Harrogate, North Yorkshire
Discover why Harrogate was chosen as one of The Sunday Times Best Places to Live 2022 in their words.
Five years ago, when Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa topped the charts, Harry and Meghan got married, and Gareth Southgate made waistcoats a World Cup fashion hit, Harrogate, which has been a mainstay of Best Places to Live since it launched, was kicked out of the guide. Big news.
The highly prized, highly priced spa town fell out of favour because it had become just a little too predictable, a little too prosperous in the most conventional ways. Or perhaps familiarity just bred contempt. Fast-forward to today, and slowly but surely, Harrogate has been reinventing itself as one of the hippest and happiest of Yorkshire home grounds.
“It used to be grannysville, now it’s really cool, with delis, bakeries, boutiques. It’s like living in Wimbledon — loads of people have moved back from London,” says Lucy Robinson, 36, the founder of Harrogate-based and French-influenced fashion brand Aurélie, who lives here with her husband, Ralph, an international retail consultant, and their three-year-old daughter, Sofia. “I grew up here and went to school here, but I’ve lived in Paris and London. These days Harrogate has a really cool, London-y vibe.”
Harrogate has probably not looked this fashionable since about 1842, when The Royal Pump Room opened. A little more than a decade later, a visiting Charles Dickens noted: “Harrogate is the queerest place with the strangest people in it, leading the oddest lives of dancing, newspaper reading and dining.” There are still reassuring vestiges of starchier times — Bettys Café (traditional afternoon tea, £21.95), and Valley Gardens, with its carpet-bedding and Sunday afternoon bandstand concerts — but these days, it’s definitely all about ease of living and everything within strolling distance.
Among the attractions: The Stray, 200 green open acres in the middle of the town centre; RHS Garden Harlow Carr, one of the leading gardens in the region; the Great Yorkshire Show every July; Harrogate Convention Centre and Harrogate Theatre hosting events and big-name acts – Paloma Faith is here in June; the Blues Cafe Bar, with live music every night of the week; and a branch of The Ivy, which opened in 2017.
“We were careful when choosing the location [to move to],” says Robinson, who lives in a Victorian house off Cold Bath Road, where locals nip in to Major Tom’s Social for stonebaked pizza (Super Vegan £9.50) and craft beer after a Saturday morning browse of the boutiquess. “The drawback is we don’t have a proper garden, we could have got a bigger house with a garden, but further out.”
It’s all about being in the mix. Harrogate is still a safe place for relocating younger families and second-steppers, often from London and the Southeast, who want all the fun and fresh air of being “up North” without the grim and gritty bits — but now it has a little more pizzazz. Big news.
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Prices are correct as of April 2022.
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