HARROGATE & THE TURKISH BATHS
While googling for some other information I noticed that Harrogate had a Turkish Baths, and not just any old Turkish Baths, one of the oldest in the country and one of the few still remaining in full use.
The photos of the beautifully coloured glazed tile interior, with its Moorish style arches was too tempting to pass by, but I had missed the one guided tour of the week on Wednesday morning, and as I was travelling on to see the Horn Blowing Ceremony at Ripon on Friday then on further north for hopefully more delights the only way to see it was to have Turkish Bath. I booked for a ladies only session, though they do have men only and mixed sessions as well.
I didn’t quite realise that you could have a Turkish Bath without having a special treatment, so booked for a treatment as well. But I was pleased I did as both the bath and the treatment were memorable and wonderfully relaxing.
All cameras are forbidden within the bath complex (hardly surprising) so I will have to rely on photos taken from the Spa Brochure, though they don’t seem to quite give as much of the atmosphere as I experienced.
The original varnished dark wood changing cubicles are still in use, and very spacious they are too with a nice padded seat and matching curtain. Clothing left behind, though everyone there wore a swimming costume, well everyone except one idiot who then had to hide under a towel the whole time
You are given a tour and general directions of how to proceed through the various rooms, which was good as I had no idea of what to do, but I soon got the hang of it and spent a wonderful couple of hours alternately steaming and plunging, then totally refreshed relaxed and feeling wonderfully clean I went for my treatment. For ninety minutes I lay in a soothing, slightly darkened room with soft music playing and was variously scrubbing with volcanic minerals and smoothed with scented oils, though I could have easily spent another ninety minutes there.
Reluctantly dressed, then out into the bright outside air. Apparently most of the country had a day of rain, but the sun shone for me, and I mooched round the rest of the buildings, though the council have sold most of the original complex off, and they are variously a nightclub, a chinese restaurant and a Wetherspoons restaurant bar.
Then up to the Musuem in the town’s old Pump Rooms. Everyone had told me that the Spa waters were not longer available for drinking owing to EU regulation, and when I get over to the Continent I intend to see if this regulation is imposed in their Spa towns, or if it is just the UK Elf’n’Safety getting over excited again.
Anyway outside the Pump Rooms I found a button, and an old disused water basin, with a forbidding notice beside it saying Do Not Drink This Water. So assuming if it needed a sign saying not to drink it there was a chance it might still be working I kept pressing the button till some sweetly, bad-egg-smelling and blue-black coloured water came out, and cupping my hand managed to catch a bit and try it. Apart from the off-putting smell it just tasted salty, and if I had a cup and could have filled it and held my nose whilst drinking I would have drunk more.
The Museum itself contained much memorabilia of the town’s time as a health spa, and you could see the old original well heads down in the basement through a glass insert in the floor. When I asked if it was possible for me to go down and view them it turned out there is a short tour every so often, and as some others overheard and were interested as well (pardon the pun) the curator took us down, and opened the doors for us to smell the waters, as apparently Elf’nSafety haven’t got round to banning that yet.
Up then past the Old Swan Hotel, where Agatha Christie was discovered after her mysterious disappearance in 1926 - I think if my husband had told me he intended to leave me for a younger woman I might have taken off as well. Hardly that much of a mystery, but perhaps things were different in those days.
Just opposite on the corner is the Farrah’s Harrogate Toffee Shop, established in 1840. Their toffee, which contains a little lemon was sold to visitors who had come to take ’The Cure’ and was designed to clear the palate of the putrid taste of Harrogate’s Sulphur Water. So with a tin of Harrogate Toffee duly purchased I headed on up to Betty’s Tearooms, and I wasn’t disappointed. It is so popular there is always a queue to get in. but they make sure you are not kept waiting long, and the inside is all beautifully set out. The ground floor rooms were full when I called, but the lower room was equally nice with wonderful marquetry pictures on the walls of local beauty spots
I had a pot of Ceylon Blue Sapphire Tea, plenty big enough for several delicious cups, and a large slice of hazelnut gateau. Most enjoyable and well worth a visit. Then a taxi back to the caravan site and ready for the off to see The Ripon Hornblower later that evening.