For my friend’s birthday treat, I arranged a day out to Harrogate, North Yorkshire and a visit to its Turkish Baths. The town is located 10 miles from Leeds/Bradford Airport and is easily accessible by train or car from York, Leeds or Skipton. Harrogate features elegant architecture, large Georgian hotels and beautiful parks. It is surrounded by open parkland known as ‘The Stray’ which is covered by an act of Parliament preserving this beautiful space for generations to come.
The Sunday Times newspaper has just voted Harrogate the best place to live in the north and north east of England and reports
Harrogate is cosmopolitan and classy, but with old fashioned Yorkshire charm
The first Harrogate mineral well was discovered in 1571 when its waters were found to have health properties. The town became known as the ‘English Spa’ and grew rapidly. In 1897, the Royal Baths opened and offered spa treatments and hydrotherapy, today only the Turkish Baths remain and we were eager to experience them for ourselves.
Stepping inside, it’s pure Victorian elegance, from oak panelled changing rooms to intricate mosaic tiling. After changing into fluffy white dressing gowns a therapist gave us a short tour of the baths explaining what we needed to know. There are three heated chambers, the ‘warm room’ which warms the body in preparation for the hotter chambers, the ‘hot room’ which allows the warmth to create a therapeutic effect on the muscles and finally the ‘hottest room’ which purifies the body and helps to stimulate circulation. There is also an ice cold ‘plunge pool’ which it was recommended that we use between rooms to improve our circulation.
We started by taking a shower in the tastefully renovated Victorian cubicles before relaxing in each of the chambers. The baths are elaborately decorated in Moorish designs featuring Arabesque large arches adding to the feeling of tranquility and tickets are limited ensuring a calm atmosphere. Unlike a Finnish sauna, the rooms are larger with ample space to lie down and relax on beds and stone seats. The hottest room felt less intense than a sauna but equally relaxing, it was my favourite of the three chambers. We then went to investigate the plunge pool which was deep enough for a gentle swim. My friend jumped in and was already swimming whilst I tentatively climbed down the steps dipping a toe in, bracing myself for the cold water – it was absolutely freezing and I was more than happy to return to the hottest chamber to warm up again afterwards.
Before moving to the Relaxation Room we entered the eucalyptus infused steam room which we both enjoyed, I’m a real fan of steam rooms and saunas so this wasn’t a new experience for me but a first for my friend. It’s then suggested that to end the spa treatment, guests spend some time in the Relaxation Room on one of the comfortable beds. Other clients were more organised than us and had brought along face masks and other preparations to pamper themselves with, so we will come prepared if we ever visit the Turkish baths again. We just relaxed, glancing at some of the glossy magazines provided. The brochure suggests a visit of 90 minutes but as sessions are morning or afternoon we thought it a good idea to arrive early and take advantage of the entire session.
It was then time to step outdoors into the cold but sunny March afternoon leaving with a rosy glow, feeling refreshed and invigorated it was a truly relaxing way to warm up on a cold day. Close to the Turkish Baths lies the Royal Pump Room museum where the strongest sulphur wells in Europe can be visited.
Continuing our stroll through the town, on Parliament Street we came across Betty’s Tea Rooms, serving traditional dishes in elegant, quintessentially English surroundings, it’s on the corner of the opulent Montpelier Quarter and whatever day or time you visit there will always be a queue for tables. I believe this to be the most attractive part of town with boutiques, galleries and antique shops overlooking Prospect Park. After some more time shopping and exploring the centre of this beautiful spa town it was time to return home. My friend’s verdict on her birthday surprise – thankfully a huge success! sometimes an experience can be even nicer than an actual ‘material’ gift as there are always memories to remember it by.
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