I went into the Swan on the Stray in Harrogate in April 2010-and I loved it! There was an olde worlde charm of it on the outside and inside it was clean and it appeared that most of the interior was new. I think this created an ambience which suited it. It was lovely! There was plenty of space around the tables so you were not cramped in, it was light and airy and there was no loud music playing! This is a rare thing on a Saturday night in a pub and it was absolutely wonderful! It was noisy because everyone was talking but that was great. I didnt have to shout over music to have a conversation.
It is a real ale pub and the choice of beers was outstanding! They had at least 5 fruit beers-the largest selection I have ever encountered in a pub! And they were absolutely delicious! So much so that I worked through the whole fruit beer menu and was taken by all of them.
The staff were very friendly and conversational and this was lovely. It seemed to be what a pub should be.
I ordered a meal which was basic, but tasty and thoroughly enjoyable.
I had a really enjoyable time there that Saturday night and will be going back to the Swan in the future.
Harrogate is a spa town in north Yorkshire, less than an hours drive from Leeds or Bradford, and with adequate bus and rail links. It is well worth a visit at this time of year if you want to do some Christmas shopping for something different, but of course at other times of year it is an equally nice place to visit.
There are many hotels situated in and around Harrogate, some budget priced, others a lot more expensive and of course there is the Harrogate Conference and Exhibition Centre where major exhibitions and events are held throughout the year. The Royal Swan is a famous Harrogate hotel, (check out www.harrogate.com) and there are many others, some large and imposing, others smaller and more homely.
There are lots of good restaurants in Harrogate, you are spoilt for choice. There are Italian, Japanese, Indian and Chinese, not to mention the famous Bettys Tea Rooms where you can dine on afternoon tea served in old fashioned elegant surroundings, where waitresses are dressed in black dresses and white starched aprons and caps. Of course this is quite pricey, but the quality and experience are well worth the money if you have time to join the lengthy queues that form in the tearooms at busy periods!
Now for the best part as far as I am concerned at this time of year the shops! Wanting something a little unusual for my Christmas gifts this year I decided to spend a day in Harrogate. I was not disappointed. The shops are delightful and easy accessible in one main shopping area, with lots of streets and arcades leading off.
Of course there are the usual chains M & S, BHS, Debenhams, etc, but there are some other more unusual shops. Even the chains have different goods in them than the ones in other major cities, perhaps they know this is a wealthy area and stock goods accordingly.
The Japanese shop is stocked full of Japanese goods, from chopsticks and fans, to silk kimonos, ornaments and even food items which are authentic and not just those you can buy in the supermarkets.
If you are looking for something special to wear then there are numerous high quality dress and shoe shops. If it is a posh frock you want, then Harrogate is the place to buy it! But it will not be cheap!
Unless you take time to wander around the numerous charity shops. I cant resist them and the ones in Harrogate are stocked full of designer labels at a fraction of the price you would normally pay. I saw a Gina Bacconi evening dress for less than a tenner and it was in superb condition! Shame it was too small for me!
There is a wonderful stationery shop too, the smell of paper and leather writing cases greets you as you open the door. Inside there is a large counter stocked full of many different makes of fountain pens and other writing implements. Ideal for a special gift!
There are numerous car parks around the city centre and there is some on street parking too, with special bays for disabled people. If you park the car you can easily wander around the main shopping area and some of it is pedestrianised.
After an exhausting day gathering my Christmas gifts (yes, I did manage to get most of them!) it was time to stop off at Bettys for a refreshing cup of tea. But just inside the doorway was a wonderful display of Christmas goodies chocolate mice, chocolate coins (including a guinea!), Christmas cakes, Spiced Christmas tea and Christmas coffee, hand made chocolates and biscuits and the window had a selection of gingerbread houses. No need to spend hours in the kitchen baking, you can buy all you want here!
If you want to visit Harrogate for a short break to spend some leisure time, then there are plenty of local attractions. Brimham Rocks is only a few miles away, and Harewood House is on the road towards Leeds. Visit the Yorkshire Dales or spend time in the spa baths in Harrogate.
But if you really want to make Christmas shopping special instead of something to be endured, then you really wont go far wrong if you go to Harrogate.
It really does annoy me sometimes that when I say where I come from that people call me a snob. During the last few years house prices have rocketed in Harrogate and locals are been priced out of their area whilst upper class people think they can come and take over, even the houses on the local council estates that are small now fetch around £100k. Yes it is a lovely place to live but it is also a place where thousands of working class people still live and work. Harrogate is also well known for Yorkshire Tea, Bettys, Farrahs Toffee, all of which have local factorys where working class people live and work. If you are rich or poor, single or have a family, you will find something that is good and will suit you in Harrogate. It has good rail links to Leeds and York. The nightlife obviously is what you would expect in a normal town, even though it is a large town you will be able to find smaller clubs to boogie the night away but don't expect to find large branded discos. After all if you want this, then jump on the train to Leeds where you will find these. I did an opinion a few days ago on Loch Ness and I decided to see if there was on my birthplace, Harrogate. In this opinion, I am not going to quote from websites neither have I looked at any other reads as this is my own perspective. The facts are all correct and I hope you enjoy this read. Harrogate is situated 15 miles from Leeds, whilst Leeds is West Yorkshire, you travel down the Harrogate Road and you pass Harewood House and Bird Gardens. This is a must if you are staying in Harrogate and is open all year around. This is where West Yorkshire ends and North Yorkshire begins. When you pass Harewood Gardens on the same side, the 5th house down is where Don Revvie used to live. I think that is how you spell his name. After leaving Harewood, on the way to Harrogate it is mostly fields and you pass a large forest on your left. If you go there at the righ
t time of the year you will see the top of an old abandoned castle. Unfortunately this is not available for the public to go around and a lot of people miss it as it is not listed. I moved away from Harrogate when I was 14 years old and left all my family there and we used to travel up by car or coach in the early days and as you are entering Harrogate there is an old sign with the coat of arms of the town on with a pale blue background. I remember that I always wanted to dig this up and cut it out and mount it on my wall so that everyone knew I was a Yorkshire Lass. This then takes you up to THE STRAY. The Stray was left to Harrogate people by a gentleman who stated that this piece of land should never be built upon and it is his present to the residents of Harrogate. It is in the shape of a horseshoe and is lined with all sorts of trees, the lower part of the stray as you go towards Starbeck is littered with Conquer trees and children used to go there every weekend with their sticks. In January The Stray comes into its own, it has the most wonderful carpet of crocuses and snowdrops and covers one end of The Stray right to the end. At the top end of The Stray they light all the trees up at Christmas and this is wonderful to see. On August Bank Holiday Monday the fair comes to town and they have big fireworks display for all the town. It is free to anyone and is very well organised. The fair is one of the biggest travelling fairs, Shaws who own the caravan park as you go towards Starbeck. There is so much for people to do when they visit Harrogate at every time of the year. In July there is the Agricultural Show at the Great Yorkshire Show ground which is opposite Stonefall Cemetery. It is not just agricultural there is all sorts of things going on here. Such as stalls, charities, banks. It is like a big show piece for Yorkshire even though in the last decade it has been scaled down due to Harrogate Borough Council sell
ing part of the Show ground off to a supermarket chain. The Great Yorkshire Show is normally on over 3/4 days in July and is a great day out for all the family. The Museum, this is situated down at the bottom of Montpelier gardens and then you turn right and the little museum is there. Now I believe that they have just started to charge for going in here but it also contains The Blue Lady, the most wonderful dolls house that I used to wish I owned as a child. Also it contains a lot of interactive things for the children to do. It also contains a spring which is underneath the museum and you can pay a nominal fee to go down and see it. Beware if you feel you are inclined to take a taste. I love it, but a lot of people think it will be like water. It isn't. It is actually sulphur water and it smells of rotten eggs. The best way to drink this is to throw it back to the back of your palette and it is lovely. I have seen many people heaving as they taste it purely because they have drank it wrong. After you come out of the museum , if you walk a few hundred yards to the right of the museum you will see THE VALLEY GARDENS. This is a large area and you can buy ice creams and sit in the gardens, or go and listen to the bands in summer. If you have children, you can walk to the top of the gardens and take them on the swings. If you love walking and exploring by going in a northerly direction you will come to the Pinewood forests. There are little ponds dotted around the gardens and children are allowed to go in them. They also have gigantic tropical plants. One is like a rhubarb leaf and is around 2-3ft in diameter and as a child we would play near them but always respected them as we thought they would gobble us up, never to be seen again. Harrogate is famous for its spa, and in Victorian times it was like a seaside resort but without the sea. They would take to the Turkish Baths for a dip or a sauna. This is also just off Montpelier Parad
e and is still open to the public today. Shopping in the town centre has improved with the new building that replaced the Old Market. There is an amphitheatre so they can put shows on in the summer outside of here. However a lot of businesses have pulled away from this as rents have hit the roof. Unfortunately everything comes at a cost and the old market ground floor was knocked down, but you can still go to the lower ground market. A lot of people in Harrogate do not like this shopping complex as it also took away the sitting area gardens which many a people would just sit there and watch the world go by. There are all the local shops and High Street shops that are in any other town but there are also some exclusive shops. Harrogate is considered as a posh place but that is because people just do not know where to go. The people are really friendly and helpful. I grew up in the days of leaving your back door open and living there was one of my only memories as a child. There is also Coppice Valley Swimming Baths which is situated quite close for people who like to go swimming. The Majestic Hotel is near to the Valley Gardens and is within walking distance of the town. This hotel was hit by a bomb in the world war. The Old Swan was the place where Agatha Christie went in hiding. All the main hotels in Harrogate are situated near the Valley Gardens. There is also an exhibition centre near to the Turkish Baths and this has been home to Political Parties Conventions and Eurovision Song Contest and hosts a lot of conventions throughout the year. Bettys Cafe is situated locally and this is a rather quaint tea and cake shop where ladies in Victorian times would go for elevenses. Bettys is world renowned for its products and its factory is based in Starbeck, Harrogate. My mum and brother have worked there and when we were kids we would always get cheap cakes and cream. No wonder I am a bit on the tubby side now. Farrah
s Toffee Shop is also situated near the museum and is the most beautiful toffee ever. It is like a crunchy transparent toffee and is so moreish and is always in the famous blue and silver tin. Yorkshire Tea is also from Harrogate and they have a shop on Montpelier Parade. The shop they have is the old chemist shop and some of the original things are still in there. With Yorkshire Tea you can buy other things such as aprons, towels, all sorts of things. Their teabags are sold in every supermarket. So this takes you around the town centre, but I actually was born in Starbeck which is about 1 mile outside Harrogate, this is a small place but very friendly and has got large playing fields for children to play in. I used to live on High Street, the big houses right opposite Esso Garage. 5 doors down is the old workhouse. This has a history of its own and just recently I was researching it all. All the towns poor from neighbouring places were sent here. It is a massive building. In recent times it has been used as a private school and business. It is posted in the national heritage and has a plaque outside. The bloke who actually ran the poor house looked after his customers very well and he became a lord. Unfortunately he got a bit greedy and then ended doing a runner and was never seen again. Starbeck is the overspill of Harrogate and it is rather like a small village. There is one street, High Street that has shops on it and I would say there is about 40 shops there in total. Yorkshire Tea and Bettys also have its main factories here. Also in Starbeck the police stables used to be here but recently moved. Starbeck County Primary School is also here and is a Victorian school with a great deal of history. Round at the back of the school is Bogs Lane, This is where RAF soldiers were posted in the war and there is an old railway track that is used by local people for walks and you can walk up to a pub there in Bilton by taking this route. If you wanted to visit other places when you are staying in Harrogate, try Knaresborough, this is about 2 miles from Harrogate and you can visit Knaresborough Castle and sit in the grounds and eat fish and chips or you can go around the castle and learn about it history and Old Blind Man Jack who built the road between Harrogate and Knaresborough. At the back of this castle is the secret gardens and again if your not a local you will miss these. Go down the steep hill and then take the steps up there and they lead you to a lovely gardens with ponds in. If you get off the bus or park your car in Knaresborough near the River Knidd, you can go to the river and walk that way up to the castle but it is a long road and then you have to climb up lots of steps. If you have mobility problems you can access the castle via the town centre where the market is. You can go boating on the River and there are cafes and souvenir shops galore. In about July they have the BED RACE. This is where local companies do their bit for charity and it is a great day out. There are fairs and alsorts of stalls here. What happens is that companies have to make a bed which is roadworthy and they start off from the far side of the river. around 4-6 push the bed and one has to stay on the bed no matter what. They cross the road and down the river road and up to the top doing a full circle and then come down High Street in Knaresborough and end up on the far side of the river, then they have to cross the river and to the finish line. A great day out with lots of fun. There is Mother Shiptons Cave on the opposite side of the river. This is a long walk that takes you down the riverside and then you have to walk up. Mother Shipton was considered a witch as she prophesied and said the bridge would fall down in the 80s, this did actually happen in the 80s. When you get to her cave, there is a wish well where you can throw your money in and there is a petrified well. This is l
ike a large cliff and has alsorts of objects hanging from it. You can take a teddybear or anything there and come back for it in a years time and it wil have petrified and turned to stone. This is due to the lime water that constantly drips down the well. Well I have gone into a few things that you could do when you go to Harrogate and the surrounding areas, you could also try these:- Leeds Market - Saturday Knaresborough Market - Wednesday Harlow Hill Gardens, Harrogate Plumpton Rocks - Everyday It is a lovely place and ignore people saying Harrogate is posh. Yes in the last few years property has soared but it is definatley a place for everyone to live. I once won a competition writing about Harrogate, The feelings of the town looking so happy when I arrived and how town the looks so sad when I leave. Plus the best thing about Harrogate is going to see my 98 years young gran, I love her to bits and she has lived in Harrogate all her life and tells me a lot about the past. Visit Harrogate.com to see what my town is like
Every year without fail I am forced to make the same sad depressing journey to Harrogate, why, simply because they have that awfull exibition centre that is stuck in the middle of the town. like a gypsies tent on the village green it simply has no place there. The route into the area is tedious and as you get closer the buildings that are already black and depressing begin to get worse, large and no doubt once impressive houses stand back from the road but even from the distance you can see that many of them are either cheap and nasty boarding houses or student flats. The choice of entertainment ranges from 'lively' bars flanked by huge intimidating doormen but still filled with fifteen year old drunks to Bettys 'famous' tea shop !!! filled with coffin dodgers and some prat playing a piano. The minute a trade exibition is on then the price of accommodation triples, stay at the Grand and its about £150 per night, stay at one of the aforementioned large converted B&B's and you can get a room for £20 ..mind you you will share the loo with twelve other miserable sods who are only there because they have to be !! I am told some people actualy choose to go, and that some find it picturesque and even quaint, presumably these are the same people that watch re runs of last of the summer wine and laugh along with the taped mirth. even the weather is nasty,Harrogate....depressing,unfriendly,costly,...why bother...stay in York