- Genteel Georgian spa town
- City life
- High tea and boutique sprees
There's more to Harrogate than Bettys tea rooms and Farrah's toffee; as well as being a green-fingered garden of earthly delights and heritage spa destination, it's the gateway to the beautiful Yorkshire Dales.
Harrogate also lays claim to the title 'antiques centre of the north', and there's knick-knack browsing aplenty to punctuate gentle afternoon strolls across the Stray or through the RHS gardens; refuel with a slap-up high tea at one of the town's many cake-focused establishments. Don't make the mistake of thinking things are stuffy round here, though: the high-fashion boutiques, top-notch restaurants, retro interiors shops and on-the-pulse organic delis provide more than enough amusement for hard-to-please urban escapees…
No visit to Harrogate is complete without a visit to Bettys tea rooms. The queues may look offputting, but once you're inside, the towering cake stands and delicate brews will have you by the heartstrings. Traditionalists won't be able to resist the classic 'tea for two', with delicate finger sandwiches, scones with jam and cream, and cakes of toothache-inducing sweetness; however, since menus give the best of Yorkshire a Swiss twist, rebels might prefer a melting gruyere rösti and a glass of Gewürtztraminer, followed by a Matterhorn sundae.
- Harrogate is easy to navigate on foot, but if you want a taxi, there are ranks outside the station and at the War Memorial. Otherwise, try Yellow Line taxis on 01423 521531.
- Tipping culture
- Service is not generally included and many of the smaller cafés and shops don't take cards, so bring plenty of cash and factor in a tip on the generous side of 10 per cent.
- Siesta and fiesta
- There's not much in the way of late-night action in Harrogate, and the latest late-night drink you'll be served will probably be at your hotel. Sundays are slow, with many restaurants closing by 9pm – or closed altogether.
- Packing tips
- Bring swimwear if you want to try out Harrogate's hammam – the 19th-century Turkish alternative to the traditional spa. Twitchers walking in the Pinewoods will want their binoculars for spotting lapwing and curlews, and light-fingered gardeners may want a few freezer bags for surreptitiously snipped cuttings. Walking/cycling gear for exploring the Dales.
- Recommended reads
- Book of Matches and All Points Northby Simon Armitage; Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë; Alan Bennett's Dinner at Noon.
- Tradition, tradition and more tradition: this part of the country is a staunch sticker to British classics, including roast beef and (what else?) Yorkshire pudding. But increasingly, these once-stodgy staples are being given an artisan makeover, with farm-fresh, top-quality ingredients and modern interpretations. Head for a tea room for the sarnies-and-scones afternoon classic, or try a warm Yorkshire 'fat rascal' – a large, fruity scone packed with citrus peel, almonds and cherries. Apart from the famous Farrah's of Harrogate toffee, other regional specialities include Wensleydale cheese and Masham sausages. Seek out local delicacies at the monthly farmers' market (usually on the second Thursday of the month); in the Cheeseboard of Harrogate on Commercial Street (01423 508837), where you'll find more than 200 varieties; or at the excellent deli-café Weeton's, on West Park (01423 507100).
- Pound sterling (£).
- Time zone
- Dialling codes
- UK country code: +44. Harrogate: 01423.
- Do go/don't go
- Catch the gardens of Harrogate in all their glory in spring: late April sees a riot of blooms on display for the Harrogate Spring Flower Show. But, come prepared with just-in-case waterproofs, and any time of year's a pleasure.
Don't go home without...
… checking out what a real fishmonger should look like: Ramus Seafood Emporium at 136 Kings Road (+44 (0)1423 563271; www.ramus.co.uk) is a lesson in fishy perfection from its smoked salmon to its barracuda fillets.