Written from the point of view of someone who has actually lived here for many years rather than claimed to of visited for a few evenings. Yes Harrogate is the place where I was born and raised I’ve escaped a few times over the years at least I thought so as I was soon to discover everywhere else in the UK just isn’t quite as good. So having left once for a three year period to be a student and 6 months to sample the fast line life in the city of London I always came back to this British jewel in the Yorkshire dales I missed its beautiful environment its slow easy going pace of life good fish and chips and here’s my first cliché of course the local people.
Once famed for its spa waters this has become a neglected attraction and in my opinion a missed business opportunity especially when you look at the growth in herbal and alternative health remedies. Still it’s a favourite with many tourists’ retired folk and foreign students who study at the many boarding schools manly in the summer months. With more than our quota of grannies the retired come here in droves seeking peace and quiet whilst waiting for god then there’s the “we’ve done well down south” couples coming back here to roost up in the north looking for good schools to send small clones.
It has a history like many old English towns but I would say it’s more interesting than just that (of course I’m biased) and has some unique mysteries of its own including its role as the hiding place of the famous twentieth century crime writer Agatha Christi who went missing for a few days they even made a Hollywood film about it, it’s true!
Located in the north of England it’s almost out of place with the rest of Yorkshire having more in common with the south it could almost be an unofficially London suburb free from riots and looting. That is until you hear the dropped vowel sounds of the locals that tells you are elsewhere in the world calling everyone “Luv” it’s a comforting feeling knowing I’m home when I hear this phrase.
Shopping is not the arduous task that it is in the more busy cities yet you will still have most of the major retail stores mixed in with some unique locally run shops and boutiques plus the ubiquitous Harrogate antique shops just waiting to be browsed around.
Looking for food Harrogate has more than its quota per head of restaurants and takeaways every type of food catered for from the high street chains like pizza express to the specialised ones for people who like quality food like the Orchid Thai food restaurant, but if you want authentic northern food then try Graveleys possibly the best fish and chips in town if not the world! Complete with extra gravy you don’t get this down south. However no Burger king to be found for miles and miles I believe there is a fascinating urban myth surrounding this?
Harrogate Nightlife can vary from the sophisticated bars like the Fat Badgers and award winning Banyan to the naughty wildcats and the obscure Trotters bar they even have their own “Only Fools and Horses” Yellow Reliant Van outside, the last port of call being the Royal baths very own Viper rooms nightclub not to be confused with the los Angeles version. However if you like Music I suggest you go elsewhere and try being lured into “Lure” bar instead they have the best dance music around. After your long night out for a world class Kebab on the way home the everlasting Chico’s takeaway is open to silly hours of the morning near the bus station even this place has some class.
The Historic “Stray” 200 acres of park land wrapped right around the middle of town is the biggest asset that the town has and plays host to seasonal visits from the Fairground people to the circus firework displays and a great place for an improvised summer BBQ but please take your rubbish with you.
If you find Betties Tea shop you have found the centre of town and a line of people waiting patiently outside gazing at cream cakes high on coffee fumes this café even has regular royalty visits from the likes of Charles and Camilla they seem to visit every other month if not unannounced to the public to large.
After your cakes take a stroll in the beautiful Valley Gardens then lose a few pounds performing tricks on the brand new world class skate board park soon to be featured in computer games no doubt at last somewhere for today’s youth to hang out and look cool as only Harrogate kids can in there expensive trainers.
Once a year the great Yorkshire show comes to town and clogs up every roundabout and junction for miles with endless traffic. Those lucky enough to get the day off work and buy a ticket can enjoy beers tents, prize winning animals, horse jumping and sampling freebies in the fantastic food hall.
For film lovers the much loved Odeon Cinema is a prime example of 1930’s art deco which was even once featured on the British stamp. It may lack the vastness and the choice of the modern multiplex but it has a charm and character which is quintessential a perfect cinema if only they would change it back into its original one screen forget rubbish 3D this could become spectacular 2D again.
Enjoy a night at Harrogate’s historic Theatre you‘ll never find such a beautiful stage anywhere accept from the recently refurbished Royal Hall. A more modern venue is the sometimes controversial Harrogate conference centre which once hosted the Eurovision song contest back in the 1980’s feeds the hordes of hotels and B&B’s servicing exhibitionists and tourists alike.
Are there any famous people from Harrogate? There’s the one and only Rudy the sun worshiping street man no one knows where he came from but some would say he’s the spiritual shaman of Harrogate he can often be found standing in the middle of town singing to the big society as you pass by with your expensive shopping bags.
Finally the Harrogate international summer music festival has a growing fringe but has a long way to go before it’s the new Edinburgh still some unique acts and a healthy live music scene will cater for all tastes and interests along with the Harrogate crime writing festival for the geeks.
As I mentioned before I’ve often escaped but then plotted my return to this jewel of a town come visit this place just so you have a travel yard stick to measure by.