Here we chat with Simon about his vision for the hotel, his lockdown ventures and what he believes keeps his guests coming back…
The Yorkshire, a hotel to remember
For Simon, the most important achievement of The Yorkshire Hotel is its ability to give people memories they’ll cherish forever.
“Tourism is a business based in making people happy,” said Simon. “When you do something and you see the smile it puts on somebody’s face – that’s why I come to work.”
Having worked in the business for over 30 years, Simon is most in love with his job when he has the opportunity to make a guest’s stay truly special, whether that’s organising an early arrival, curating a special menu or setting up a proposal.
“A little while ago, someone emailed to say, ‘I'm going to propose to my girlfriend this weekend, would you help me?’ Of course, we said yes. So we dressed up a private room with a white carpet and red petals, and these huge light-up letters saying ‘Marry me.’
“We had some special music cued for the moment he said, ‘Let’s go upstairs for a drink in the sky bar’, and actually it was just the two of them. It was a beautiful proposal.”
A huge part of The Yorkshire Hotel’s identity comes from its locality. As a famous spa town, travel and tourism has been the backbone of the Harrogate economy for hundreds of years.
“Here in Harrogate, tourism is part of the local tradition,” said Simon. “And it’s a source of pride for the local community that our businesses, big and small, each have a part to play in the town’s success.”
Harrogate is proudly independent, with far above the average amount of small, independently owned shops, restaurants and bars. It’s also home to the famous Betty’s Tea Room and Yorkshire Tea, which is now the one of the most popular teas in the world.
This focus on local heritage and independent trade was key for Simon when he took on the hotel, and he’s made huge efforts to keep this local spirit alive, supporting local tradesman, hiring local staff and directing guests to small, independent attractions.
“Many of our biggest bar sellers are our local,” said Simon. “Slingsby Gin is a huge brand, but a Harrogate-based company. The botanicals for it are picked in a garden just on the edge of the town.
“The toiletries in our bedrooms are all H2K of Harrogate, another award-winning brand, and we use Harrogate Spring Water, and Yorkshire Tea, which if you look on the box literally says, made by Taylors of Harrogate.”
After the first lockdown, Simon wanted to do something to raise morale in the local community. He decided to set up Harrogate’s very own public beach out the front of the hotel, complete with backdrop, real sand, palm trees and deck chairs.
The beach was so successful that locals began to call it Costa del Harrogate, at least going part of the way to satisfy our cravings to go abroad.
When the roadmap out of lockdown was announced in 2021, Simon decided on a second morale-boosting stunt.
“Well, I thought to myself, we don’t need the car park because we haven’t any guests. So why not do something different?”
In an incredible pastiche to the Yorkshire Dales, Simon had the whole front car park landscaped, dropping 150 tonnes of top soil and laying 300 square metres of real turf. A 10 tonne drystone wall was laid, with 350 plants, shrubs, trees and landscapes creating a tranquil new site for locals to enjoy.
“People came in their thousands, literally!” said Simon. “They saw it on the news and came from miles around just to have a drink and a picnic in what was once a car park.
“It was just so wonderful to be able to do something inspiring for the public after such a long period being stuck inside.”
Things to see and do…
Discover a few of Simon’s favourite local sites and activities:
- Slingsby Gin Distillery, the gin tasting experience where you get to distil your own bottle
- Take a scenic stroll through the RHS Harlow Carr Gardens and Victorian (Valley) Gardens
- Harrogate Tea Room is the ideal stop-off for a proper Yorkshire cuppa
- Uncover a fascinating story of romance, courage, loyalty and recklessness at Ripley Castle
- Enjoy a splash in Harrogate’s original Turkish baths
- From Dan Brown to Lee Child, Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival attracts crime writers from all over the world
- Experience the joy of Christmas at one of the country’s largest Christmas Markets
A little bit of history
Set atop Prospect Hill, The Yorkshire Hotel is not only one of the most eye-catching buildings in central Harrogate, but comes with a touching 200-year history.
The hotel was built in 1815 by Nicholas Carter Senior. Initially it was a private home, but was later developed into a bar, and then a hotel in the 1850s.
During the First World War, The Yorkshire became a haven for Belgium refugees, many of who stayed on as hotel staff once the fighting was over. One of them even became general manager in 1920.
After the war, the hotel donated nearly 2,000 square yards of gardens to create the Harrogate War Memorial, which still stands beside the hotel today.
In World War 2, The Yorkshire took on a more strategic role, serving as a base for various military personnel on their way to London, Manchester and Birmingham.
Having survived two world wars, and now a global pandemic, today The Yorkshire proudly stands as a symbol of British kindness and hospitality as it continues to welcome visitors from far and wide, helping them create lasting memories against a beautiful backdrop.
Book a room at The Yorkshire Hotel today and discover your new favourite weekend destination.