Visit Harrogate column with Mike Newby: Top ten summer days out - for free

The Compagnie Carabosse Fire Garden in the Valley Gardens took place in June. Many more shows, fairs and festivals are taking place in the district throughout the summer.
The Compagnie Carabosse Fire Garden in the Valley Gardens took place in June. Many more shows, fairs and festivals are taking place in the district throughout the summer.

The ‘back to school’ promotions seem to have been running since before the schools actually broke up and Selfridge’s opened its Christmas Shop on August 1 and yet here we are still in the middle of the summer holidays.

Have you got to the stage where you have run out of ideas for what to do?...or are you just wanting to try something different?

The team here at Visit Harrogate have put their heads together and come with our ‘Top 10 Sunny Days Out For Free’, from the Coldstones Cut, the largest public artwork in Yorkshire, to letting off steam on the Stray. If the weather doesn’t quite behave itself we have also got a ‘Top 10 Things For A Rainy Day’. Just go to the ‘Inspire Me’ section of the Visit Harrogate website.

Naturally there is always a lot to do in our district so we have possibly missed out your favourite. If we have, tweet your top day out to us at @VisitHarrogate so we can share it with others. There are also plenty of ideas on the events listings on

Britain in Bloom

One pastime could be enjoying the district’s gardens; we have some stunning public gardens for which are justifiably famous and are free for all to enjoy.

They are certainly an attraction for many of our visitors. The gardens, floral display and community engagement of Harrogate town come under the spotlight next week with the visit of the Britain in Bloom judges.

Having won its category in the Yorkshire in Bloom awards last year the town once again finds itself under the national spotlight. Floral displays still play an important part of the contest but increasingly the judging looks at how the local community manages its own environment.

So congratulations to all those volunteers who make up Team Harrogate as well as the council’s parks’ department and, of course, Harrogate in Bloom itself.

The announcement is not made until the autumn, so there is quite a wait but, as I remember from attending the awards during my mayoral year, it is an exciting event; as communities await the awarding of these horticultural Oscars.

Shows, Fairs and Festivals

The district is certainly famous for its gardens and floral displays but it is also establishing itself as somewhere that has a rich cultural life.

The Harrogate Music Festival has just concluded its 50th anniversary season (and who could forget the Compagnie Carabosse Fire Garden in the Valley Gardens?) and the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival goes from strength to strength.

August has seen the start of the 23rd International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival – check out the daily programme of G&S events and productions in the Royal Hall. Knaresborough is now turning pink in anticipation of FEVA starting tomorrow.

Just three days after these festivals close the UK’s first National Street Food and Family Fun Festival takes place in the Valley Gardens from August 26-29.

And if August isn’t full enough of shows, fairs and festivals Ripley holds its annual show on Sunday, August 14; and as soon as everything from the show is cleared away the Foodies Festival arrives in Ripley on the 19th.

There is just time to take a breather before the Ripon International Festival starts on September 2.

While it is not taking place until Octber it might well be worth looking at Harrogate Theatre’s Comedy Festival line-up before the show you want to see is sold out.

Visual Arts

There is also a strong visual arts offering at the moment. “Noble Prospects: Capability Brown And The Yorkshire Landscape” and Kate Whiteford’s “False Perspectives” continue at the Mercer Gallery until September 11 while the Embroiderers’ Guild “Landscape And Gardens” exhibition inspired by Capability Brown is at Fountains Hall until the end of the month.

The NiddArt Trail featuring local artisan crafts and artists the length of Nidderdale starts on August 19 whilst those interested in photography might like to take in “Brimham Through The Lens” which is part of the NiddArt Trail or the Ripon City Photographic Society Annual Exhibition on September 3 which follows the Ripon Arts Summer Exhibition that starts on August 27.

And Finally

Interest in the district continues to grow with the Visit Harrogate website recording a record month in July. For the first time the site had over 70,000 hits in one month.

Since the beginning of the year there have been over 2.25m page views not just from within the UK but from all over the world. Print is also proving to be popular with 140,000 of our mini-guides having been distributed since Easter.