Harrogate Turkish baths and health spa

Harrogate Turkish baths and health spa

If you head down the hill from the famous Betty’s Tearoom, the tourist hub of Harrogate in north Yorkshire, you might be forgiven for walking straight past the sign for Harrogate’s Turkish baths. The unassuming exterior is at odds with Harrogate’s character, where well-kept, manicured public gardens flaunt some of the reasons why this was recently judged to be the UK’s happiest town; and whose elegant shop fronts lay out their upmarket wares in true blunt Yorkshire style.

Harrogate turkish baths

To enter the baths, you have to walk down to the cellar of a 19th-Century building, and step through a modest door into a cool corridor. Once in the reception and cafe area, though, you get a sense of the place’s grandeur: the reception is set in a large, glass-ceilinged atrium furnished with brushed velvet chaise longues and artfully appliquéd cushions.

The Turkish baths were opened in 1897. The Moorish design of the rooms, with their Islamic arches, vibrant glazed brickwork and arabesque painted ceilings, would have been the pinnacle of the Victorian trend for exotic spas. The very best Italian experts were flown in to lay the terrazzo floors, and everything was finished to an exceedingly high standard. Harrogate’s Turkish baths are one of only three in the UK that date back to the 19th Century.

Harrogate Turkish baths

Harrogate Turkish baths

Harrogate Turkish baths

Harrogate Turkish baths

I visited the Turkish baths mid-week, on a Monday when the daytime sessions are women-only. It was the half-term school holidays, and the baths were uncharacteristically full: of pairs, and larger groups of women, talking about Christmas plans, their offspring, and work projects. I overheard a couple of writers discussing the Harrogate literary festival, which had just finished. The place had a relaxed, animated vibe, with the high vaulted ceilings enfolding the buzz of conversation, and the gasps of women as they braved the plunge pool.

As well as a separate steam room, the Turkish baths has rooms of four different temperatures, from the feet-blistering Laconium, to the Frigidarium relaxation room. The baths feel cosy and clean, from the immaculately glossy tiles to the dark, wood-panneled changing rooms and the elegant, old-school toilets with their ‘Thomas Crapper and Sons’ sign. If you prefer your Turkish baths to be scented, you won’t find it here; the only aroma I could decent through the nostril-scorching heat was a little tea tree oil, near the showers.

Harrogate Turkish baths

Harrogate Turkish baths

Harrogate Turkish baths

Harrogate Turkish baths

A three-hour session at the baths was enough to clear my head of the half-term fug; especially the cold plunge pool, which seemed to turn up the ‘sharpen’ dial inside my head. I can see why the Victorians swore by these baths as a cure for winter malaise. I left feeling fortified against the October chill, and the germy, bug-ridden children waiting for me back at home.

The health spa offers massages and other beauty treatments; you have to pre-book, then wait to be called through before, during or after your session in the baths. Prices vary for the spa sessions; two or three hours in the Turkish baths cost between £17.50 and £29.50, depending on the day. Opening hours are 9.30-21.00 during the week, and 9.00-20.30 at the weekend.

If you’d like to see more of Harrogate, I’ve posted 11 pictures here that will make you fall in love with the town. And here are our favourite things to do in and around Harrogate.

I was invited to try out Harrogate’s Turkish baths for the purpose of this post. All views are my own.

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Harrogate Turkish baths

 

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22 Comments

  1. November 14, 2016 / 2:31 pm

    Oh my word how beautiful is this? It sounds like a super relaxing experience and I’m not surprised in those fabulous surroundings! Lovely to meet you the other day.
    Nat.x

    • Nell
      Author
      November 16, 2016 / 1:16 pm

      And you! x

  2. November 15, 2016 / 9:40 am

    I’ve been to Bettys a lot and had no clue this existed. I must go one day, it sounds wonderful. I’ve had Turkish baths abroad and and a good old scrub and felt like a 5 year old again being bathed by my mum! But ohhh you feel so wonderful afterwards don’t you? 🙂

    • Nell
      Author
      November 16, 2016 / 1:19 pm

      Yes, I came out feeling all blissed-up!

  3. December 8, 2016 / 10:12 am

    I’ve been to these baths once and had a great time. I’m impressed with your photos (with no one in) I tried to sneak a few photos but there were so many people around in towels that I didn’t feel I could take any. It’s such a surprising place, a slice of the Orient in the heart of Yorkshire. I went in winter and remember coming out feeling so relaxed and warm to the core. #farawayfiles

    • Nell
      Author
      December 9, 2016 / 10:58 am

      Winter’s the perfect time for a visit, I reckon. I was lucky with the photos. They let me in 20 mins before they opened up!

  4. December 8, 2016 / 12:50 pm

    I defintiely plan to visit Yorkshire one day and when I do, I am DEFINITELY making time for this! #FarawayFiles

    • Nell
      Author
      December 9, 2016 / 11:41 am

      You won’t regret it!

  5. December 8, 2016 / 1:14 pm

    That looks beautiful…what a relaxing way to spend an afternoon. I love any kind of bath or spa, so these will definitely be on my list to check out!

    • Nell
      Author
      December 9, 2016 / 11:48 am

      It’s definitely worth a trip!

  6. December 9, 2016 / 5:59 am

    I am guessing you felt like in Turkey when you visited these baths. The details and the atmosphere is incredible. I really like all the details. I have never been to a Turkish bath. I should stop by one one day. #FarawayFiles

    • Nell
      Author
      December 9, 2016 / 11:50 am

      They are sooooo relaxing!

  7. December 9, 2016 / 8:02 am

    This looks completely civilised and relaxing. I love how you could walk in here and completely transport yourself to another place for a few hours. I will definitely be checking out the baths next time I head up north. Thanks for sharing this find with us on #FarawayFiles

    • Nell
      Author
      December 9, 2016 / 11:50 am

      It really was like walking into another world!

  8. December 9, 2016 / 9:01 am

    Those beds make it look a bit like a wartime hospital set up in a grand stately home! I would never have imagined this could be hiding away in Harrogate. What a great idea to come here after indulging on some of Betty’s lovely pastries. Thanks for sharing this on #FarawayFiles

    • Nell
      Author
      December 9, 2016 / 11:51 am

      I’d never thought about it like that, but yes, you’re right Clare!

  9. December 9, 2016 / 9:53 pm

    I so enjoy the little details in your writing. The women discussing Christmas plans, the nostril-searing heat, the scent of tea tree; you have illustrated this beautiful place… beautifully. I’ve never been to a Turkish bath, but I now feel like I have. Thanks for this wonderful vicarious visit! #farawayfiles

    • Nell
      Author
      December 12, 2016 / 11:02 am

      Thank you so much for your kind words!

  10. December 11, 2016 / 5:34 pm

    Beautiful photos, I hope that the water on offer was from the tap and not the wells. As I remember the water from the wells as a sulphurous tang to it!

    • Nell
      Author
      December 12, 2016 / 11:03 am

      Ha ha no, the water was definitely not the stinky kind!

  11. December 14, 2016 / 10:42 pm

    In Denmark – the Danes love a good plunge – but usually straight into the sea! Then straight into the sauna. Reverse principle of the circulation stimulation I’m guessing. These baths are gorgeous – I love the floors and the tiles. Thank you for sharing in #FarawayFiles, Erin

    • Nell
      Author
      December 19, 2016 / 10:12 am

      Yes, I love the sound of that tradition but I’d have to brace myself before trying it!

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