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Annie Hayes

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Harrogate: from spa town to conference centre

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Harrogate is a wonderful mix of old and new; jammed between towns including Knaresborough and Nidderdale – names that only a broad northern accent could give true vocal justice to.

The name is derived from Har-low-Gata meaning Grey-Hill-Road. Harrogate sprang to fame originally as a spa town after the discovery of the first medicinal spring was found in 1571.

Today a dome marks the spot where William Slingsby first discovered the well. Its popularity grew during the eighteenth century when a physician called Timothy Bight claimed the spa water had healing properties. It was alleged that the waters of Harrogate could cure almost anything including nervous tension, gout, rheumatism and lumbago.

The most famous of Harrogate’s wells is a sulphur well referred to as ‘Stinking Spaw’ which is now located within the Royal Pump Room Museum. For those out and about this weekend, looking for some respite after the conference it is a must see and is open on Saturday from 10-5pm and again on Sunday from 2-5pm.

The Turkish Baths and Health Spa were first opened in 1897 and were once frequented by royalty. After a period of restoration visitors can now pamper themselves once again with a number of treatments together with hot rooms and plunge pools.

A visit to Harrogate of course is not complete without a trip to Bettys tea room. There are very few CIPD delegates who will not have heard of this famous café. What many visitors might not know, however, is that Bettys is a multi-million pound business.

Family-run it retains many of its original traditions. Even the window-shopping is fun with tempting fruit cakes, muffins, crisp meringues, fresh fruit tarts and savoury treats on display to entice customers. The only problem is getting a seat and for delegates with strict timetables you’ll be hard pushed to get a table in less than 45 minutes at the peak lunch-hour rush but with views of the magnificent Montpellier Gardens it is perhaps worth the wait.

Harrogate enjoys a cosmopolitan flavour with the range of conferences and exhibitions and most notably for HR professionals the annual CIPD conference. The impressive architecture and grand hotels together with beautiful gardens and tree-lined streets provide a perfect backdrop for the conference. Harrogate can truly be referred to as the jewel of Yorkshire or as one delegate aptly put it: “It is to Yorkshire what Salcombe is to Devon.”

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Annie Hayes

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