – 28-32 James Street
If you’re after designer-led gifts, Hoopers must be the store of choice. Having only three other locations in the UK, they are not your run-of-the-mill department store. They have a top fragrance and beauty section, as well as an impressive choice of high-end hosiery for those Christmas parties. They have many appealing gift ideas, such as a funky Joseph corkscrew, or handmade glassware by LSW International. If you have no idea what to buy, they even offer a personal shopper service.
Rafi’s Spicebox – 15 Commercial Street
The amazing aromas, as you walk through the door of this family-run business, will have you salivating for tandoori masala with pilau rice. They take spice mixing seriously, and their wonderfully crafted blends, both delicate and eye-watering, will delight anyone you know who enjoys making authentic curries from scratch. You can also pick up condiments and breads to complete the dishes.
Sophie Likes – 36 Beulah Street
There’s no other way to say this – Sophie Likes is definitely girly. But that’s okay by me, as she sells fantastically frivolous and fun gifts. If you know a gin fanatic, why not go for the gin & tonic bath soak? If you need to buy for a baby, you’ll love the alien leggings. Sophie has gone to great lengths to sell items that you won’t easily find elsewhere. They also sell a selection of fairy lights that you can use all year round. (Or am I the only one who doesn’t take them down after Christmas?)
Illingworth’s Hardware – 113 Cold Bath Road
If you know a DIY fan, it’s worth heading over to Cold Bath Road to this traditional hardware store. Apart from a comprehensive array of DIY products (and expert advice), they have gift ideas such as attractive enamelled kitchenware by Garden Products, fresh flowers and baskets. With such an eclectic mix of items, Illingworth’s is a top place to browse for Christmas gifts in Harrogate.
I hope you'll come and see for yourself all the unique Christmas gifts Harrogate has to offer.
Harrogate has a reputation as a hot destination for antiques hunters. Not only do shows like Bargain Hunt and Antiques Road Trip make frequent visits here, Antiques Roadshow jewellery expert, Susan Rumfitt, has a gallery in Harrogate. This town is a hub for antiques shops, collectives and galleries. If you like unearthing a bargain, you can try your luck in numerous charity outlets and second-hand shops too. Whether you’re into early Georgian furniture or sixties retro, book an autumn break in Harrogate, then go treasure hunting. Here are our top picks.
Located on the outskirts of Killinghall (a 10-minute drive from Harrogate town centre), this auction house is widely known amongst reputable dealers. Selling everything from small collectibles to high-end Victorian furniture, it’s a must to experience their Friday auctions, whether you put your hand up or not.
Montpellier Mews Antique Market
Nestled in the Montpellier Quarter of Harrogate lies this wonderful collective of sellers. Take your pick from fine porcelain, antique clocks, silver and much more. Try your hand at haggling – you never know your luck! You’ll find the Montpellier Mews Antique Market at 11, Montpellier Street.
Elaine Phillips Antiques
If you’re looking for genuinely impressive 17th and 18th century oak furniture, Elaine Phillips is the place to go. A family-run business, this high-end antiques outlet has been around since the 1960s. In addition to early pieces, they also sell a range of new decorative items.
The Walker Galleries were established in 1972 and specialise in 19th and 20th century painters from Britain and Europe, including Paul Signac and Edgar Hunt. They have a wonderful collection of Modern British pieces, as well as contemporary sculpture.
Chris Holmes Antiques
There’s a huge range of periods and styles at Chris Holmes Antiques. Whether you’re looking for an 18th century ampho, a Queen Anne walnut chest, or an iconic 1950s designer chair, this antiques shop won’t disappoint. Located on Cold Bath Road, it’s just a short stroll from the town centre.
Castleforge is run by husband and wife team, Mike and Maria, who have a warehouse full of genuine antique furniture. Having over 35 years in the business, they buy in choice pieces, such as Edwardian satinwood beds, Victorian mahogany tilt-top tables and even a Victorian sentry box wardrobe compactum. Having so much choice, you’re bound to find the perfect fit for your home. The warehouse is a short drive from the centre of Harrogate.
With so much choice in and around Harrogate for antiques, curios and collectibles, why not channel a bit of Caroline Hawley or Thomas Plant, and spend the weekend bargain hunting! Yes?
Harrogate is a hub for cultural events, conferences and exhibitions. When visiting Harrogate for a last-minute autumn break, consider including at least one of the following events to your itinerary.
Countryside Live: 21st-22nd October at GYS
Come along to the Great Yorkshire Showground and see two of the small screen’s favourite vets: Julian Norton and Peter Wright from The Yorkshire Vet. This large outdoor event has a variety of attractions, including dog agility and sheepdog displays (not to mention a pop-up country pub).
Raworths Harrogate Literary Festival: 19th-22nd October at the Crown Hotel
Now in its seventh year, Harper’s Bazaar consider the Raworth’s Harrogate Literary Festival one of the best in the UK. The festival is a collaboration of best-selling authors, actors and even politicians. This year’s theme is ‘Generations’, which focuses on how literature is passed down and adapted across the ages. Contributors include Jonathan Aitken, Ann Widdecombe and Denise Welch.
Northern Antiques Fair: 19th-22nd October at the Harrogate Convention Centre
If you’re a budding valuation expert, or you enjoy collecting objet d’art, this antiques fair is a must. The reputable specialist dealers will be offering a great variety of fine art, collectibles, antique furniture and contemporary pieces.
The Magic Flute: 4th November at the Harrogate Theatre
The award-winning OperaUpClose company are renowned for reinventing classic opera. This time they’ve brought Mozart’s iconic piece bang up to date, setting it in a trendy London nightclub. The Times called it ‘madly brilliant’, so it’s hardly surprising this group are holders of an Olivier award.
Fizz Festival: 4th November at the Majestic Hotel
Move over beer festivals – we’re going up market. If the idea of sampling champagne, prosecco and cava from all over the world appeals to you, then be sure to visit the Fizz Festival during your stay in Harrogate. Chat to the producers while enjoying bubbly, food and live music. You can even take a champagne masterclass.
All or Nothing – the Small Faces Musical: 6th-11th November at the Harrogate Theatre
Whether you were around during the Mod era or not, you’re bound to enjoy this musical charting the rise of The Small Faces. The show includes all their hits, including Lazy Sunday and Itchycoo Park. Their upbeat brand of rhythm and blues will put a smile on your face and get you grooving along.
Harrogate Christmas Market: 16th-19th November on the Montpellier Stray
The sixth annual Harrogate Christmas Market is always popular, as rather than being another continental market, this event has a distinctly Yorkshire flavour. The market has 200 stalls selling everything from Christmas decorations to artisan jewellery, as well as a great selection of food and drink. Sip some delicious mulled wine as you take in the magical setting. Free entry.
Knitting and Stitching: 24th-27th November at the Harrogate Convention Centre
This show is extremely popular with anyone who works with yarn or textiles. Crafters of all abilities, from all over the UK converge on Harrogate to see the latest trends, take workshops, meet designers and to add to their ‘stash’.
There’s always so much going on in Harrogate, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
The sixth Harrogate Christmas Market runs from Thursday, 16th November until Sunday, 19th November. This award-winning event is rather unique when compared to other Christmas Markets in Yorkshire and beyond, which is why visitors from all over the UK keep coming back. What makes it so special?
The perfect fit
Many Christmas markets are either so large you don’t have the time or energy to see everything, or they’re inconveniently located far out of town. The Harrogate Christmas Market has 200 stalls of gifts, food and drink perfectly laid out on a site in the centre of town, so that visitors can enjoy everything that the market (and Harrogate) has to offer.
Unlike most outdoor events of this type, Harrogate’s market doesn’t have a beer tent. Rather than encouraging everyone to stay inside consuming large quantities of alcohol, our market prefers a limited number of stalls selling festive drinks which are dotted around the market. This means you can still browse while enjoying a mulled wine, glass of prosecco or a ‘fortified’ hot chocolate. And as the market is surrounded by excellent and welcoming bars and pubs, there are plenty of options if you feel like relaxing with a pint or cocktail afterwards. To keep young children entertained, the market has a small fun fair with rides suitable for little ones. And naturally, no visit is complete without seeing Santa and the live reindeer!
The Harrogate Christmas Market is organised and run by a dedicated team of volunteers, rather than through an events company or local council. Any profits go to benefit the Harrogate Christmas lights appeal, local charities and arts programmes. One advantage of being not-for-profit means that this wonderful event has free entry, so anyone can come along and experience the magic.
The organisers go to great lengths to give priority to Yorkshire-based traders selling locally produced goods, which makes our event stand out from the more common continental markets. They also try to ensure repetition is kept to a minimum. Visitors can choose from a wide variety of quality Yorkshire produce and gifts. A few exceptions are made allowing imported items that are ethically produced and fairly traded. Incidentally, the various musicians performing in the buskers’ area are all locally grown too.
It’s not just about the market
The Harrogate Christmas Market began in 2012 as a way of encouraging visitors to our lovely Yorkshire town out of season. For the past five years, Harrogate’s wonderful array of hotels, restaurants, bars and shops have greatly benefitted from the influx of visitors coming for the market. The market has also helped fund Harrogate's Christmas lights; the Big Switch On is Thursday, 16th November, from 4pm to 6pm at the Piazza, Victoria Shopping Centre.
To experience the sparkle of the market and Harrogate at Christmas, book your autumn break here.
The nights are drawing in and you already have a bad case of S.A.D. What's the remedy? A visit to Harrogate this autumn. This Victorian spa town is considered the ‘jewel in Yorkshire’s crown’, and is fast becoming one of the most popular destinations for short breaks in England. Here are my top five reasons to visit Harrogate.
1. A sight for sore eyes
Unlike many British towns, Harrogate retains its Victorian charm. The ‘old town’ is still surrounded by 200 acres of grass and tree-lined paths known as The Stray. Brilliant floral displays greet you at every turn, plus there are wonderful examples of Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian architecture.
2. Yorkshire’s best spa town
While Jane Austen had her characters take the waters in Bath, people were really flocking to Harrogate during the reign of George I. While the original 88 sulphur wells are part of Harrogate’s heritage, the fantastic Turkish Baths are still going strong - even after 120 years. What’s so appealing about these Victorian Turkish Baths is that after relaxing in the various hot rooms, you can enjoy a sublime pampering package from the health and beauty team. They offer everything from hot stone therapy to bespoke facials, and have treatments for men and women. It’s essential to book in advance.
3. Harrogate’s gardens
Harrogate’s Valley Gardens opened in the late 1800s, and together with the neighbouring woodland known as The Pinewoods, cover 17 acres. Free to enter, the gardens have an interesting and attractive landscape of plants and trees, as well as tennis courts (seasonal) and an impressive children’s play area. If you take your gardening more seriously, RHS Garden Harlow Carr is a 68-acre site on the outskirts of Harrogate. These gardens offer everything from wildflower meadows to an alpine house. There are events and guided walks throughout the year, and you can purchase plants from the nursery.
4. The arts
From theatres to galleries, Harrogate has plenty of culture to keep you intellectually entertained.
With over 300 establishments to suit every palate and budget, you’ll be spoilt for choice when you dine out in Harrogate. It’s a hot spot for gourmet independents such as Norse and Restaurant 92, as well as for popular chains like Jamie’s Italian, Gino D’acampo’s My Restaurant and The Ivy. If you prefer your food fast, Five Guys, Nandos and YO! Sushi will step up. But no visit to Harrogate is complete without sampling an exquisite afternoon tea at the famous Betty’s café.
Make sure you consider a short break in Harrogate this autumn to chase the blues away!
Kimberley Wilson & Simon Storer
owners and operators of The Camberley