With huge open Yorkshire skies, it’s easy to enjoy the great outdoors in and around Harrogate. Equally, when the skies open, there’s plenty of indoor fun, including high-end spas, gin bars with a difference and one of the best kids’ cafés in the north.
In the middle of glorious Yorkshire countryside, you’d be forgiven for thinking South American animals wouldn’t feature too highly – but clearly Nidderdale Llamas didn’t get the memo. One of Harrogate’s favourite rural attractions, they offer llama and alpaca trekking around an area of outstanding natural beauty, as well as tours around their working farm and full- or half-day llama excursions. The farm has a herd of 30–40 llamas and alpacas and is open Tuesday to Sunday for adults and children over seven.
Based at nearby Ripley Castle, Live For The Day offer a range of activities, including archery, rope courses, bushcraft, kayaking and zorbing and team-building exercises aimed at families and kids. And if you want to channel your inner-Walking Dead zombie chopper, there’s even an axe-throwing class.
If you prefer your outdoor activities zombie-free, then Harrogate is home to several outstanding golf courses, including Pannal, Spofforth and Harrogate Golf Club. Pannal is nearest to our Harrogate South hotel and is the only North Yorkshire course recognised by the R&A, the sport’s governing body. If you’re looking for a challenge, this is the place.
Not to be outdone, the Harrogate course – less than three-miles from our Harrogate Town Centre hotel – has hosted several National Championships, with tee times available online. The most accessible club is Spofforth, a venerable and all-welcoming institution between Harrogate and Wetherby that dates back to before WWI. Well run, with challenging holes and an affordable price for a full 18 holes, it’s an excellent option for those looking to pitch up and play.
Fun for all the family, Stockeld Park in Wetherby combines mazes, woodland trails, several adventure playgrounds and a series of seasonal events, including their Winter Wonderland complete with illuminations and ice rink. Off-peak family passes won’t break the bank, with four food and drink outlets on site.
Located 10 miles from our Harrogate Town Centre hotel, the National Trust’s Brimham Rocks is well worth the 25-minute drive. A stunning array of rock formations created 100 million years ago, you can easily spend hours exploring the formations, including the Dancing Bear and the Gorilla, with some of the structures just a 10-minute walk from the car park. Scrambling, bouldering and weaseling – yes, that really is a proper climbing term – are available on-site, with regular climbing sessions held throughout the year.
The award-winning Rudding Park Spa offers everything from weekend spa retreats to pregnancy massages, hair and make-up, all located within the hotel’s 300-acres of parkland. Head to our dedicated page on the Harrogate Turkish Baths and Health Spa.
All that spa water can be put to other feel-good uses. The Spirit of Harrogate, near Bettys Tea Room, takes advantage of the region’s mineral-rich waters, including magnesium, sodium, potassium and strontium to create their own range of high-quality gins. With a drink in hand, their mixologists will take you through the gin’s history and even teach you how to serve up their signature cocktails. Once you’ve had your private tasting session, make sure to stop in at their well-stocked shop and pick up your own supply of bespoke gins and tonics.
If you like your glass to contain a few more bubbles, head to The Champagne Concept in Oxford Street. Launched in 2015, you can taste up to 10 different varieties with their informal tasting menu, get to grips with the history of each bottle, learn how they’re blended and take home one of their 50-strong collection of bottles from their shop.
Sofas? Check. Bottles of wine? Check. The latest Hollywood blockbuster? Check. It could only be Everyman Cinema: a growing force in the cinema world. With comfy two-seater sofas replacing stiff chairs, an impressive food menu and grown-up drinks encouraged, it’s an altogether more relaxed experience than sitting through a film with texting teenagers and troublesome toddlers. The five-screen Odeon Cinema in the centre of town is a more traditional affair, screening the big blockbusters in 2D and 3D.
If that’s altogether too sedentary for you, then scale the heights at Harrogate Climbing Centre: open to all abilities and ages. Offering a wide range of lessons, routes and two auto-belay devices, it also has an on-site shop selling top-quality climbing gear. And for a dedicated kids’ activity, try Goose – near the Climbing Centre in Hornbeam Park – a child-friendly space that lets them glue, stick, read, play, paint and run free while you enjoy their excellent flat white and a slice of homemade chocolate cake.
From Tour de France-style 80-mile bike rides to the four-mile Nidderdale Greenway finishing in Harrogate, there’s a wide range of biking options.
Keen cyclists can try the Round the Dale in 80 miles challenge, taking in Nidderdale’s stunning views, punishing climbs and freewheeling downhill sections. There are also dozens of easier cycle routes, including the Beryl Burton cycleway and the Harland Way. If you’re after some serious off-road fun, try the routes near the Swinsty Moor Plantation, with nearly a mile of mountain biking trails.
Eat your way around Yorkshire, but burn off the calories with a guided walking tour – the Yorkshire Appetite Food Tour’s business plan is cunningly simple. The three-hour tour takes in six of Harrogate’s best independent eateries and bars over a 1.4-mile walk across town, including coffee, beer, fish and chips and sweet shop stops.
Linking the nearby Valley Gardens and RHS Garden Harlow Carr, The Pinewoods is 96 acres of semi-natural woodland offering good wildlife viewings and easy walking for families and dog walkers. Walking at an easy pace, you’ll cover the distance in around an hour, with time to soak in the forest surroundings thanks to regular benches.
Alternatively, follow the River Nidd to Pateley Bridge and Nidd Gorge, or head to Nidderdale where you’ll find 54-miles of rolling moorland, and the halfway point of the Six Dales Trail, which runs through Nidderdale on its way from Otley to Wensleydale.
Circling the town, the Harrogate Ringway is an extensive 20-mile hike that takes in rivers, viaducts, woodland and some impressive crags. Alternatively, you can extend the route to include Knaresborough Round, taking it up to 36 miles.