The prosperous spa town of Harrogate has long been a favourite of intrepid hikers. Walks around Harrogate take you into wonderful river valleys, amongst geological magnificence and masterpieces of Victorian architecture. This historic town sits on the fringes of Nidderdale, a designated area of outstanding natural beauty, with the plains of the Vale of York to the east. With the Yorkshire Dales National Park also only 13 miles (20 km) away, it is fair to say that Harrogate’s walks are as fabulous as its famous Yorkshire Tea.Hikes around Harrogate are gorgeous any time of year. In spring and summer the landscaped gardens of Studley Royal Park are a riot of colour. Though on a cold, clear winter’s afternoon, the magnificent ruins of Fountains Abbey have a certain atmospheric charm. The woodlands found in Nidderdale and Nidd Gorge save their finest colours for autumn, when the crunch of fallen leaves and the sounds of flowing water become your soundtrack.
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Some of the finest walks around Harrogate explore the historic and picturesque Skell Valley. Experience Studley Royal Park and the ruins of Fountains Abbey, awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status as ‘a feat of human creative genius’. The park’s landscaped grounds have been immaculately curated around the 1,000-year-old abbey ruins.
Take a magical stroll around the incredible water gardens, keeping an eye out for stags wrestling each other with their antlers. Over 300 red, sika and fallow deer roam the grounds. The gothic St Mary’s Church is another architectural masterpiece waiting to be discovered here. Nearby, the idyllic Seven Bridges Valley offers you utterly delightful walking, following the meandering River Skell over the five remaining arched packhorse bridges.
The spectacular Brimham Rocks and their surroundings make for some of the best hikes around Harrogate. A site of special scientific interest, its 454 acres (184 ha) contain heathlands, birch woodland and the famous 320 million-year-old sandstone rock formations. The impossible shapes they assume are sensational, the result of aeons of erosion by ice, water and wind.
Closer to Harrogate is Nidd Gorge, a deep, sandstone ravine with sheer wooded banks. Perfect for an afternoon ramble, it rewards nature lovers with a veritable patchwork of habitats. In summer, a diverse array of butterflies flutter between the trees and wild flowers abound.
Some of the best hiking trails around Harrogate can be found in Nidderdale. In fact, there are 125 square miles (200 km2) on which to exercise your right to roam. The prominent hill of Great Whernside (not to be confused with county-high-point Whernside to the west) offers a unique panorama across Nidderdale and back to the vastness of the Yorkshire Dales.
Experience the remote moorland and undulating hills of Mashamshire, perfect for stargazing under a vast night sky. Pack your tent and set out for an adventure into this secluded countryside. The archetypal V-shaped valleys, carved by 100,000 years of glacial movement, await your hiking boots. Explore winding paths and waterfalls in the rolling woodland or discover the curious and mystical structures found on the moors.
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