It’s the “happiest place to live in Britain” – but is it the happiest place to spend a weekend? Linda Harrison and family enjoyed a luxurious short break staying in serviced apartments in Harrogate
Harrogate has been voted the happiest place to live in Britain. Again. And, after spending a weekend in this historic spa town, it’s easy to see why. Packed with elegant architecture, fab shops, cafes and restaurants, galleries and acres of green space, Harrogate is also a handy base for the glorious Yorkshire Dales.
I’ve been to Harrogate with my husband Karl and young son Harry a few times – it’s only a half hour drive from our home in North Yorkshire. We can usually only squeeze in a fleeting trip to the shops and walk to the swings in the town’s beautiful Valley Gardens: on this occasion, we stayed over at Carlingford, a stylish ground floor apartment in a beautiful 19th century building that was originally a cottage nursing home.
It’s a fantastic base for a weekend away.
Restored and renovated, the luxury self-catering property is listed at Harrogate Serviced Apartments – and the location was the cherry on top; right in the centre of Harrogate, but tucked away, so we could walk to everything. We parked in the private parking space on arrival and didn’t need the car again until we piled the suitcases back in on Sunday. Bliss.
We quickly settled in, exploring the two spacious double bedrooms and two bathrooms (one ensuite) and sprawling out in the elegant, comfy living room. We loved the designer-furnished, fully fitted kitchen and you also have access to a pretty, private courtyard garden.
We spent our first morning walking round town, visiting the vibrant Montpellier Quarter with its independent shops, galleries, cafes and bars. Then it was a trip to the famous Bettys tearooms for eggs Benedict and a silver pot of Bettys Breakfast Tea accompanied by music from the cafe pianist.
We walked off lunch in Valley Gardens, a 17-acre English Heritage Grade II-listed park that leads into woodland. Then it was back to Carlingford for a cosy evening in the living room with a glass of wine.
The next day we visited a site recommended by Visit Harrogate: the Royal Pump Room Museum. Built in 1842 to provide shelter for affluent visitors as they took the famous waters, 15,000 people visited every summer in its heyday including Tsarina Alexandra of Russia. We peered down at the strongest sulphur well in Europe and stared at photos of old spa treatments, a fascinating array of peat baths, nasal douches and electric therapies…
Next was a stop at Scandinavian café Balterzen’s, with its plates of pastries in the window. Its ethos is to use Yorkshire ingredients in Scandinavian inspired dishes. Top of the list are the open sandwiches – try the meatballs with melted cheese and lingonberry jam – plus there’s excellent coffee and giant waffles with maple syrup.
Sadly, we didn’t have time for a visit to the luxurious Turkish Baths (and we did have a toddler in tow), but it’s well worth experiencing, as are the gardens at the award-winning RHS Harlow Carr. Also, just up the road, you’ll find Niddlerdale, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, craggy Knaresborough Castle and the dramatic ruins of Fountains Abbey: plenty of places to tick off during our next (very happy) Harrogate stay.
How to get to Harrogate without flying:
From the A1, exit onto the A661 to Harrogate if travelling from the South, or the A61 signed for Ripon and Thirsk if travelling from the North. Follow signs to Harrogate town centre.
Detailed directions to The Carlingford are provided on booking, but it is within easy walking distance of Harrogate station. Harrogate is about three hours from London by train via York or Leeds.
Words: Linda Harrison for Feet on the Ground
Images: Visit Harrogate/Betttys/Harrogate Serviced Apartments