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A Harrogate City Guide - History, Heritage, and Natural Beauty in the Yorkshire Dales

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Looking for a short, romantic break in a historic spa town full of graceful Victorian architecture? Seeking a base for an active family holiday amid some of England's finest scenery? Fascinated by medieval castles or stately homes? You'll find all of these, and more, in and around Harrogate. The wide open spaces of the Yorkshire Dales unfold just minutes from town.

Central Harrogate attractions


Harrogate's historic town centre is one of the most unspoiled in England. Here you'll find grand 19th-century public buildings and shopping arcades dating from Harrogate's heyday as a fashionable spa resort. Old-fashioned sweet shops sell the town's famous toffees, while traditional tearooms tempt you to pause for a pot of Yorkshire tea. In the lanes of the downtown Montpellier Quarter, boutiques, delis, and antique stores offer other temptations.

A visit to Ripon


Ripon, 11 miles north of Harrogate, sits in the green valley of the River Ure. Here, you can visit a 12th-century cathedral, see the medieval ruins of Fountains Abbey, and walk around Fountains Hall, a stately home set in one of England's great gardens. On a Thursday, Ripon's market day, this small town is at its bustling best.


  • Fountains Abbey, Fountains, Ripon HG4 3DY; Tel: +44 1765 608888; Website: Fountains Abbey


Something different in Ripley


Arriving in Ripley, only 3 miles from downtown Harrogate, you may wonder if you're still in England. Inspired by a visit to Alsace, the local squire had the village rebuilt in a decidedly French style in the mid 19th century. Among trim grey houses stand buildings that wouldn't look out of place on the left bank of the Rhine, including a very Gallic-looking town hall.


Caves and a castle


Visit Knaresborough for its dramatic location straddling the River Nidd. But it's not all about the view in this small town, 4 miles from Harrogate. The tower of a 14th-century castle overlooks Knaresborough's neat streets and stone houses. There's more history on show in the old courthouse, now a museum. To stretch your legs, stroll along the wooded riverbank to a famous cave that in the 16th century was home to a so-called "prophetess."



Masham and Wensleydale


Tidy little Masham is built around a market square surrounded by 18th-century Georgian houses. The square is still the venue for the annual Sheep Fair, which has taken place here for centuries, and for a twice-weekly farmers' market. Masham is a great base for exploring the scenery of Wensleydale (famed for its cheese). It's also a fine place to sample some of the best craft-brewed ales in England.