I began my trip, like so many others, by asking my Twitter followers for recommendations. Easily the best way to get travel advice from locals, I was soon inundated with places for coffee and streets to stroll. There were way too many ideas for us to get through in one weekend so we'll definitely be needing a return trip to Harrogate, it seems one weekend is not enough!
We were staying just south of town at St George's Four, a beautiful one bed apartment. It was a very pleasant stroll from the heart of Harrogate. We had considered going for a run round The Stray first thing on Saturday morning but we realised pretty quickly that we had an epic amount of walking to do if we really wanted to explore Harrogate so our running shoes, thankfully, stayed at home.
Harrogate is a beautiful spa town, snuggled away in one of my favourite areas of the country, North Yorkshire. It's a brilliant mix of old and new. Whilst there are loads of modern shops, it's the independents that really give the town its character.
Our day began with a visit to Weetons Food Hall, a short 10 minute stroll from our apartment and a must visit for any foodie staying in Harrogate. The premium food hall stocks plenty of local produce and we picked ourselves up some food for the evening (whilst trying not to drool over the amazing looking breakfasts that people were tucking into!)
Taking advantage of our early start we decided to continue our exploration of Harrogate with a little potter round the shops.
The town has a great range of high street favourites sitting alongside some high end stores. It's a fantastic shopping destination if spending money is your favourite way to enjoy a weekend. We had a very enjoyable mooch round the sales, with me lusting at the windows of Bobby Brown, Sweaty Betty, The White Company and Space NK - reminding myself that we still have a honeymoon to pay off.
Department store, Hoopers in Harrogate is one of only four stores in the country and a great place to window shop with plenty of designer handbags, clothes and makeup for me to gaze at.
Our tummies started rumbling pretty early so we stopped off for lunch at the first opportunity. We decided to go for something healthy so visited Filmore and Union, a small chain of eight restaurants through Yorkshire serving up delicious natural healthy dishes.
The lunch menu was insane, making decision making pretty difficult. Simon opted for the Filmore Burger - served on beetroot and hummus ciabatta with caramelised red onions, carrot & beetroot pickle served with paprika fries (£13.00). I love that even when we eat somewhere that promotes healthy food he still manages to order a burger.
Who could blame him though? It looked delicious, and definitely a lot less calories than other burgers.
I chose the Smashed Avocado on Toast with extra poached eggs - served with feta, pears, pomegranate and raw veg noodle salad (£12.00). It was one of the tastiest lunches I've had in a long time, absolutely perfect, really filling and it felt so good to be eating something that wouldn't leave me feeling sluggish in the afternoon.
I'm now on a one woman campaign to bring these guys to Newcastle!
We decided to spend our afternoon pottering around the beautiful parts of Harrogate, following the recommended routes that several of my twitter followers had recommended.
Starting with an explore of Montpellier Hill, Harrogate's best kept secret. Home to a beautiful selection of independent shops and pavement cafes all hidden away on picture perfect cobbled streets. It was a photographers (and shoppers!) dream.
It's not unusual for us to get fixated on our photography when we're out and about and often you'll find us desperate to capture the perfect shot of a squirrel but this trip we became obsessed with photographing street lights! Possibly a little strange to some, but I think everyone will admit that these street lamps around Montpellier Hill are gorgeous!
Our route lead us nicely to The Royal Pump Room Museum which is definitely worth a visit, even if you don't have the time to visit the museum itself. The Grade II listed building is a beauty and one of the finest pieces of architecture in the spa town. Originally a spa water pump house, it offered visitors a place where they could drink sulphur water pumped from a natural spring.
The Valley Gardens contain a greater number of mineral springs in one area than any other known place. The Old Magnesia Pump House is the crown in the beautiful park - almost completely buried under wild plants for years it's recently been restored and looks beautiful.
With the Winter sunshine finally making an appearance we walked until our fingers were numb, our feet were tired and our tummies were crying out for cake.
No trip to Harrogate would be complete without a visit to the world famous Betty's Tea Rooms. I've visited the one in York before and been frustrated by the queue of tourists outside that make it so difficult to get a table and then left slightly underwhelmed by overly expensive sandwiches. I was interested to see how the Harrogate store would compare.
The queue outside Betty's at Harrogate was only a few people long as we'd been lucky and had arrived just before the 3:00 pm rush. We were impressed by how well the queue was managed and within a few moments we were inside, opting for counter service rather than waitress. We got ourselves a table in the Montpellier Cafe Bar, great for people watching.
I was pretty unimpressed with the cake options at the counter, there wasn't much to choose from and everything was tiny and "cookie cutter perfect" - nothing like the huge slabs of homemade cake that I love to enjoy. Betty's is definitely somewhere for those that prefer their cakes delicate, probably not for a big greedy cake fan like me.
We opted for the Yorkshire Cream Tea (£9.95) served with an extra pot of Betty's Breakfast Tea (£3.70). Again I was pretty underwhelmed by the scones, they were tiny and nothing special, also slightly annoyed that the cream was so thick and cold that it ripped the scones apart as soon as we started spreading.
The pots of tea, however, were out of this world, proof that the very best tea really is made in Yorkshire.
I'm afraid I continue to be left a little baffled as to why people rave about Betty's - it really isn't worth the hype or money so from now on I'm leaving it to the tourists, I don't think we'll bother to try it again.
We were recommended some alternatives to Bettys if you are looking for cake Tilly Peppers and Mama Doreens, both on Cold Bath Road are supposed to be good, although unfortunately when we strolled past were very full with every seat taken!
We loved our weekend in Harrogate and I'm so pleased to finally be able to tick it off my list.