Richard & Maureen Wallis recently returned to Knaresborough to try out the newly refurbished site and to revisit old haunts.
When the CAMC announced the opening of the refurbished site in Knaresborough, it reminded us that we had not been to Harrogate for some years and that, after 33 years, it would be really nice to visit our old home.
I was a little surprised by the warning in the handbook about care needed in transiting Knaresborough. Sure enough when we drove through, apart from the normal traffic, there was no problem. However, when you leave Knaresbough and turn onto the B6165 Pateley Bridge Road you enter a narrow stretch of bends with concrete and stone walls on both sides with a narrow footpath which magically switches sides half-way through this canyon and suddenly you are very close to the wall.
The other little surprise is that the site has a separate entrance and exit, and two entry barriers. On arrival you need to pull forward to the left hand barrier to allow “residents” to pass behind you and enter via the right hand one. We were soon booked in and sent to find our pitch. We settled for the easy option close to the gate, with a view of the Wanderer Bistro – one of the innovations for this site.
After the open spaces at Bridlington, Knaresborough, in its little hollow felt enclosed, but the pitches are all of a good size and if you prefer an open view head for the top of the site where at least you can look down on the campers and the dogwalk. There are a couple of awkward pitches that have no awning space and it was interesting to see how caravanners migrated from these at the first opportunity. Amazing how far you can go uphill just with a motor mover!
Being new, the facilities were excellent especially those built into the back of the reception and bistro. The dog (and cycle) wash means that Oscar will feel really at home.
Watching people, as one does, it was evident that there was an early evening crowd who enjoyed a drink and the sun in the bistro courtyard. When we visited later about two thirds of the tables inside were occupied with diners, the food was good and everything ran smoothly. The staff advised that they can normally get you in without booking, but if you do get stuck the full menu is available as a take-away option.
It is possible to walk into Knaresborough from the site via the Nidd Gorge valley – there are guidance notes available in the information room, next to Reception. The entrance is just 400m along the Ripley Road from the site and there are large display boards telling you the history of the site and what you can see and hear. Our schedule did not allow us to complete the walk but next time…!
Knaresborough is a thriving market town in its own right, and it was great to see that many of the stores we used years ago were still there and thriving. Just at the rear of the market place you enter the castle grounds and from there you can appreciate the views of the Nidd gorge. It is self-evident why the castle was built in this location and the remains are well preserved with the gardens providing a peaceful place to enjoy the views and even do some train and bird spotting.
As in many places there are new properties being built around Harrogate, but none impact on the centre of the town and very little has changed in the last 30 years. It is still a place to shop , wander, and buy hats! But that aside, what I didn’t know was that you can enjoy two of the Harrogate ‘must do’s’ together. Betty’s now run a restaurant and coffee shop at Harlow Carr Gardens in addition to the original premises in Parliament Street. We arrived at the gardens at lunchtime and joined the inevitable queue which moves slowly, but, as the ‘coffee shop’ queue moved more quickly than the ‘restaurant’s’, that’s the option we selected. It offers a simpler menu and you have to order at the desk but provides the same attention to service and the food was excellent. The restaurant, just across the rope barrier, enjoys full waiter service and a bigger menu. From the conversations around us it was evident that many of those ‘that lunch’ enjoy Betty’s with the view of the gardens, but walking in the gardens is an option. We wanted to see how the gardens had evolved from the Geoffrey Smith days and it was wonderful to see how what were then new beds had matured and how that the garden had continued to evolve. An afternoon well spent.
When we lived in Harrogate we used to claim that we could be in the countryside in 10 mins. That is still true but you have to pick your starting point as the traffic on the main routes is very heavy. However, you can still get out from the Knaresborough site into the Yorkshire Dales in 30 or so minutes. We chose a route via Pateley Bridge, then made a circular tour through the dales stopping off at Aysgarth Falls and where we could on the narrowish roads just to remind us of what we are missing.
So the Knaresborough site will certainly be back on our return-to list, especially as we did not find time to visit our old house.