The last part of this three-parter focuses on the visit we made to Harrogate and Saltaire, a beautiful UNESCO Heritage Site. Harrogate started as a spa town in the early 1800s and there are remnants of the day that reminds all about what it was like then. In this current day, Harrogate is now known for being a well-oiled convention centre. Smart shops and restaurants line the broad avenues which when night falls, morph into hip eateries and a buzzing cafe culture. But you can’t run away from it’s early beginnings as a spa town – there’s something in the air that puts a spring back in your step! Besides, you can also ‘smell’ the remnants of the spa area. Actually, it smells like rotten eggs but hey, if it relieves aches and pains, I won’t complain!
We gathered round the side of ‘The Pump Room’ and found a couple of children busy playing with a tap spouting sulpher water. They were daring one another to try the water when turned on. Scrunching their faces because of the strong smell, they’d take a lick and then make a face. Hilarious! We then moseyed along to a family lunch at the Winter Gardens, digging into Roast Beef and Chicken. Now known as a Wetherspoon Pub, the Winter Gardens was part of Harrogate’s former Royal Baths. It was built so that visitors could rest and relax in any weather.
Big lunches mean a spot of exercise, so pick up the pace a bit by walking through the grounds of the Valley Gardens which is within walking distance of the Winter Gardens. An English Heritage Grade II listed gardens, it is situated in regal Low Harrogate, which along with woodland known as The Pinewoods, covers 17 acres. I found out in literature about the Gardens that is contains a great number of mineral springs, more than any other known place. It’s magnificent with a lovely oval pond in which you’re reminded not to let your dog jump in! While parks in the UK are opened all year round, I feel they’re at their best in Spring and Summer when the flowers are out. It adds so much more colour to one’s day.
Harrogate is a walking town, so after taking in all that fresh air in the Valley Gardens, head into the town centre and meander through the lovely little back streets to get a glimpse of quaint shops and smart restaurants.
You cannot visit Harrogate and leave out Betty’s, an iconic tea shop in the heart of town. Opened in 1919 by Frederick Belmont, Betty’s is a wonderful tea house that the weary shopper, tourist and local can stop by and indulge in good food and tea. Located at 1 Parliament St, customers can sit by the large bright windows that lookout to street activity. Great place to chat and people watch.
Well, we had to return the car on the Monday so we planned our train trip to Saltaire, a short 20 min train ride out of Leeds. A great day trip for me as I understood Saltaire to have good architecture and art. I discovered that Saltaire is actually a village named after the founder of one of the largest wool mills in the UK, Sir Thomas Salt. In the 1800s, Thomas Salt bought a mill in West Yorkshire to spin the Russian wool he had purchased into yarn. He became very successful and started experimenting with Alpaca wool. Very quickly, he expanded his business and then started building houses for the workers. Soon, it spread to include a church, hospital and other amenities. He strongly believed in providing for his employees and one has to visit Saltaire to view the extent of his planning and generosity to his employees.
The architecture and surroundings of Saltaire proved attractive to another British modern day entrepreneur, Mr. Jonathan Silver. Jonathan was another Yorkshire boy who fell in love with Salts Mills in 1987 and promptly bought the old mill. He carefully restored it and turned it into a fine retail and office complex not filled with chain stores but an expansive Gallery, bookshop, cookware, a little ‘history viewing’ area and two restaurants. Because of his good relationship with David Hockney, he convinced this pre-eminent British artist and illustrator to have his works displayed at the Gallery. Sadly, Jonathan Silver succumbed to cancer in 1997, passing away at the age of 47.
This beautiful restoration sees a clever mix of modernity without sticking out like a sore thumb. One can just close one’s eyes and imagine how the wool was brought to the mill, weaved, dyed and then brought down the river to be exported and sold. The mill doesn’t make wool anymore but it’s architecture is a living testimony to British industry. While resting on the lovely couches dotting the building, I marvelled at the beautiful light streaming through the long windows and vast expanse of space, imagining it as my photography studio 🙂 This really is what Britain is all about – to ‘hear’ the stories these buildings are telling visitors and to get a feel of what it must have been like in another era.
I leave you with a lovely scone recipe that I found in the book, Okashi by Keiko Ishida. It’s not from an ‘English’ recipe book but these taste so good, especially with jam and clotted cream 🙂
220gm pastry flour
80 gm caster sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
70gm unsalted butter
1 egg yolk and milk mixture, 110gm
(combine 1 egg yolk with enough fresh whole milk to make up amount)
40gm sultanas/raisins (optional)
1. Prepare flour and butter a day in advance. Sift flour and baking powder together. Place butter and flour together in a plastic bag and chill in the refrigerator overnight.
2. On day of baking, pre-heat oven to 200C. *Pulse butter-flour mixture together with sugar and salt in a food processor until mixture resembles course breadcrumbs.
3. Add egg yolk and milk mixture and mix until a smooth dough is formed. If using raisins/sultanas, add together with milk and egg yolk mixture. Place dough on a floured surface and knead lightly. Roll out to a thickness of about 1.5cm – 2cm.
4. Cut as many rounds of dough as possible with a 5cm round pastry cutter that has been dusted with flour. Place dough circles on a baking sheet and brush with milk. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes until scones are golden brown. Remove from heat and cool on a wire rack. Serve scones warm, with jam of choice and cream on the side.
*To make scones without a food processor, combine flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Cut butter into small cubes and add to flour. Use your fingertips to rub butter and flour until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add milk and egg yolk mixture and mix with a scraper (If using raisins/sultanas, add together with milk and egg yolk mixture). Place dough on a floured surface and knead lightly, then follow recipe as stated above.