Yorkshire, England – Harrogate


We had arranged an overnight stay in Harrogate because we used to go there regularly every year to the Institute of Housing Annual Conference. This was an annual event when Housing professionals from all over the country would get to together to enjoy corporate hospitality, drink too much and generally collectively misbehave – and to go to some conference lectures of course.

We had regularly stayed in a guest house, the Welford, close to the town centre so we thought that we might reprise our visits.

We drove past Knaresborough which is an interesting place noted mostly for the tourist attraction Mother Shipton’s Cave which claims to be the oldest visitor attraction in England and where visitors leave odd items of clothing, like a tie or a bowler hat or a bonnet and the drip, drip of the limestone infused water eventually calcifies the item and turns it to stone. It takes a long time of course and I have always wondered what the point is of leaving something that you can never go back and collect within your own lifetime! We had been there before so we didn’t feel as though we were missing anything today.

Harrogate is a nice town. It is consistently voted as one of the best places to live in the UK and in 2014 a poll of forty-thousand people found that Harrogate was the happiest place to live in the United Kingdom for the second year running. Interestingly, even with obscenely spiraling property values, the ten most unhappy places were all in Greater London.

And Harrogate is posh, seriously posh. It is the only place north of the M25 where the residents unashamedly (and with some justification) consider themselves to be socially superior to people in the South in places like Surrey and Hertfordshire.  When I was a boy I can remember my Grandmother speaking about Harrogate even then as though it was a sort of mystical Shangri-La!

After we had settled in we sat in our room and watched the sky cloud over, white, grey and then black and then it rained and I remembered that this is another good reason why I generally prefer to go to Spain or Greece for a few days away.

Kim went to a mini-market that we remembered around the corner and I settled down to some research.  Two pieces of trivia lodged in my brain.  In 1926 the author Agatha Christie mysteriously went missing from her home in Berkshire and was discovered ten days later in Harrogate at the Old Swan Hotel where she was staying under an assumed name.  So, posh person from Sunningdale chooses to disappear for a while in up-market Harrogate!

Secondly, and this is my favourite, in 1982 the twenty-seventh Eurovision Song Contest was held and broadcast from the Harrogate Conference Centre.  I had time to do this research because Kim took longer than expected and when she came back she reported that the shop had gone and was now a block of posh flats!

After a couple of hours it still hadn’t stopped raining but we were getting hungry now so there was no putting off going out for something to eat and we stepped out into the dreary streets and made our way to a restaurant we knew and liked. It wasn’t there any more, it had changed hands and anyway it was closed so we walked into the town and I remembered another reason why I prefer to go to Spain or Greece for a few days away. In contrast to a Spanish Plaza Mayor the town centre was deserted, just a few youths on skateboards outside McDonalds and some sad smokers in pub doorways sheltering from the drizzle.

This is a sad feature of English towns where once the shops close at about five o’clock everyone goes home and the main streets are abandoned as though someone has declared a national emergency and everyone has hurried away. In fact, in England most people are suspicious of anyone who wants to stay in a town centre after six o’clock and will happily call the police to investigate if they spot someone hanging around.

Before moving to Grimsby I lived in the small town of Spalding which had a great number of Eastern Europeans living there. It turns out that Poles and Latvians rather enjoy going to the town centre to meet friends in the evening but the residents of Spalding found this difficult to come to terms with and were forever complaining about foreigners in the market place because they considered this to be un-English, unnatural and perverted.

And so we made our way to the Drum and Monkey, a pub with a restaurant that specialises in fish and sea food and we had a fairly good, but rather overpriced meal but they didn’t want us hanging about for too long and after we had finished they declared that they were closing for the night and they would rather appreciate it if we would hurry up with our last drinks and be so good as to move on.

It was still raining outside but this hadn’t stopped the skateboarders from riding up and down or forced the smokers inside and we were left feeling disappointed with Harrogate and made our way back to the guest house and an early night.

Harrogate Spa


40 responses to “Yorkshire, England – Harrogate

  1. Now I see what you mean about the town squares being so different as compared to Spain.


  2. I didn’t realise Harrogate was posh. Must visit there some time – that would lower the tone a little.


  3. How many times did you use posh in that post? 😀

    Although I agree it is posh. Snobby aspirational me would have like to live there.

    I take it you don’t like Yorkshire? Ripon didn’t fare too well and now you are disappointed with Harrogate. It’s not Harrogate’s fault that the UK closes at 5pm. I actually found it really odd when I went back to my mum’s. You have to remember to get everything done by five. And the only life after that is in pubs. Unless it’s early in the week when they are dead too. Strange.

    My village is buzzing from 5 pm onwards, and even during siesta there is life, if only in the bars, or the old boys sitting in the shade. Mind you when it rains the village is dead.


    • I do like Yorkshire actually and would rather like to live there again one day. It seems to me that Yorkshire is no different to anywhere else in its lack of evening social activity.


  4. The town I live in isn’t posh but they roll up the sidewalks after dinner and there’s not much going on in town afterwards. Sigh. If I were to visit someplace this dead, I’d be more than disappointed. 😦


    • Strange isn’t it? I suppose a lot of it is down to climate. In Spain the sun always shines but in UK it is very unreliable! Is it the same in Canada?


      • In Canada our best months are usually July and August and sometimes a late Indian summer into October. We have lots of rain in April and the rest is up and down. These days the weather is changing and is not as easy to define.


  5. When Agatha Christie disappeared, did she go on a romantic rendezvous, or was it something more serious?


    • here was a fictionalised account of the story in a film in 1979 with Vanessa Redgrave and Dustin Hoffman.

      I believe that the truth is that she was having a hard time domestically and her husband who was having an affair wanted a divorce and she suffered some sort of break down.


  6. Enjoyed your post. I used to love visiting the”posh” independent shops and then afternoon tea at “Bettys”. Still enjoy Betties, but there are fewer independent shops around…..


  7. After rural France, where the curfew imposed under the Occupation appeared to remain in force, it was a culture shock to find that our local town in Costa Rica is boiling with life from before 5.00 am until well into the night…and if you’re spending, they’re staying open.

    i liked the poster on the heading….deferential young persons in the presence of an authority figure – who clearly isn’t going to give up his deckchair for a lady…


  8. I don’t think the Harrogate Tourist Commission will be hiring you to do adverts in the near future. Why is Harrogate Britain’s health resort?


    • From Wiki – Harrogate spa water contains iron, sulphur and common salt. The town became known as ‘The English Spa’ in the Georgian Era, after its waters were discovered in the 16th century. In the 17th and 18th centuries the ‘chalybeate’ waters (i.e. containing iron) were a popular health treatment, and the influx of wealthy but sickly visitors contributed significantly to the wealth of the town.


  9. I think this was all very interesting … especially the part about local people not wanting anyone to use the town centre after 6 pm because it’s un-english! To an outsider, that’s funny and infuriating at the same time! It almost sounds like something one child would say to another – “I don’t want to play with it right now, but I don’t want you to play with it either”.


    • It is just one of our national characteristics – we don’t generally go out after 6 o’clock. It might have something to do with the fact that most of us have houses and gardens in which to spend our leisure time and if you have a garden there are always some chores!

      A man I met in Poland explained to me that they like to go out in the evening because in many cases their apartments are so small that it is uncomfortable and difficult to entertain friends in a confined space so they go out to socialise in the parks and the public squares. As I said English people are generally very suspicious about this!


  10. Harrogate …… it is a lovely place to live. Yes, there are skateboarders in the precinct at times – but I also found them whizzing about Rhode’s Town! I dare say that on a cloudy, rainy day Harrogate town can be a bit miserable; but … happily though, there is an abundance of restaurants, lots of shopping opportunities – undercover visits to the Mercer art gallery, the Pump Museum or the local Odeon. Investigate Harrogate Theatre “What’s On” for performances taking place at all the town’s venues. The Montpellier Quarter can be found in the older part of town; and also the Valley Gardens where you can take the public footpath to a Bettys “outpost” at the Harlow Carr Gardens. Within 30 minutes you can be in the Yorkshire Dales, the ancient cities of York or Ripon; closer to hand is Knaresborough’s pretty riverside, the small market town of Pateley Bridge and Ripley a French-styled village which boasts “World Famous” ice cream although I doubt that people in China have ever heard of it! …. and Harrogate posh? Well not too posh – I live here!

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  11. Pingback: Yorkshire – Harrogate, The Poshest Town in North of England | Have Bag, Will Travel

  12. Last visited Harrogate in July 2014 for the start of the Tour de France. It was a lovely sunny day and the town was jam-packed with fans – no chance of getting a table in Betty’s!


  13. We visited 18 months or so ago and we felt disappointed too. It was part of the North East section of our Tour of England and we’d stayed in Whitby and Alnwick too, both of which were equally disappointing. As you say it was mostly about making comparisons with Spain, France ….. Italy and their evening cafe and restaurant culture. It is a general British thing though because our own village is dead from 5pm onwards and I’m constantly moaning about it, one of our two coffees bars shuts at 3.30pm and the tea room shuts at 5! Everyone’s gone home to watch Neighbours, Pointless and East Enders.


  14. For people who work.. closing shops at 1700 is great. It’s a bit like the shops closing for 2 hour lunch in France.


  15. Love all the pictures of Harrowgate, Certainly has plenty of beauty spots


  16. I’m not sure I’ve ever been to Harrogate – maybe driven through it.
    One of my friends worked there until she retired a few years ago, but always lived elsewhere so we never had cause to visit. Doesn’t sound as if I’m missing too much!


  17. They asked you to hurry it up at 5pm? Oh dear. Reminds me of rural towns in the US.


  18. Pingback: A Skinflint in The Yorkshire Dales | Have Bag, Will Travel

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