Yesterday, my husband and I had a day out in the North Yorkshire town of Harrogate.
We do this every few weeks and we’ve got quite a routine going.
First, we park on the outskirts of town, then walk across the park and through the pinewoods (about a mile) to Harlow Carr gardens.
Here, we treat ourselves to morning coffee – hopefully at a table with a view over the gardens – at Bettys, a famous Yorkshire café and tea room.
Bettys was founded in Harrogate by a Swiss baker/confectioner in 1919. Apparently the nearby countryside reminded him of his homeland – and although there are plenty of theories, nobody quite knows why he called his business Bettys!
There are now half a dozen Bettys across Yorkshire. All of them are elegant, the waitresses dress in traditional black and white, the confectionary is a work of art (I could stare at the display window all day!) and people will queue outdoors in all weathers to wait for a table!
What, I hear you say, is that?
Well, a Fat Rascal is a kind of large fruity scone with a crunchy outside, served with butter. Almonds and cherries on top make the Fat Rascal’s face. Don’t ask me where it got the name, because I don’t know … but if I tell you that when I asked hubby to take a photo he foolishly quipped, “Do you want me to get both fat rascals in the picture?” I’ll leave you to guess who got the lion’s share of those almonds and cherries when she shared it out!
We then work off this treat by walking back through the woods and down through Valley Gardens into Harrogate itself. Today we had an icy wind, but in the summer the beautifully landscaped park is full of families relaxing and playing, and it’s not hard to imagine the Victorian élite who once promenaded there with their parasols.
Harrogate is an elegant spa town that became renowned for its mineral water. In the 1600s, public bathing houses were built and doctors expounded the water’s health benefits, so people came to bathe and drink the water in hope of a cure. At the end of the nineteenth century, The Royal Baths opened, offering spa treatments and hydrotherapy, although the Turkish Baths is the only part that is left.
With elegant buildings and the Stray – a stretch of green parkland that lends the town a spacious feel and looks amazing in the springtime when the crocuses bloom – Harrogate is the perfect place to mooch around the shops for an hour or two … which is what I did, while hubby sat in a congenial pub with a beer and the newspaper!