Christmas in Harrogate: Your full guide for the holiday season

It might only be September but work is already well underway to prepare for the host of festivities set to spring up across the district to celebrate Christmas.

Friday, 28th September 2018, 8:12 pm
Updated Friday, 28th September 2018, 8:22 pm
Credit: RHS Garden Harlow Carr

Shining a festive light on events taking place this year tourism agency, Visit Harrogate have prepared a round up of what you can look forward to over the holidays.

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal lights up its World Heritage Site.

On weekends on the run up to Christmas, visitors can wander through the estate and see the Abbey aglow with the colours of the rainbow, with live festive music in the cellarium.

RHS Harlow Carr Gardens in Harrogate brings its winter attraction ‘Glow’ to the most northerly RHS garden

A colour-changing illuminated trail appears around the garden’s magnificent trees and shrubs as dusk falls, casting magical light on the Queen Mother’s Lake and Doric columns.

Christmas Light Switch on Celebrations

Knaresborough is set to host a children’s Light Parade, symbolically switching on the Christmas lights. Christmas Lights Switch On celebrations will take place in Harrogate and Ripon. For family adventure, Stockeld Park in Wetherby will illuminate its Enchanted Forest with a Nordic ski woodland trail and ice rink open for winter.

'Knightsbridge of the North', shopping and Christmas Window Competition

As the ‘Knightsbridge of the North’, Harrogate offers traditional Christmas shopping thanks to the eclectic mix of shops and boutiques in the cosmopolitan centre. The boutique Spa town has become a major part of the Christmas tourism trail.

Alongside the annual Christmas shop window competition, the popular Harrogate Christmas Market returns, with its distinctly Yorkshire stamp. It features 200 stalls offering the best of home-made and fairly traded Christmas goods from local and regional producers, artists and crafters, with festive food and drink, buskers and children’s rides, located in on one of the UK’s prettiest streets, Montpellier Hill. There are a series of major Christmas fairs, from Ripley Castle to Ripon Cathedral, with Harrogate Convention Centre featuring the Country Living Christmas Fair, with over 300 crafters offering inspiration on festive styling, decorating and cookery.

Carol services and Santa Claus

Experience carol services in stunning locations such as the Cistercian Monastery at Fountain’s Abbey or the medieval Ripon Cathedral throughout the season. Father Christmas will of course appear in grottos in spectacular locations, including Beningbrough Hall.

There’s also Santa Special rail journeys hosted on-board the magical Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway.

Winter walks and crafts

Nature lovers can get crafty at Brimham Rocks to create Christmas gifts from natural materials gathered from the moorland, with craft workshops, or create your own winter wreath at Christmas Floristry workshops at Fountain’s Abbey.

Shake the cobwebs away and enjoy winter walks in Nidderdale AONB, or step back in time in the Georgian splendour of the water garden at Fountains Abbey with its medieval deer park.

The district is also home to some of Yorkshire’s best pubs, cafes and restaurants from cosy fireplaces to fine dining and afternoon teas, to refuel after late night shopping or a winter walk.

Boxing DayFestivities continue into Boxing Day as Knaresborough features its time honoured tradition with its Boxing Day Tug o’ War from opposite banks of the River Nidd, and Fountains Abbey brings its Boxing Day Pilgrimage, following the footsteps of 12th Century monks from Ripon Cathedral.

New Year’s Eve sees Ripon ablaze with its New Year’s Eve celebrations with a Watchlight Service at the Cathedral and Torchlight procession to the Market square with live entertainment and fireworks. Knaresborough unleashes 5,000 plastic ducks into the River Nidd with its New Year’s Day Duck Race.

The full list of events so far are as follows:

Christmas Listings

Father Christmas

17th November – 24th December Stockeld Park We like to make Santa feel at home, so have prepared him a beautiful luxury log cabin all the way from Lapland! Stockeld Park, Wetherby LS22 4AN Please visit for full details

17th & 18th November Stockeld Park Santa’s Arrival & Sleigh Parade Come and join Santa and his wonderful reindeer as he arrives at Stockeld Park to mark the opening of the magical Santa’s Grotto. Meet the reindeers – 11am, Santa’s arrival – 3pm followed by the parade through the enchanted forest.

24th November – 23rd December (Weekends only) 11.00pm – 3.00pm Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Father Christmas Grotto Father Christmas is touching down at Fountains Abbey and he comes bearing gifts. Fountain’s Abbey, Ripon HG4 3DY

25th November – 24th December (Weekends only) plus Tuesday 11th & Friday 21st December Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway Santa Specials Come and see Santa and receive a present on our one hour Santa Special rail journey. Bolton Abbey Station BD23 6AF Full schedule at:

30th November - 24th December Christmas Stories with Santa at RHS Harlow Carr Snuggle up for a classic Christmas tale with Santa Book early to avoid disappointment. Please visit for dates, times & availability Harlow Carr, Crag Lane, Harrogate HG3 1QB

1st December Santa’s Grotto in Ripon Follow Santa's footsteps to find Santa and his wife, Mrs Claus in their enchanted Grotto. Ripon Town Hall, Ripon HG4 1DD

1st – 23rd December (Weekends Only) 11.00am – 3.30pm Beningbrough Hall, Gallery and Gardens Story time with Father Christmas Father Christmas invites you to join him in the cosy library of the big hall for stories on the run up to the big day. Booking is essential, telephone 01904 472014 Coach Road, Beningbrough YO30 1DD

Shopping, Markets & Fairs

16th October – 25th November 11.00am-3.00pm Bath House Gallery – Christmas Crafts Showcase Pop to Harlow Carr’s Bath House Gallery for a festive gift with a difference – from jewellery, scarves and handbags to children’s baking kits and Christmas decorations. Harlow Carr, Crag Lane, Harrogate HG3 1QB

15th - 18th November Thurs & Fri: 10.00am- 7.00pm, Sat: 9.30am-8.30pm, Sun: 9.30am-5.30pm Harrogate Christmas Market Thurs & Fri: 10.00am- 7.00pm, Sat: 9.30am-8.30pm, Sun: 9.30am-5.30pm The ever popular Christmas market is back in the heart of Harrogate with 200 stalls offering a vast array of food, drink, crafts, children’s rides and more. St. Mary’s Walk, Montpellier Hill, Harrogate HG1 2RZ

22nd – 25th November Thurs: 10am-8.00pm, Fri & Sat: 10.00am-5.30pm Sun: 10.00am-5.00pm Harrogate Convention Centre – The Knitting and Stitching Show The definitive and best exhibition in the UK for lovers of textiles. Hundreds of exhibitors selling specialist supplies you just can’t find in the shops. Harrogate Convention Centre, Kings Road HG1 5LA

22nd – 25th November Thurs – Sat: 9.30am-5.30pm Sun: 9.30am – 4.00pm The Christmas Fair at Ripley Castle 155 companies selling lots of Christmas goodies, decorations and clothing Ripley HG3 3AY

24th November 9.30am – 4.30pm Ripon Cathedral Christmas Gift & Food Fair Over 100 stalls of seasonal food and gifts in the beautiful Cathedral Nave and Old Deanery. Minster Road, Ripon HG4 1QS

29th November – 2nd December Harrogate Convention Centre – Country Living Magazine Christmas Fair Unique handmade gifts, decorations and homeware from over 300 artists, crafters and designers bringing ideas and inspiration on interior styling, decorating and cookery. Harrogate Convention Centre, King’s Road HG1 5LA

1st & 2nd December Knaresborough Christmas Market A wonderful festive fair in the historic and picturesque market town of Knaresborough – quality stalls and lively entertainment.. Fireworks finale in the Castle Yard on Sunday. Market Place, Knaresborough HG5 8AG

8th December 10.00am Masham’s Traditional Christmas Fair Craft and gift stalls, seasonal delights, yummy refreshments, carol singers and much, much more! Town Hall and Market Square, Masham HG4 4DY

9th December 2.00pm – 6.00pm Ripon Canal Christmas Market Indoor & outdoor stalls, entertainment, hot food and drinks, Santa's Grotto, raffle, mulled wine bar and carols. Canal Basin, Bondgate Green HG4 1QW

Late Night Shopping

Ripon – Thursday 6th December Shops open late until 8pm with music, entertainment and more!

Pateley Bridge - Friday 14th December Situated in the heart of Nidderdale, enjoy this beautiful market town after dark.

Harrogate - Thursdays throughout December Late night shopping is typically each Thursday in December but is subject to change. Consult local press and media for details.


1st November – 7th January 10.30am- 8.30pm (times vary over Christmas & New Year – see website for details) Stockeld Park - The Christmas Adventure Journey through the illuminated enchanted forest, ski around the woodland trail or ice skate to your heart’s content. Stockeld Park, Wetherby LS22 4AN

3rd November – 16th December (weekends only) 11.00am – 3.00pm Brimham Rocks - Build it at Brimham Get crafty at Brimham on these winter weekends and take home a masterpiece made from natural materials gathered from the moorland. Have a go at using Brimham’s natural resources to make craft projects such as bird feeders, Christmas decorations and much more! There will be a different activity each weekend, so why not come again to try something different. Brimham Rocks, Summerbridge HG3 4DW

15th November Harrogate Christmas Lights Switch On The town centre Christmas lights will be switched on in a ceremony commencing at 4.00pm The Victoria Centre, Harrogate HG1 1AE

22nd November – 29th December (Thu – Sat) 4.30pm – 8.00pm (last admission: 7.00pm) ‘Glow’ Winter Illuminations at RHS Garden Harlow Carr Enjoy an illuminated trail around the magnificent trees and shrubs as dusk falls. See the lake, Winter Walk, Streamside and Doric columns as you’ve never seen them before! Harlow Carr, Crag Lane, Harrogate HG3 1QB

23rd November Knaresborough Christmas Lights Switch On The children's 'Light Parade' will leave the war memorial in the castle grounds at 6pm, walk down Castlegate to the Market Place, to symbolically light the Christmas tree lights at 6.30pm. The Market Place, Knaresborough HG5 8AG

24th November Ripon Christmas Lights Switch On The fun begins at 4.00 pm with the switch on at 6.00 pm Market Place West, Ripon HG4 1BN

24th November – 23rd December Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal 1930s Christmas at Fountains Hall Discover what Christmas would have been like in the 1930s. Make paper chains or snowflake decorations and see what you would have got in your Christmas stocking. Fountains Abbey, Ripon HG4 3DY

24th November – 23rd December (weekends only) 3.00pm – 5.00pm Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal - Music & Lights Wander through the estate and see the Abbey aglow with the colours of the rainbow. Stop by the cellarium to catch some live festive music. Fountains Abbey, Ripon HG4 3DY

24th November – 24th December (weekends only) 26th December – 7th January (Daily) Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal - Woolly Winter Workshop 11.00am – 4.00pm At Swanley Grange – Get in the festive spirit making your own wonderfully woolly star decoration. Fountains Abbey, Ripon HG4 3DY

24th November – 7th January 10.00am-4.00pm Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal – The Nativity Trail Follow the stars to discover scenes of the Nativity by the Abbey and in the gardens. Fountains Abbey, Ripon HG4 3DY

28th November – 20th January Harrogate Theatre – Jack and the Beanstalk Traditional festive panto fun for all the family. Oxford Street, Harrogate HG1 1QF

30th November - 24th December 10.30am-3.30pm RHS Garden Harlow Carr - The Magic of Christmas Put on your best Christmas jumper and get in the festive spirit on a Christmas trail. Enjoy a range of Christmas crafts and don’t forget to enter the ‘design a Christmas jumper’ competition. Harlow Carr, Crag Lane, Harrogate HG3 1QB

1st December 7.30pm Ripon Cathedral - The Story of Christmas with Carols Experience the wonder of Christmas with music, drama and dance capturing the evocative stories of Christmas led by a guest narrator and featuring the Ripon Cathedral Choir. Minster Road, Ripon HG4 1QS

1st - 9th December St. John’s Church Knaresborough, Christmas Tree Festival Enjoy a glass of mulled wine as you view the magical selection of decorated trees and vote for your favourite. Vicarage Lane, Knaresborough HG5 9AE

3rd - 4th December 10.15am – 12.30pm (lunch from 12.30pm) Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Christmas Floristry Workshops Award winning florist Joanna will be providing expert tuition on how to make your own winter wreath. Includes a delicious two course lunch. £56.00. Booking essential 01765 643197 Fountains, Ripon HG4 3DY

8th December 7.30pm The Royal Hall, Harrogate – Harrogate Choral Society Presents: Handel’s Messiah The Royal Hall will be filled with the beautiful sound of Handel’s Messiah, which for many signals the true start of the Christmas season. Ripon Road, Harrogate HG1 2RD

8th – 9th December, 15th – 16th December 11.30am-12.30pm Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal – On the Hoof See the wild deer munching through their winter feed. St. Mary’s Church, Fountains, Ripon HG4 3DY

9th December 3.30pm – 4.15pm Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal Carols by Candlelight Wander through the estate to see the trees twinkling with lights and then visit the abbey cellarium which is lit by 1,000 flickering flames to sing along to your favourite carols. Fountains, Ripon HG4 3DY

15th December 6.00pm Harrogate Convention Centre – Family Christmas Concert Traditional music and carols with the Harrogate Choral Society, Harrogate Symphony Orchestra, Halcyon Youth Choir and local primary school choirs. Kings Road, Harrogate HG1 5LA

19th & 22nd December 7.00pm Rudding Park – Carols by Candlelight and Dinner Join High Row Choir in The Chapel followed by a sumptuous dinner in Rudding House at 8.15pm. Rudding Park Hotel, Follifoot HG3 1JH

20th December 7.30pm Ripon Cathedral – Christmas Organ Recital Christmas Organ recital followed by seasonal refreshments in the South Transept Minster Road, Ripon HG4 1QT

22nd December 11.00am – 8.00pm Ripon Museums – Christmas at the Workhouse There will be traditional games, carols and crafts as well as chance to try the foods and flavours of the workhouse Christmas. This unique evening will show how yuletide was celebrated at the turn of the 19th century. Sharow View, Allhallowgate, Ripon HG4 1LE

22nd December 2.30pm & 7.30pm The Brighouse & Rastrick Band with Harrogate Gilbert & Sullivan Society present: A Christmas Concert Get in the Christmas Spirit with rousing favourites from the band, Christmas medleys, songs from the shows and join in with traditional carols Royal Hall, Ripon Road

22nd – 23rd December Brimham Rocks - Midwinter Storytelling Sessions run throughout the day from 11.00am to 4.15pm Experience a midwinter storytelling event celebrating myths and folklore inspired by the season and the magical landscape of Brimham Rocks. Join storyteller Noel Watkins for 40 minutes of interactive storytelling as he sparks your imagination through a series of stories, songs and riddles inspired by the winter season. Booking essential, please telephone 01423 780688. Brimham Rocks, Summerbridge HG3 4DW

24th December The Mayor’s Christmas Celebrations Family celebrations in the Valley Gardens at 4.00pm followed by a Christmas celebration in the Royal Hall from 5.30pm (subject to confirmation) Ripon Road, Harrogate HG1 2RD

24th December 6.00pm Knaresborough Nativity Traditional nativity organised by Christians Together in Knaresborough with actors from The Knaresborough Market Cross Players. The Market Place, Knaresborough HG5 8AG

26th December Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Boxing Day Pilgrimage Follow in the footsteps of the 12th Century Monks with our traditional pilgrimage from Ripon Cathedral. Fountains, Ripon HG4 3DY

26th December Knaresborough Boxing Day Tug o’ War Enjoy this time honoured tradition as the teams pull against each other from opposite banks of the River Nidd. Low Bridge, Knaresborough HG5 8HY

27th December 7.15pm Christmas Ghost Walk Stories about the darker side of Ripon’s history from the macabre to the mysterious – with a festive theme!

27th December, 2nd – 3rd January 11am Access All Areas Panto Tours at Harrogate Theatre Take a tour of the set up close and see the workings of a professional theatre. Oxford Street, Harrogate HG1 1QF

31st December Ripon New Year’s Eve Celebrations New Year’s Eve WatchLight Service is at Ripon Cathedral with a Torchlight procession after to the Market square, where there will be live entertainment from 10pm and the traditional fireworks from Ripon Town Hall at midnight. Market Place, Ripon HG4 1EQ

1st January 2019 Knaresborough Duck Race Watch 5,000 plastic ducks race down the River Nidd High Bridge, Knaresborough HG5 8DD

Food & Drink

Available throughout December Swinton Park Christmas Lunches and Festive Afternoon Tea Telephone 01765 680900 for more information Swinton Park, Masham, HG4 4JH

3rd – 20th December (Mon – Thu) 12.00 – 1.30pm Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal Festive Christmas Lunches Enjoy a delicious two or three course festive lunch with family, friends or colleagues this December. Booking essential 01765 643197 Fountains, Ripon HG4 3DY

23rd December Ripley Castle Christmas Afternoon Tea Enjoy Afternoon Tea in the private Castle rooms with log fires burning. Telephone 01423 770152 for more information