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The £300,000 restoration of the Turkish Baths in Harrogate

PUBLISHED: 17:49 17 August 2018 | UPDATED: 12:35 31 October 2018

Clare McKenzie gives a traditional Turkish Hammam treatment.

Clare McKenzie gives a traditional Turkish Hammam treatment.

Archant

Doors have re-opened at Harrogate’s ‘pamper palace’ after £300,000 restoration work.

Harrogate's Turkish Baths re-open after restorations.Harrogate's Turkish Baths re-open after restorations.

The majestic Royal Baths in the centre of Harrogate is surely one of Yorkshire’s most iconic buildings.

When it was opened in 1897 it was proclaimed as the most advanced hydrotherapy centre in the world. Clients could take the medicinal waters, wallow in mud baths, cleanse themselves in steam rooms and even choose to be encased in warm peat from Thorne Moor!

Those indulging included Princess Alix Hesse and her sister, Princess Victoria of Battenburg, who raced their bath chairs through the town’s streets.

Turkish attendant Bob Markcroft gets ready for the first customers.Turkish attendant Bob Markcroft gets ready for the first customers.

Across Europe Harrogate’s reputation soared and was known as the “English spa”.

But did you know that one part of this amazing complex has not just survived intact for 120 years, but is also thriving doing what its designers’ intended?

The stunning Turkish Baths Harrogate continue to revitalise the mind, body and spirit of thousands of visitors from across the world.

Harrogate's Turkish Baths re-open after restorations.Harrogate's Turkish Baths re-open after restorations.

Just like the rest of the Royal Baths no expense was spared when it was built Only the best would do and Islamic arches and elaborate painted ceilings combined with terrazzo floors (laid by Italian craftsmen) and high quality detailing created an interior that still takes the breath away. It one of the most complete Victorian bath of its kind anywhere in the UK – and possibly the world!

If that wasn’t enough the Turkish baths have just got even better thanks to a £300,000 investment by Harrogate Borough Council. This major statement of confidence in the future has enhanced the historic interior and expanded the range of treatments on offer.

Chris Mason, manager of Turkish Baths Harrogate, explained: “The spa industry worldwide is booming, but we know that the historic interior of the Turkish baths with its original Victorian opulence and grandeur is a huge and unique selling point. This latest project has revealed previously hidden spaces, which has re-enforced its character, and just added to the appeal.

Harrogate's Turkish Baths re-open after restorations.Harrogate's Turkish Baths re-open after restorations.

“It’s a delight that clients can still enjoy a totally relaxing and indulgent experience in these stunning surroundings, just as our Victorian ancestors did. You can follow the traditional Turkish ritual of heating, cooling and cleansing - immersing yourself literally and metaphorically in the surroundings. Our clients often tell us they feel exhilaration, euphoria, total relaxation and absolute cleanliness after a session.”

The work has seen modern plasterboard torn down to reveal grand vaulted high ceilings and a tiled area blocked off for decades brought into use to offer traditional type rub downs for the first time in decades.

“That’s a real step forward for us as about a quarter of our customers do ask for them and it is very much what was offered in the baths’ early years,” adds Chris.

Turkish attendant Amanda Whalen get ready for the first customers.Turkish attendant Amanda Whalen get ready for the first customers.

Other upgrades have also been made in the existing spa room, which now features foot spas, spa pool and a tiled aroma room with highly skilled therapists on hand to provide beauty treatments and exotic options such as a Himalayan salt massage. Don’t worry if you are in a hurry as express packages are also available.

“Overall the aim of the improvements we have made is to make the journey to the baths as welcoming and easy as possible, from browsing the website, selecting a treatment, walking through the door and enjoying a unique experience.”

The last time major works were carried out on the Turkish baths was in 2003 with a £1.5m scheme backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Since then visitor numbers have grown and now exceed 40,000 annually.

Councillor Stanley Lumley, Harrogate Borough Council’s cabinet member for culture, tourism and sport, said: “This project is all about sensitive restoration of a much loved attraction and also about preparing it for another one hundred years. It is part of a long term strategy for the Turkish baths which includes creating a stylish new website and implementing a more complete and visible brand and marketing campaign. We are competing with modern spa facilities so we need to continually improve. But we have the priceless asset of a stunning historic interior and an unbroken tradition – something that money can’t buy.”

For further information visit www.turkishbathsharrogate.co.uk and if you are looking for the ultimate present for friends and loved ones check out the range of gift cards on offer.

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