Fascinating Historical Visits in and around Harrogate

Harrogate has always been a top tourist destination in the North of England. With its renowned ‘spa town’ status and ideal location between the Yorkshire Dales and the North Yorkshire Moors, you can be sure of a busy itinerary when visiting this historic town. This article will inform you of the history and current information on some of the most visited sites in and around the idyllic town of Harrogate.

Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal UNESCO World Heritage Site

Located between Harrogate, Ripon and Nidderdale AONB (area of outstanding national beauty), lies the stunning grounds of Fountains Abbey and its surrounding estate gardens and parks. Owned by National Trust, it provides beautiful scenery, convenient food facilities and fantastic learning environments. This site began with Fountains Abbey, where its construction began in 1132, and operated as a large monastery for 100s of years.

The Abbey’s present state of ruins can be explained by its 1539 ‘dissolution’ order by Henry VIII, where the Monasteries were surrendered and seized by the Crown and left for years in a state of disrepair. Before this time, the Abbey’s economic status was impacted by historical events such as the Black Death and multiple raids by the Scots throughout the 14th Century. Private ownership of the land expanded its estate and gardens in the 1700s, representing the best of architecture and styles of the time. Georgian water features, follies, lakes, and temples were all constructed to enhance the natural beauty of the deer park and can still be viewed to this day.

When visiting this site, car parking is plentiful at the Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal sites, and you can stroll through the vast estate at your leisure. The park is open 7 days a week, from 10am-4.30pm, with a café restaurant, gift shop, free parking and toilet facilities provided. Admission costs and other prices for family and group sizes are available, and more information can be found on the National Trust website (link attached below). Be sure to browse the website for frequent special events occurring at the Abbey!

The National Trust website for fountains abbey and Studley royal park can be found here: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/fountains-abbey-and-studley-royal-water-garden

The site address can be found here, and is easiest when coming from Ripon: Fountains Abbey, Ripon, North Yorkshire, HG4 3DY.

Royal Pump Room Museum

Harrogate’s Pump Room represents the towns foundations and economic growth on its water and spa treatment, many would flock to Harrogate to participate in the water’s ‘healing properties’. From the 16th Century, the discovery of (sulphur) springs in the area and the increased knowledge of technology and disease in the 1700s caused the erection of wellheads and a water infrastructure to the town. The ‘curing’ properties of the towns water attracted anyone who could afford it, and the lifestyle of good food, relaxation, fashion, and the outdoors complemented the Spa treatments. Eventually the town developed grand houses, lavish hotels, and dining rooms, to accommodate its wealthy clientele. Today, the Royal Pump Room still stands, blanketing the original sulphur well from the elements.

1000s of cups of water used be served from this building daily, and is steps away from the scenic Valley Gardens, where entertainment and the relaxing atmosphere enhanced Harrogate’s ‘health’ experience. Today, the Pump Rooms offer a learning experience in original ornate surroundings, with regular exhibitions and knowledgeable staff, it provides context and fascination to your Harrogate visit. Currently, Winter times have the museum open from Tuesday to Saturday and typically opens at 10am-4pm (be sure to check for any special events, closures and information on the Museum’s website and Facebook page). Admission prices including family and senior citizens prices are available to view on the website. This museum is a must when visiting the historic spa town of Harrogate!

Museum information, opening times and prices can be found on the Harrogate Borough Council website here: https://www.harrogate.gov.uk/royal-pump-room-museum

The Royal Pump Rooms can be found at the centre of Harrogate with the following address: Royal Pump Room Museum, Crown Place, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG1 2RY.

Valley Gardens & Pavilions

Directly outside the Pump Room lies Harrogate’s treasured Valley Gardens where outdoor entertainment, dining and games have been enjoyed for 100’s of years. During the spring and summer, the garden’s ‘Pavilions’ and ’Magnesia Well café’ provide Ice Cream, tea, sandwiches, and cakes to visitors, and is easily accessible to manual/electric wheelchairs (disabled access toilets are also provided).

The area also showcases gardens of different themes, including senses, habitats, and cultures, that are also adapted seasonally, to enjoy a year-round experience. The first ‘valley pleasure grounds’ was developed in 1858 and expanded greatly from 1901 to the Great War period. It was designed to complement the towns health spa status, and houses some of the spring wells which defined Harrogate. Ornate features of the park include its Sun Pavilion, colonnades, fountains, and bandstand, which help to create a memorable experience (and there are benches everywhere!).

Valley Gardens is owned by the local council who maintain its beauty by planting seasonal flower displays, and can be enjoyed all day, every day. Entry to the park is free, and children can enjoy the paddling pool, mini golf range and exciting playground.

More information and history of the Gardens can be found on the ‘Visit Harrogate’ website here: https://www.visitharrogate.co.uk/business-directory/valley-gardens-harrogate

Parking along the Gardens is possible, but it does get busy. Please take the time to park at the Jubilee/Victoria car parks and walk to the gardens to appreciate the rest of the town. Valley Gardens can be located Between Valley Drive and Cornwall Road.

Ripley Castle & Gardens

Three miles outside of Harrogate sits the quaint village of Ripley and its grand Castle & Gardens. The deer park and garden’s offer a pleasant sight of seasonal flowers, plants, and a wide variety of tree species. Many tropical species are also grown in the parks ‘hot houses’, as well as a selection of wisteria on the castle’s high walls, so this is the place for avid horticulturalists! The grounds also offer a selection of dining experiences with an onsite tearoom and estate owned pub, ‘The Boars Head’. The village itself is worth strolling around, observing the estate built housing and cobbled paths whilst you stop for a refreshing ice cream. The Castle and its grounds are open daily and can be accessed from 10am, with last entry at 2pm.. A guided tour service is also available where the Castle’s grand interior can be appreciated. For admission prices please see website.

The Castles website can be found here, where more information on its events, dining and wedding enquiries can be accessed: https://www.ripleycastle.co.uk/

Ripley Castle is a stone’s throw away from Harrogate and can be found at the following address: Ripley, Harrogate, HG3 3AY.