Harrogate is a beautiful Regency / Victorian spa town in the English county of North Yorkshire. It's home to the famous Betty's tea rooms, Harlow Carr Gardens and Harrogate spa water. In addition to being a charming floral town Harrogate is a popular conference venue, with a large convention centre. As a result it has many good restaurants and hotels and a pleasant, walkable centre.
North of Harrogate are the scenic Yorkshire Dales.
Leeds-Bradford Airport (LBA) is actually more accessible from Harrogate than it is from Leeds or Bradford, as it lies north of the cities and you dodge most of the traffic on the approach. This means that getting to London by air (by BA to Heathrow LHR5) can beat the train. Good connections to Western Europe, eg Dublin, Amsterdam, Dusseldorf, Paris and Brussels, as well as domestic flights to Southampton, Exeter and Belfast. The budget carrier Jet2 is based at LBA. The 737 bus connects LBA to Harrogate town centre.
For destinations beyond West Europe, head for Manchester or the London airports.
Harrogate sits on a loop of line connecting Leeds (35 minutes, two per hour) and York (40 minutes, hourly); Northern Rail run this service. Almost anywhere else will involve a change at Leeds or York, but there is one direct train to London Kings Cross per day (not Sunday). This goes south around 7.30 am, taking 3 hours, and returns north around 5.30 pm; connections via York are almost as fast.
Note that at Leeds station, the loop train may be shown as going to Poppleton (a small halt just outside York), to avoid travellers for York going the long way round.
From the north, follow the A1 then A59 west then bypass Knaresborough via A658 and A661. From the south, the signed route is the same, but consider leaving A1 sooner at Junction 45 into Wetherby and going via A661. From the south end of Leeds use the new A63 to join M1 which merges into A1 then heads towards Wetherby; but from northern or central Leeds just go straight up the A61.
From Leeds take the 36, which runs every 15 minutes (20 on Sundays) taking just over an hour. This bus takes the direct route up the A61 past Harewood House, and from Harrogate continues to Ripon.
The 770 goes a longer route from Leeds via Wetherby to Harrogate. Buses also connect via Wetherby to York (X70 then 412), but train is better.
From Bradford take the 747, which runs hourly via the airport.
Two National Express services call at Harrogate. NX425 runs from London Victoria via Leeds then Harrogate to Newcastle and Ashington. NX537 runs from Glasgow and Edinburgh via Newcastle, Durham, Harrogate, Sheffield and Nottingham to Corby. Both services are one coach per day in each direction.
Walking is best for town centre, and cycling will quickly get you to outlying attractions. Avoid driving in town, as it can be very congested.
There are frequent bus services  around Harrogate and its neighbouring towns and villages, most of them operated by Harrogate & District using modern low-floor buses. Bus Route 1 plies the main road between Harrogate and Knaresborough every 8 minutes during the daytime.
All trains from Leeds continue to Knaresborough, with alternate trains going on to York.
Simply strolling the central streets and arcades is a joy.
- 1 Betty's tearooms, 1 Parliament Street, HG1 2QU. daily 09:00 - 21:00. famous, but there will be long queues to eat in at weekends, even if the Queen isn't visiting. Still, you could get everything for a picnic from the onsite bakery, then head into one of the green spaces to enjoy: in all but the dead of winter there are excellent floral displays.
- Valley Gardens.
- 2 Royal Pump Room Museum. celebrates the town's spa heyday. The original "Spa" is in Belgium; Harrogate's natural spring waters were discovered circa 1571 to have similar composition. Add in a Regency / Victorian social scene, the invention of railways and leisure travel, and oodles of publicity, and here you are. The mineral-rich springs are variously of "chalybeate" - iron - and of sulphur. Do taste some: it's the sulphur that you're going to remember.
- Turkish Baths, Parliament Street, HG1 2WH, ☎ . open daily - see website for session times - some sessions are ladies only. are a splendid Moorish-style sauna and soak. Guided tours on Wednesday at 9:00 (£3.75). £15.50 - 29.50 depending on day and time.
- 3 RHS Harlow Carr Gardens (3 miles south of town, a long walk or a short car trip). the best blooms, which also has its own branch of Betty's.
It's where not what you buy: be sure to visit the Victoria Shopping Centre, a splendid arcade facing the railway station (parking available). The familiar chains and a good few independents are here. Continue through the pedestrianised Montpelier quarter until your arms can carry no more.
- Drum & Monkey, 5 Montpelier Gardens. seafood
- Harrogate Brasserie, 30 Cheltenham Parade. is also a hotel
- William & Victoria, 6 Cold Bath Road. British
- Wild Ginger, Station Parade. for vegetarians and vegans (or non vegetarians).
Harrogate Spring Water is a very drinkable commercial brand of local spring water, low in minerals, and not to be mistaken for the concussion inflicted by high-mineral Harrogate spa water.
As a spa town, many Harrogate hotels date back a century or two, and you can aim to stay somewhere with real character. These include the Old Swan, St George (both listed below), Hotel du Vin, White Hart and The Crown, all in the centre. Familiar chains within a mile or two include Britannia Lodge, Best Western Cedar Court, and Travelodge. There are plenty of smaller hotels and B&Bs, mostly just north of the centre along the Ripon Road (A61) and Kings Road.
- St George. 1 Ripon Road, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG1 2SY, ☎ . An Edwardian Hotel in the city centre offering restaurant and leisure facilities. Now part of Shearings Group with many coach parties. Recent visitors have found much in need of repair.
- 1 Old Swan, Swan Rd, ☎ . 200 year old and full of atmosphere. Now part of Classic Lodges Group, When Agatha Christie's first husband went off with another woman in 1926, she faked a "suicide" disappearance but ten days later was spotted staying here.
- Further out, splurge at Rudding Park, Follifoot Lane, HG3 1JH (4 miles out of town off A658), ☎ . Luxurious spa hotel in Georgian mansion; golf course and parklands
Harrogate does a lot of corporate and event accommodation and can become booked out, eg for the Great Yorkshire Show held here each July. If you can't get in, consider staying in central Leeds and day-tripping by train. With your own car, you can stay out in the North Yorkshire countryside.
Good connectivity in town centre, but some of the surrounding countryside is patchy or altogether dead.
Harrogate is mostly a very safe town, and, even at night, you are unlikely to encounter more than the odd scuffle between people leaving the pubs and clubs in the early hours of the morning. The binge drinking culture is present but probably less pronounced than in most other towns of comparable size.
Of course, as with any other town, caution is advised when alone, especially in low-lit areas and at night. The town has a very low crime rate, even in the suburbs, but it is advisable to be cautious at night if staying in the suburbs. It is also advisable to avoid visiting or passing through the Valley Gardens after dark due to the relatively high crime rate after dark in that area. Though very safe and very popular for families and tourists during the day, like any other town park, it has its share of riffraff late at night.
Within a day trip from Harrogate, but deserving a longer stay, are Ripon and Fountains Abbey, York, Leeds, Bradford and Durham. Further afield but still within a couple of hours travel are Manchester, the Lake District and Newcastle.
Knaresborough is a charming market town 3 miles east, perched on the gorge of the River Nidd.
The underlying millstone grit crops up here and there in striking rock formations. The best of these are at Brimham Rocks, 10 miles north off the B6165 beyond Summerbridge (HG3 4DW). Free, open all daylight hours. Smaller outcrops include Almscliff Crag off the A658 to Bradford and the airport, and Plumpton Rocks off the A661 to Wetherby and the A1.
Harewood House is a palatial 18th C mansion built by Carr & Adam with extensive grounds by "Capability" Brown and an exotic bird garden. 7 miles south of Harrogate on the A61 main road to Leeds, frequent bus # 36. Open April-September.
Ripon is the site of must-see Fountains Abbey.
Ripley Castle in the village of Ripley is a 15th-century castle and stately home of the Ingilby family.
The Yorkshire Dales and North Yorks Moors are scenic national parks easily reached by car.
Veterinary practice in Thirsk inspired the tales of James Heriot, and his house there is now a museum. Learn more about his profession at Yorkshire Farming Museum outside York.
The Harrogate Hoard, a collection of almost 700 Viking coins, was discovered locally in 2007. It's now in the Yorkshire Museum in York.