Trips & Adventures – 19 July 2018
Harrogate is a spa town in north Yorkshire and this was our destination on this trip. Since 2013, polls have consistently voted the town as “the happiest place to live” in Britain, so we were expecting to have a gay old time.
We had lunch at the Winter Gardens – Harrogate’s former Royal Baths included the Winter Gardens – built so that visitors could relax and stroll in any weather. Its name lives on in this Wetherspoon pub. During the 1920s, people could relax here, amid potted palms, listening to music from a grand piano. In the 1930s, the Municipal Orchestra played every morning throughout the year, with free admission for the patients of the baths.
We then had a walk through the Valley Gardens – a large park which included the Japanese Garden and a number of wells, before visiting the Royal Pump Room. The town motto is Arx celebris fontibus, which means “a citadel famous for its springs”. Harrogate spa water contains iron, sulphur and common salt, and despite a sign advising “Not fit for human consumption” we couldn’t resist trying a sip. It was truly disgusting!
The Royal Pump Room houses Europe’s strongest sulphur well, but is now a museum showcasing the town’s spa history. We had the opportunity to try on some hats.
Harrogate was the scene of dramatic events in December 1926. The famous crime novelist Agatha Christie, who was thought to have been abducted or even dead, was found dancing the Charleston at the Old Swan, in Swan Road.
Her car had been discovered by a road near Guildford, and for a week police and volunteers searched for clues to her fate. Eleven days later, members of the hotel’s resident band recognised her from a widely distributed missing poster.
The explanation offered to the public was that Christie had briefly lost her memory after a car accident. Few believed this. Some suggested a nervous breakdown, while others thought the affair was a publicity stunt.
Her disappearance seems to have been a message to her husband, Colonel Archie Christie, as the couple were divorced two years later.
Harrogate is a fantastic place and we shall certainly visit again.