See also Turkish Baths
Harrogate, a former spa town in Yorkshire, has green open spaces, gardens and an interesting history. It has been famous as a spa town since 1571, when the first spring was discovered.
Although the Harrogate springs date back more than four hundred years, it wasn’t until Victorian times that it became a popular spa town. The Royal Baths were opened in 1897. Part of its draw was the variety of waters it provided. There were sulphide waters and iron waters and a number of types within these two major categories. The waters had many natural ingredients including barium, potassium, sodium and magnesium. There were 88 springs in the town, many discovered in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The 17 acre site now known as the Valley Gardens was the location of 36 of these. This is in the area now known as Low Harrogate, being at the bottom of a hill.
The spring water was not only drunk but also bathed in. The Victorians believed it had miraculous healing properties. By the late 1830s the railroads had provided easy access to 30,000 people a year. This rose to 75,000 by 1910. The population of the town grew to provide for visitors and grand hotels were built. Royalty visited in 1911 when Queen Victoria’s three grand-daughters visited.
The Royal Pump Room Museum has full details of all the treatments and some of the equipment used as well as the details of the spa town’s history. Some of the treatments offered were:
a.The Saline Sulphur Bath: two waters—saline sulphur and alkaline saline sulphur were used to treat various disorders including gout, rheumatism, and hepatic disorders as well as skin problems such as eczema, acne, and psoriasis.
b.Nasal douche and throat sprays: people inhaled atomised mineral water to clear their sinuses.
c.Peat Baths: these included a mineral peat bath, a brine bath, an electric bath, and an ordinary peat bath. Peat was gathered from the Yorkshire moors. It contained a bit of iron and some organic acids. People with rheumatism, lumbago, sciatica and other back and pelvic disorders took these baths.
The small Mercer Art Gallery is near the museum and houses local treasures. The town centre has plenty of shops that include designer shops, familiar chain names, home design, and arts and crafts. The Montpellier Quarter is also home to many quality antique shops and art galleries.
The historic Turkish Baths and spa still operate and offer various treatments. There is a steam room, heated chambers, a plunge pool, and a relaxation room as well as the standard spa treatments. You will need to book ahead.
The Valley Gardens, right in the city, are a wonderful surprise and a beautiful place to spend an afternoon. They are English Heritage Grade II Listed. Adjacent to the gardens is the Pinewoods covering 17 acres.
In the gardens are a number of mineral springs, one of the reasons for the many visitors in the past. Band concerts take place on Sunday afternoons during the summer. In the gardens are historic buildings, two examples being the Sun Pavilion and Colonnades. There is a children’s play area and a cafe.
A flower show takes place in Harrogate in the spring.
Harrogate is on several major A roads.
Tourist Information Centre
Royal Baths, Crescent Rd, Harrogate
Tel: 0 845 389 3223
Open: April-Oct, Mon-Sat, 9am-5.30pm, Sun 10am-1pm; Nov-end March, Mon-Sat, 9am-5pm
Very friendly and helpful staff. Book a Blue Badge tour of the town here.
Royal Pump Room Museum
Crown Place, Harrogate
Tel. 0 1423 556 188
Open: Mon-Sat, 10.30am-4pm, Sun, 2-4pm, until 5pm April-end Oct
Small shop; special exhibitions; use town car parks
Mercer Art Gallery
Swan Rd, Harrogate
Tel. 0 1423 556 188
Open: Tue-Sat, 10am-5pm, Sun 2-5pm; open BH Mon; closes at 4pm Nov-March
Changing exhibitions of 2000 works of fine art collection, mostly 19th and 20th centuries works including those by William Powell Frith, Atkinson Grimshaw, Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Dame Laura Knight, Alan Davie and others; town pay car park
Turkish Baths and Spa
Tel. 0 1423 556 746
Open: for treatments; viewing every Wed, 9-10am
Restored Victorian bathhouse built 1898 in Moorish style with many brightly coloured tiles and archways; now offers modern spa facilities
Web: Turkish Baths
Harlow Carr Royal Horticultural Society Garden
Crag Lane, Harrogate
Tel. 0 1423 565 418
Open: March-end first week Nov, 9.30am-6pm; second week Nov-end Feb, 9.30am-4pm, last entry 1 hr before closing
Web: Harlow Carr Garden
Public Park, open site
Floral displays; walks; special events and entertainment; café
Web: Valley Gardens Harrogate
Destinations-UK-Ireland highly recommends a one hour walking tour of Harrogate. This will introduce you to a bit of the town’s past and its building along with entertaining stories.
Blue Badge Guides
Guided Tours of Harrogate run daily from Harrogate Tourist Information; to book and check times call TIC at 0 1423 537 301.
To stay in Harrogate, we recommend as the best place Acorn Lodge
All photos courtesy of and used by permission Harrogate Tourism
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