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History and Heritage in the Harrogate District

Harrogate district has a rich history of colourful characters, sensational stories, religious rebellions, proud uprisings, infamous intrigues and the great rivalries of the wars of the roses.

There are signs of earlier Roman heritage here too – at Aldborough Roman Site you can explore one of the Roman Empire’s most northerly towns, once capital of the Brigantes tribe.

The district boasts arguably the most atmospheric abbey in the north, many iconic castles, and the magnificent Ripon Cathedral.

The dramatic ruins of Fountains Abbey are the largest in the country, and together with the surrounding water garden, deer park and Elizabethan manor house are a World Heritage Site.

The scale of the architecture is truly impressive and guided tours take place daily so you can really delve into the past of this beautiful place.

You can feel history all around you at Skipton Castle, one of the most complete medieval castles in England.

Masons marks in the stonework are a touch-point with the people who worked on its walls, battlements and arrowslits.

Explore every corner of this labyrinthine place, the last royal stronghold of the civil war.

The ruins of Spofforth Castle are a fragment of the castle once owned by the influential Percy family.

Both the Percies and the Cliffords of Skipton Castle wore the red rose of Lancaster throughout the wars of the roses, despite overwhelming support elsewhere in the region for the House of York.

The prominent position of Knaresborough Castle high on a hill above the Nidd valley makes for some impressive views.

Looking out from its sturdy walls over the pretty streets of Knaresborough and landscape beyond, you can get a sense of the protection and refuge this place provided in times of danger.

Ripon Cathedral stands proud in the heart of the historic city of Ripon.

There has been a church on this site for almost fourteen centuries, an expression of faith in wood and stone.

A delight to the eyes, as well as the heart and soul, it has inspired the likes of Lewis Carroll and Wilfred Owen and contains a variety of architectural styles, reflecting social changes throughout its lifetime.

This part of the world has seen some eventful times, and if you’re looking for history you’ll find echoes of the past abound just waiting to be discovered in every corner of the district.

You can make a day of it, explore at your leisure or join a guided tour, and really immerse yourself in the heritage of this historic area.

To find out more about how History has left its mark on the countryside around Harrogate District, see our Echoes of the Past pages.

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Number of items: 9

  1. Knaresborough Castle & Museum

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    Knaresborough Castle & Museum


    Castle / Fort


    A stronghold of medieval kings, Knaresborough Castle is beautifully set overlooking the River Nidd.

    Explore Knaresborough Castle independently or join a tour to discover the history of the King’s Chamber, visit the dungeon and scurry through the secret underground exit (sallyport).

    Get a...

  2. Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal

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    Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal


    Abbey / Priory


    Set within the beautiful North Yorkshire countryside, this World Heritage Site offers a great day out for all the family.

    Hidden within the Skell valley, you’ll find the magnificent ruins of the once great Fountains Abbey and a Georgian pleasure ground to delight your senses.


  3. Skipton Castle

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    Skipton Castle


    Castle / Fort


    The remarkable 900 year old Skipton Castle became a major stronghold by the late C13th.

    Owned by the powerful Clifford Lords, it saw them participating in all the major battles, from Bannockburn to Crecy; Agincourt to the Wars of the Roses.

    The Tudor Wing was added in 1536, when Eleanor Brandon,...

  4. Newby Hall & Gardens

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    Newby Hall & Gardens


    Historic House / Palace


    Newby Hall, the family home of Mr & Mrs Richard Compton, is one of England's finest houses, an exceptional example of 18th century interior decoration.

    Built in the 1690s in the style of Sir Christopher Wren the house was later enlarged and adapted by John Carr and subsequently Robert Adam....

  5. Beautiful house, gardens and galleries to enjoy all year round

    Add Beningbrough Hall, Gallery & Gardens to your Itinerary

    Beningbrough Hall, Gallery & Gardens


    Historic House / Palace


    Beningbrough, on the outskirts of Harrogate, with its eight acres of gardens and 18th century mansion is a real treat to enjoy all year round.

    Outside, you can explore the beautifully arranged formal gardens, several herbaceous borders, less formal areas managed for wildlife as well as...

  6. Markenfield Hall

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    Markenfield Hall


    Historic House / Palace


    Markenfield Hall – tucked privately away along a mile-long winding drive, just three miles south of Ripon, has been described as Yorkshire’s best-kept secret. Not visible from the road, a glimpse of the imposing east wall cannot be seen until visitors reach the old Mediaeval road near to the top of...

  7. Spofforth Castle

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    Spofforth Castle


    Castle / Fort


    Spofforth Castle was once a grand and important house, scene of lavish banquets and powerful seat of power over of the surrounding feudal lands, and has stood in some form since at least the time of the Norman Conquest.

    Still recognisable for what it was the castle and surrounding park are...

  8. Ripon Cathedral

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    Ripon Cathedral


    Cathedral / Minister


    Ripon Cathedral has a history stretching back almost fourteen centuries.

    Throughout this time it has offered an unbroken tradition of witness to the Christian faith, both in the City of Ripon and across North Yorkshire as well acting as an iconic centre of the city itself.

    The first stone church...

  9. St Wilfrid's Church

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    St Wilfrid's Church


    Church / Chapel


    A magnificent Grade 1 listed church situated a short walk from the conference centre and the centre of town. 

    Designed by renowned architect Temple Moore and his son-in-law Leslie Moore, the church, cloisters, hall and cottage are the only Grade 1 listed buildings in the town of Harrogate.    ...

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