Thanks to England's crime fiction writer Bill Kitson for providing the following guest post:
Harrogate, in North Yorkshire, is an "event" town. There is always something happening, whatever the time of year. The International Conference Centre plays hosts to countless exhibitions, from toy fairs, to the spring flower show. In addition there are festivals, with themes ranging from music to crime writing. It was in connection with the latter that Val and I visited Harrogate recently.
The historical connection of Harrogate with crime stems from the fact that it was in Harrogate, at The Old Swan Hotel, that Agatha Christie was discovered following her mysterious disappearance from her home. The event was subject to the 1979 film, "Agatha," starring Dustin Hoffman and Vanessa Redgrave.
Castles and Countryside
In addition to its own attractions, Harrogate is a great centre for those wishing to spend time in some of the most spectacular scenery with some of the most appealing visitor attractions in the UK. Whether your taste is for the hills and dales, wild moorland or beautiful pastures, raging torrents or gently trickling scenes, you won't be disappointed.
Visitors will find themselves within striking distance of a number of historic castles, some ruined, most still occupied by the families who have lived there for centuries. Or, around the next bend as it were, they can take in the splendid architecture of a string of abbeys and monasteries, whose beauty even the wrecking crews of Cromwell's army couldn't destroy. Other features of the area are some magnificently kept gardens within a number of stately homes (usually better during summer - obviously) or take a trip back in time with a railway journey on one of several lines that run through the most beautiful parts of the county, sitting in a carriage being pulled along by a venerable steam locomotive.
Ale and Cheese
There are other attractions too. You could tour a visitor centre watching traditional arts such as cheese-making or the centuries old brewing methods still used to produce real ale. Afterwards, those who wish to may care to linger and try the produce.
Where we stayed
For our visit to the Crime Writing Festival, we stayed at The Cairn Hotel (part of Strathmore Hotels Group). We've stayed there before and found it clean and comfortable, with the staff cheerful and providing good service. Okay, so it needs a lick of paint here, or a bit of carpet replacing there, but we were only staying there, not living in the place. The rooms are spacious, no wear and tear to be seen in them, and the facilities within all you could ask for.
The terms were the other attraction. Our online booking enabled us to obtain a double room with full English breakfast for two at a price of £55 ($84). This compares with a rack price of £190 ($293) and the price of a room in the hotel staging the festival (only a few hundred yards away) of £300 ($462).
*Rate of exchange as at 07/24/2010