Things to do in Harrogate and the surrounding north Yorkshire area

The Stray Harrogate

The Victorian spa town of Harrogate, north Yorkshire, just shouts out ‘uncomplicated getaway’. In very dulcet tones: its leafy streets house only 75k residents. With acres of green space right in the town centre, Harrogate has a calm, spread-out feel, and most amenities are within easy walking distance of each other. So it’s a good place to stay with the family if you’re looking for a relaxing break. We have relatives there, so we visit often. Here are some of our favourite things to do in Harrogate.

Where is Harrogate UK?

Harrogate is in north Yorkshire, England. It’s a part of the world known as ‘God’s own country’ because of its unspoilt countryside. The town lies close to the picturesque Yorkshire Dales National Park. Further east is the historic city of York, and to the south is Leeds, a vibrant hotspot that some claim is the cultural capital of Yorkshire. Leeds is where you’ll find the nearest airport to Harrogate. Leeds Bradford International airport is only twelve miles from the town centre.

Wander on the Stray

The Stray Harrogate

The Stray’s 200 acres have plenty of resting places.

It would be a sin to visit Harrogate without spending time on The Stray. Nudging right up to the edge of Harrogate town centre, The Stray is a 200-acre protected green common which dates back to 1778. Its wide swathes of grass are criss-crossed by paths, where you’ll find dog walkers and joggers sailing past with a cherry ‘hello’. The Stray has many faces depending on what time of year you visit. In spring, the trees are topped by a cloud of candy-floss pink cherry blossom. Summer sees groups of picnicers scattered across the  grass. In Autumn, The Stray’s tree-lined edges are decorated with a smoky warm carpet of leaves. And in Winter, the trees are festooned with ‘apples’, large round festive lights to illuminate the season.

You can see some pictures of The Stray in Autumn in this post here.

The Stray Harrogate

The Stray is beautiful at any time of year.

Swoon over gorgeous interiors and kitchens

Harrogate has some of the highest property prices in England, with the interiors shops to match. From the chintzy dressing tables of boutique designer Susie Watson designs on Montpellier Gardens, to the wide leather sofas of Oka on West Park, there’s furnishings for everyone. If the wallet’s large enough. Kitchen specialists are in plentiful supply, too, with Kitchen Warehouse acting as a top kitchen destination just down the road in Ripon. Their reasonably priced bespoke kitchen units retail across the UK, but the inspiration was conceived in Harrogate’s charming neighbour town.

Marvel at the floral displays at RHS Harrogate

RHS Harlow Carr

RHS Harlow Carr is full of beautiful flowers.

The RHS Gardens Harrogate, know as Harlow Carr, is a botanical garden set on what used to be part of the Forest of Knaresborough, an ancient Royal hunting ground. The gardens’ 26 acres still feature woodland, with an enchanting rhododendron glade. Wandering around, you’ll find scented wildflower meadows, a glass Alpine house and a kitchen garden. In school holidays Harlow Carr puts on family activities, like egg hunts at Easter, and vibrant illuminations over Christmas.

Play in the Valley Gardens

One of the top things to do with kids in Harrogate, is spend time at the Valley Gardens. With a large children’s play area featuring castle-themed climbing frames, a paddling pool, a large wooden aeroplane to climb on and a skate park, families could easily while away an afternoon in the playground alone, sustained by ice creams from the large booth. But that would be a mistake. The gardens themselves are a pretty Grade II English Heritage listed feature, and their 17 acres include tennis courts, a pitch & putt golf course, crazy golf, and a boating pool. There’s no accounting for the Harrogate weather, of course, but on a fine day, visitors to the town should spend at least an hour or two in this captivating place.

Eat cake at Betty’s Tearoom

Betty's Tearoom

Betty’s Tearoom is a Harrogate institution.

Betty’s Tearoom celebrates its centenery in 2019, and the place is a Yorkshire institution. It’s possibly the most well-known of all Harrogate tourist attractions. Queues to enter its bustling interior can be long, but the warm fat rascal scones are worth the wait. A signature dish is Betty’s delicately moreish afternoon tea, served by staff in elegantly retro attire.

Pamper yourself at the Turkish Baths and Health Spa

Harrogate turkish baths

Harrogate’s Turkish Baths are of Moorish design.

Harrogate spa, or the Turkish Baths and Health Spa as it’s known, is a Victorian spa dating back to 1897. Once you’re past the high, glass-ceilinged atrium, it’s all Islamic arches, vibrant glazed brickwork and arabesque painted ceilings. Adult visitors can ease away their troubles in rooms of four different temperatures, from the feet-blistering Laconium, to the Frigidarium relaxation room. It’s a small, welcoming spa, unique in its design and ambiance.

Harrogate Turkish baths

Harrogate’s Spa dates back to the Victorian era.

Catch a film at the Everyman cinema

The five-screen luxury Everyman cinema opened recently in Harrogate town centre. If you’re looking for things to do in Harrogate in the evening, then the Everyman can be your one-stop venue. The staff in the expansive cocktail bar whip up a mean Negroni, watched over by oversized canvases featuring film posters and movie starlets. Once you’ve chowed down on a pizza, or a spiced avocado sharing plate, you can settle onto the cinema’s comfortable sofa-style seating to watch the film of your choice.

See an olde worlde town crier at Knaresborough Market


Knaresborough’s aquaduct is dizzyingly high.

One of the many interesting places to visit near Harrogate is Knaresborough. The place is a beautiful, granite-hued market town complete with a castle and a stunning aqueduct. On Wednesdays the town square teems with stalls selling locally grown produce, Yorkshire meat, fresh fish from the coast, local cheeses and beers, artisan bread and traditional Yorkshire pork pies. Knaresborough has seen a market in its square since 1310. It makes the most of its heritage, with a traditional town crier in the market at 11am and 1pm, yelling ‘Oyez, oyez!’ at the top of his voice.

If you tire of Harrogate attractions, Knaresborough isn’t the only town in very close proximity. Ripon is also charming. It features a Workhouse Museum, which our kids found fascinating when Granny and Grandad took them to visit.

To find out more, including information about Harrogate hotels and other places to stay in Harrogate, Harrogate restaurants and up-to-date information about whats on in Harrogate Yorkshire, see the visit Harrogate website.

To read more about Harrogate, check out our other posts:

11 pictures to make you fall in love with Harrogate in the Autumn

Harrogate Turkish Baths and Health Spa

Do you have any tips on things to do with kids in Harrogate? Or any activities for those child-free moments?

This is a collaborative post. All images and opinions are my own.

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  1. November 10, 2018 / 12:50 pm

    It’s been a few years since I’ve been to Harrogate (I used to go for the Crime Writing festival in July), but its such a lovely town.

    • Nell
      November 26, 2018 / 10:26 am

      Isn’t it? I feel lucky to have family there, so we can visit regularly.

  2. November 16, 2018 / 9:37 pm

    Great article, thanks. We love the Valley Gardens something to do every season. A must do is having a Ripleys ice cream whilst there. Best ice cream ever!

    • Nell
      November 26, 2018 / 11:06 am

      Ooh – yum. I don’t think I’ve tried Ripleys. Something to add to the list for next time we visit. Thanks!

  3. November 25, 2018 / 7:02 pm

    Well, that’s twice now that I have had to save your blog post for a future travel trip! Wow– I am loving the photos and this looks like a place I would love to get lost in. I lived in England in the last 80’s and early 90’s, we were there for 4 years and I have to say, that is when I fell completely and totally in love with England. We didn’t actually travel as much as I wanted to, though we did travel some and saw some amazing places in the UK. I return to London all the time and venture out to new destinations all the while. Harrogate will be a new destination. Thank you for this, I’m so glad I discovered your blog! Though my daughter–my travel buddy is slightly older than your kids, she’s 13, she’s obsessed with travel and I love seeing where families and children like to visit.
    Much love, Tammy

    • Nell
      November 26, 2018 / 11:32 am

      If you do make it to London and have some extra time, Harrogate’s a very easy train journey away. Just a thought! Thanks for stopping by.

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