Characterised by its Two Hundred Acre Stray – an area of parkland right in the town centre, its spa town heritage (there’s still a spa where you can take the waters) and Bettys famous café tea rooms, Harrogate offers genteel living …. but with an unstuffy Yorkshire flavour.
Who will it suit? This is a family town par excellence with superlative schools and myriad sporting and social activities. Harrogate appeals to commuters who appreciate the well paid jobs Leeds offers but would hate to live there. (Although the commute could be better – and will be from 2019, see below.) Those who want to retire in style will find everything they need and nothing they don’t.
Overall, anyone who appreciates its general dearth of tackiness (there’s only one pound shop, yes just the one!) will feel at home here.
Accessibility. 35 minutes to Leeds by car (more at peak times) or train, while the A1M for north/south journeys is 15 minutes away. Leeds Bradford Airportwith an extensive range of European flights (including Heathrow) 20-30 minutes drive.
For leisure you can reach the Yorkshire coast in just over an hour and the Yorkshire Dales – well, it’s already in them (Nidderdale more to the point).
Insider tip. The Leeds-Harrogate railway line is scheduled for electrification by 2019 when trains every 10 minutes with a 20 minute non stop journey time will be possible. Expect Harrogate to really fly as a Leeds commuter town then.
House hunting. The Duchy Estate just to north of the town centre may sound like a social housing project but is actually Harrogate’s most sought after address – although its pricey homes don’t come up for sale very often. The southern suburbs (usually referred to as the ‘favoured south side’ in estate-agent speak) such as Oatlands and Wheatlands are predominantly made up of 20s/30s stone family houses. They particularly appeal to commuters due to the local rail halt at Hornbeam Park and proximity to favoured secondary schools.
For a more villagey environment look at Pannal just to the west. Knaresborough which abuts Harrogate just to the east has the more relaxed feel of the North Yorkshire market town it is. Both have stations on the Leeds-York line.
The all-important schools. Sink schools don’t exist in Harrogate. There’s a long list of Ofsted ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ primary schools with 2014 KS2 ratings amongst the highest in Yorkshire. As for secondary schools Harrogate Grammar, St. Aidans Church of England High School and St. John Fisher Catholic High School tend to be the most sought after.
Price guide. Harrogate has already been discovered as a bit of a gem, so property prices here are already some of the most expensive in Yorkshire. Current pricing: One bed flat, £95,000-£350,000 depending on area/quality. Three bed terrace/semi £180,000-£300,000. Four/five bed detached £300,000-£500,000+. The best properties can go for circa £1m+ although you can expect high end finishes and a sizable plot for your money. Upside: Once you’re in you’re in. Not many people who move here want to move away.
Insider tip. Anyone looking for good value needn’t entirely give up hope however. There are still plenty of Harrogate streets that are up and coming (look out for the skips and scaffolding), especially locations close in to the town centre. Also, there’s still a good choice of older properties suitable for fixing up and/or with space you can build out and grow into.
So far so good, but are there any downsides? Speak to any teenager and they will tell you it’s boring – they’re wrong! Hip 20-somethings might tell you it’s a bit parochial – in fairness they’re partly right. It’s easy enough to get to Leeds though, which is quickly developing a reputation for its shopping, social and music scene.
Lastly, although there’s decent public transport everyone prefers to travel by car (Harrogate is 4×4 central) so the roads can be gridlocked at peak times. Time that school run or commute carefully. It’s mostly flat however so walking/cycling is a viable option.
Nearby places to consider. Boroughbridge: More rural, less well-connected, less expensive. Wetherby: More rural, better for Leeds commuters, similar prices. North Leeds, eg. Guiseley, Horsforth: Easier for commuting and less expensive, but less posh.