(second leg of our Edinburgh, Yorkshire and Amsterdam trip)
Day 5 (Edinburgh/Harrogate) –
Breakfast again at Cafe Marlayne, top notch bacon and sausage sarnies on soft baps. Then to the train station with our luggage, and for the three plus hour journey to Harrogate in North Yorkshire where my sister Lisa is now living.
We found the Murray Guest House, and loved it right away. The landlady, Tracy, was also a great and warm natured hostess and from Glasgow! The room was ideal, and the location residential but not far from the action.
We’d arranged to meet Lisa in a renowned historical pub called Hales at 7pm. Scenes from Chariots of Fire were filmed there. What a unique pub it is, with its stuffed birds and high flames on the bar from which the gentlemen once lit a cigarette or cigar, but which you could very easily get your hand caught in as you reach for your drink!
As we sat down, an elderly local character started talking to us, then another. Clearly regulars beloved to the pub if a bit eccentric and weird. We were to find over and over again in the next few days how incredibly endearing and naturally friendly Yorkshire folk are, young or old!
I got a beer and Marie a mulled wine (really good). Lisa came in and it was great to catch up with her. She ordered a red wine and we then all went for a fish and chip meal at Gravelly’s. Giant cod!
Lisa then took us to a giant Wetherspoons occupying the space of the former People’s Palace, the Winter Garden. Staff on the door asked me to remove my hat on entering!
We said goodnight to Lisa at 10.30 I think, as she made her way to her flat a few minutes walk away.
Day 6 –
We’d been very happy to have found two cats local to the guest house, Bonnie a few doors down and a black cat we called Franklin who was often milling about the footpath.
We had the (included) Murray breakfast. Today we chose poached eggs and bacon, then set out to meet Lisa at the entrance to Valley Gardens. On the way (I think it was this morning!) we looked in a small shop called Retro Cave, assuming it was going to be mod fangled things but they sell genuine nostalgic items. Bargain stuff too! Like an Ovaltine lorry with its original box for 5 pounds. The owner said she hunts everywhere for things. Thunderbirds coasters might be from a bit later. I bought a Bagpuss pencil tin in immaculate nick, with the pencils still unused in cellophane inside for 4 pounds.
Weather was a bit parky, but we enjoyed a walk through the very attractive and unorthodox gardens including detailed wood sculptures carved into trees, and very old wells. Harrogate is a spa town, so for centuries people have been visiting to “take of” the curative waters. There are Turkish baths that are regarded the best in Europe. Numerous wells, some providing sulphur water, have led to Harrogate’s fortune and for a very long time the rich and famous have visited. There are some very big old grand hotels.
We then went back to Lisa’s and got into her car as she drove us to a village called Pately Bridge through scenic countryside. Pately Bridge has the oldest sweet shop in the world, continuously open since the 1820s!
We had pancakes for breakfast at a cafe that again showed us the Yorkshire down-to-earth hospitality. I hadn’t had British style pancakes with lemon and sugar since mum used to make them for us when we were young, on Shrove Tuesdays! Marie loved them too. The lady, probable-owner, felt that they weren’t cooked perfectly so brought more for free (though I’d already happily eaten the first).
Marie had a really good savoury pancake with ham and I think cheese, and Lisa a waffle with rum and raisin ice cream. My stomach had been a bit off, mainly in Scotland, just because when you’re travelling and eating a lot of rich food it takes a while to adjust. I’d be fine in a day or two but was taking it slightly easy. The lemon on the pancake seemed to do a lot of good. In Scotland my acclimatising digestion had led to a little of what we called “cullen stink” but I really felt almost fine now.
We bought a lot of quarter pounds of all kinds at the sweet shop next: pontefract cakes, coconut mushrooms, licorice confits etc. What a wondrous shop and probably the best vintage sweet shop we’ve been to!
Then Lisa set about showing us a walking route to a bench at the highest point in the nearby countryside. It was a charming and very Yorkshire walk, up steep paths and through a churchyard and took us quite a while but was well worth it. At the top it was very windy and we took a lot of photos of vistas below.
Thanks to Lisa for taking us on such a pleasurable side trip! Back in the car now, we went to pick up Nathan at the train station (Lisa’s youngest son and our youngest nephew, who’d come over to New York in July). Nathan was up from Stoke for the weekend, where he’s in the final year of his sports journalism course. In the evening we were really impressed with a curry at the handsome restaurant Cardamom Black, housed in a former theatre. Unusual and multiple curries were available, and one Marie and I tried was Molago, with bay leaves, yogurt, cumin and cardamom. I’m making myself hungry now!
After that a late drink at the Old Bell: beers, water, cider and cocktails. A champion first full day in and around Harrogate!
Day 7 (Saturday) –
This morning the four of us took the half hour train to Knaresborough. It’s a market and a spa town too, with the town going down from high steps and richly impressive views across railway bridges. I’d seen a lot of google images and also remember reading about it being Britain’s best place to live a few years ago. Lisa might even consider moving here, as it’s less expensive than Harrogate. We looked around the town first. Lisa dropped by a gallery to ask about a print of Knaresborough by a well-known local artist. There’s a waiting list! As an artist myself, I need to get into giclee too!
We then walked down to the river and up to the top of the town, up hilly steps to the castle where we saw giant ravens on chains (kept so because of their “cheekiness”). I took tonnes of photos as everything was so photogenic!
Back to the main town, a drink at the recently re-opened but very old pub Blind Jack’s. Neil, our guest house landlord, had recommended this one.
Now we’re back in Harrogate to meet Emma, who had just come up from Birmingham. We hugged Emma and set strides for a visit at last to Harrogate’s best-known attraction; Betty’s is a tea room with various rooms and levels and a shop, and is loved most especially for its cakes. It’s owned by a Yorkshire family and we’d been to the one in York in 2007, but Harrogate is I think the most famous one. We joined the long queue! We got in after about half an hour or so and got a nice, big table downstairs. The clotted cream was particularly scrumptious! The large scones they’re famous for are called ‘fat rascals’. I chose two different mince pies and a Christmas tea.
Marie put on a sexy, Gothic black top when we were back at the guest house and we then went for dinner at a chain restaurant Marie and I had seen before but never been to, Revolucion de Cuba. It was certainly lively (mostly a middle aged crowd) and really too loud at first, but we were told the band would be finishing at 7pm. Thankfully they did! It was still loud but we were able to converse, and the food was pretty good.
Harrogate goes from very quiet on a Thursday to very busy on Fridays and Saturdays. We couldn’t find a place we could get a seat at for a last drink or two but finally got plenty of room at the back of Montpellier pub, and it proved a perfect place to relax in and finally get to talk properly!
Day 8 –
We had a later breakfast and relaxed for the full morning at the guest house whilst Lisa, Emma and Nathan bravely went out on the Stray – protected public parkland around Harrogate – in quite cold temperatures that Marie was finding difficult to cope with at times.
At lunch we met at the Fat Badger for a very good Sunday roast. We mostly chose beef, which was great though Nathan’s pork and crackling looked even better! Note the giant Yorkshire pudding!
Then back to Lisa’s flat and sadly Emma had to set on back, but we were grateful she made it up and I think she liked Harrogate too.
Neal had picked up Alistair and his Italian girlfriend Roberta from the airport the previous night, after their three week holiday in Vietnam and Cambodia, They all arrived at Lisa’s and we talked in Lisa’s lounge and had tea. We’d tried Lisa’s excellent homemade chocolate cake already, and also tried frangipane cake.
A & R told us a lot about their fascinating holiday. They’d taken 3,000 photos!
It was also really good to see Neal again!
Then off out to the Old Bell again, where it was quieter now. Food was again great, and we didn’t have a poor meal the entire holiday. A very nice night indeed, we then had to say goodbyes to Al and Roberta as they were still a bit jet lagged and needed to return to Leeds.
Back at the hotel, we watched channel Dave, and I think maybe ‘Room 101’ with Frank Skinner.
Day 9 (Leeds/Harrogate) –
We got the train again, about half an hour to Leeds. We started with an indulgent drink stop; hot chocolate drinks including a seasonal one and plenty of cream at Hotel de Chocolat (which are also in New York) in a corner window with a good view of passersby.
Then a look around the decorative and impressive Corn Exchange, with some very interesting looking shops. And on to the nearby indoor markets, with everything you could shake a stick at to buy.
From the main shopping precinct there are also lots of absolutely beautiful, Victorian shopping arcades leading off at right angles. We went down several, buying a few chocolate truffles from one chocolatier I forget the name of.
Then a highly regarded pub I recognised as somewhere I’d been with my friend Chris in the past: Whitelocks in Turks Heads Yard. It’s from the 17th century and another gem! Once again, a Yorkshireman got talking to us straight away. Yorkshire people are very open, warm and engaging. His wife on the other hand said nothing at all until when Marie was using the facilities she said to me, “So what do think of Trump?!”.
We had a nice quality burger. I keep writing about food here, and now have to go and get some crisps from the kitchen (twiglets to be precise)!
Marie walked with me to Foley’s Tap House whilst she went on to the UK office branch of the NYC company she works for, to chat with a boss there. Foleys is another top pub, voted best real cider pub 2016 with a big choice of both real ciders and real ales. In the back room was a real fire but I sat at the front area. Not many in there yet but that gradually changed. I had a big window view of what I think was the Town Hall opposite, with Christmas lights, and I had an Uncut magazine (bought at HMV earlier, and we’d bought more dvd’s) and a pint with kaffir lime leaves in it, for company.
Marie arrived all smiles after about an hour, and the informal office visit had gone well!
Then back to Harrogate. We met Lisa and Neal in Hales, and then went to Gravelly’s again, we’d been so impressed the first time. Neal loves a spot of fish and chips.
Again, we had to say our fare-de-wells. Thanks to Lisa in helping us have a great few days!
Back at the Murray Guest House, one programme we caught on Channel 4 took us both aback! Chris recently mentioned a show featuring nudity called ‘Naked Attraction’, that he thought tacky. Channel 4 is one of the main five terrestrial channels in the UK. Shown at just 10pm we were surprised. It’s kind of like Blind Date. There are about 4 young women behind doors, part of the doors cut out to reveal just their hootenannies. Then the young man facing them has to choose to eliminate one. Then another level of the doors are opened to reveal their breasts I think (or is it the faces first?). Eventually he gets down to two girls, and has to choose one. They also get to see him naked. Then they go on a date! Everything is shown in detail and up close.
By ‘eck, as they’d say Up North.
Day 10 (last day in Harrogate before our flight from Leeds to Amsterdam!) –
We hadn’t visited any spa sites in Harrogate, so after breakfast we made for the Royal Pump Room.
This dates back to the mid 19th century and contains original wells housed in a rotunda. This includes a sulphur well! The museum has a host of relevant and less relevant artefacts but it made for an informative and enjoyable hour.
The old wells are at lower level under glass, but which were once at the original street level. The assistant curator took a group down, including us. He also urged visitors to try the Turkish Baths sometime (not based in the Pump Room).
Once outside you can try the sulphur water – which some swear by, but which there’s a notice warning you against consuming it – from a tap at the back. Some people fill bottles. We tried a tiny taste, and it was pretty disgusting!
We went back to get our bags from the guest room. North Yorkshire will draw us back again soon, I’m sure!