A New Town in the west of Essex, Harlow was built after the Second World War to meet England’s Post-War housing shortage.

The man who led the design was Sir Frederick Gibberd who had a Utopian vision for Harlow as a place of edification, enriched with art.

He helped Harlow assemble one the of the greatest collections of public art in the country, with pieces by Henry Moore, Auguste Rodin and Barbara Hepworth cropping up in unexpected places.

Harlow also has an artful urban design that distinguishes it from other New Towns, and the water gardens landscape in front of the recent Civic Centre is listed by English Heritage.

Frederick Gibberd’s home is a little way from the town centre, while Henry Moore’s studio and gardens are also in striking distance of Harlow.

Let’s explore the best things to do in Harlow:

1. Harlow Sculpture Trail

Source: dcurzon /

Harlow Sculpture Trail

When Harlow was designed in the 1950s the lead planner Frederick Gibberd conceived the New Town as a place where the public would have access to important art.

He founded the Harlow Art Trust in 1953, which owns most of the 100+ works of public art strewn across the Harlow streetscape.

The chairman in the 1950s was Sir Philip Hendy, who was director of the National Gallery and secured some vital commissions, including Henry Moore’s family group, now at the foyer of the Civic Centre.

You can download a labelled map from the Harlow Council website, which also has details of a trail along the navigable River Stort.

Some of the must-sees are clustered in the very core of the town, where you’ll come across Rodin’s Eve, Elisabeth Frink’s Boar and William Mitchell’s Seven Relief/Mosaics at the Water Gardens, while The Philosopher by Keith Godwin is a few steps to the west.

2. Harlow Museum and Walled Gardens

Source: Looking for the unusal among the usual / Flickr

Harlow Museum And Walled Gardens

The town museum is in the stables and grounds of the 16th-century Mark Hall manor.

This once distinguished residence was visited by Queen Elizabeth I and her entourage on three occasions.

The four main galleries tell Harlow’s story across more than 2,000 years.

In Roman times the town was the scene of one of southern Britain’s key temples, and there’s a captivating display of artefacts including a jar decorated with strange phallic fish! The Living History gallery dives into the work of archaeologists and conservators, while on Saturdays there are “Time Detectives” workshops for young historians.

The Walled Gardens, once used to grow fruit and vegetables for Mark Hall, have a formal Tudor knot design made up of geometric boxwood hedges.

Check out the recommended hotels in Harlow, England

3. Harlow Town Park

Source: Martell Brighten /

Harlow Town Park

An annual Green Flag winner, Harlow Town Park blends five themed gardens with a host of facilities like a cafe, adventure playground, outdoor gym, paddling pool and Pets’ Corner, which we’ll talk about below.

You could lose an hour ambling around the Water Garden, Newfoundland Garden, Specimen Garden, Walled Garden and Sensory Garden.

There’s also a Lookout Hill and an excellent skate park that was unveiled in 2012. The cafe is a treat, as it takes up the ground floor of the mid-Victorian Spurriers House, which has just been restored.

If you’re in Harlow at the start of November, the whole town comes to the park for the Guy Fawkes bonfire and fireworks, while in summer there’s a series of concerts on weekends at the bandstand.

4. Pets’ Corner

Source: Pets’ Corner / facebook

Pets’ Corner

A beloved free attraction in the Harlow Town Park, this animal farm opened in 1966. Along with typical domestic species like goats, pigs, ducks, sheep, chickens and rabbits, there are also some more unusual inhabitants like llamas, alpacas and reindeer, as well as rare breeds like Tamworth and saddleback pigs and red poll cows.

You can buy animal feed for some of the residents, and stop by the Learning Centre, which has child-friendly information about the farm’s various species.

5. Gibberd Garden

Source: westher / Flickr

Gibberd Garden

Frederick Gibberd, the man who planned Harlow New Town, designed this garden at his home on the town’s northeast shoulder.

Frederick Gibberd worked on this nine-acre space from 1957 to 1984, embellishing it with sculptures and architectural fragments.

There are lawns, terraces, avenues and pools as well as a series of woodland glades on the slope down to the Pincey Brook.

The art in the garden comes from a mix of nationally-renowned sculptors like Elisabeth Frink and more obscure artists that Gibberd knew personally.

Small children will be diverted by the garden’s animal sculptures, as well as the moated castle and tree swing that Gibberd designed especially for his grandchildren.

After exploring the garden, you can grab a cup of tea and a piece of home-baked cake at the Barn Tearoom.

6. Harlow Playhouse

Source: Geoff Barber / Wikimedia

Harlow Playhouse

Harlow’s main performing arts venue has a 400-seat and a 120-seat theatre, and sits in a corner of the town centre being redeveloped as a cultural hub with a cinema, galleries and restaurants.

The programme is a feast of musicals, ballet, contemporary dance and guilty pleasures, as well as live music form tribute acts to venerable folk bands.

There’s a “Pay What You Can” series, opening the theatre up for everyone, as well as a calendar of workshops in the Studio 3. The popular Aerial Academy teaches circus skills and hosts leftfield activities like “aerial yoga”, combining yoga with acrobatics, dance and pilates.

7. Henry Moore Foundation

Source: Henry Moore Studios & Gardens / facebook

Henry Moore Foundation

Harlow’s two Henry Moore sculptures may kindle your interest for one of the 20th-century’s greatest artists.

And it just so happens that his home is only eight miles from Harlow and open Wednesday to Sunday from April to the end of October.

The Henry Moore Studios and Gardens presents Moore’s sculptures in 70 acres of beautiful countryside, as you may never have experienced his work before.

The indoor gallery puts on short-term exhibitions: In autumn 2018 there was a show for Moore’s carvings from stone or wood, while there are workshops for children here during school holidays.

For a small extra fee you can take a guided tour of Moore’s house, Hoglands, which is full of art, books and other personal possessions.

8. Ada Cole Rescue Centre

Source: Redwings Horse Sanctuary / facebook

Redwings Horse Sanctuary

From Friday to Monday you can come and see dozens of horses, donkeys and ponies at this sanctuary, all for free.

The Ada Cole Rescue Centre belongs to the Redwings Horse Sanctuary, which rescues and rehabilitates some 1,500 equines across the UK. You can take walking tours of the paddocks, watch horse care demonstrations and pet some of the friendlier inhabitants.

There’s a cafe at the centre, as well as a gift shop with proceeds going to the charity.

9. North Weald Airfield Museum

Source: Robert Edwards / Wikimedia

North Weald Airfield Museum

The aerodrome a few miles away at North Weald was an RAF base from 1916 to 1958, and the station house at the entrance to this former facility is now a museum to the base’s history.

This opens on weekends and has four main rooms, documenting the First World War and interwar years, the Battle of Britain, the remainder of the Second World War and the post-war Jet Age.

You can pore over collections of propellers, radios and photographs, and find out more about the various British and American squadrons that were based at North Weald in the Second World War.

You may also spot two vintage aircraft still based at the airfield: The only airworthy Supermarine Spitfire Mk XI and a P-51D Mustang 44-72035, which was stationed in Italy at the end of the war.

10. Rye Meads

Source: Loretta Damska /

Rye Meads

Just minutes from Harlow, this bucolic landscape of flooded meadows, lagoons and reedbeds is in the Lee Valley RAMSAR site and made up of three different nature reserves.

Rye Meads is prized for its profuse birdlife and at the RSPB reserve there’s a network of trails with hides to get a closer look.

In the winter you can usually spot gadwalls, golden plovers, green sandpipers, tufted ducks and shovelers, as well as otters in the water.

Out in force in summer are common terns, which make their nests on specially-designed rafts, while spring means lapwings, cuckoos and reed warblers.

Rye Meads also has artificial sandbanks, where you stand a good chance of sighting a kingfisher in summer, while the Herts Wildlife Trust puts Konik ponies out to graze on the grasslands.

Check out the recommended hotels in Harlow, England

11. Lee Valley Boat Centre

Source: leevalleyboats.co.uk

Lee Valley Boat Centre

On a warm summer’s day a trip on the navigable River Lee could be in order.

At this boatyard, just south of the Lee Valley Country Park you can skipper a wide assortment of electric and manual vessels for half an hour, an hour or even a full day.

You’ll need to book in advance to hire a boat for a day, but you can just show up for hour-long jaunts on a pedalo, rowboat or electric boat (4-8-seater).

12. Parndon Wood Nature Reserve

Source: Lynda Poulter / Wikimedia

Parndon Wood Nature Reserve

This tract of ancient woodland to the south of Harlow has a history going back 900 years and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

The Parndon Wood Nature Reserve has also received the Green Flag award every year for more than a decade.

The 1.5-kilometre trail leads you past giant old oaks and low hornbeams coppiced for centuries to make poles.

If you’re a patient sort, you could while away some time at one of three hides, where you may spot a Muntjac deer or green woodpecker.

The wood also has a tearoom and a conservation centre with information posters about the habitat and an array of specimens.

13. Copped Hall

Source: The Copped Hall Trust / facebook

Copped Hall

This distinguished Palladian mansion to the south of Harlow stood as a ruin for more than a century after suffering a fire in 1917. But as of 2018 the house is being restored, and the Copped Hall Trust welcomes the public for guided tours on selected days all year round.

The house is from the middle of 18th century, but the history of the estate can be traced back to Medieval times.

The view of Copped Hall’s parkland from the front of the building is spellbinding, and you can discover the colourful borders in the restored walled garden, which has a greenhouse with dainty ironwork in its roof.

14. Paradise Wildlife Park

Source: wwarby / Flickr

Paradise Wildlife Park

One of the best-reviewed zoos in the country is under ten miles across the Lee Valley from Harlow.

Paradise Wildlife Park has more than 500 animals and has taken part in EEP breeding programmes for endangered species like Burmese pythons, marmosets and tamarins.

The park’s inhabitants are found in seven distinct attractions, like the crowd-pleasing Big Cat Territory.

This is inhabited by some of the world’s most endangered feline species like white lions, Amur tigers and snow leopards.

The Tropical Rainforest is home to the largest collection of small monkeys in the country, from ten different species, while Optimus Prime, the biggest anaconda in the UK lurks in the Angkor Reptile Temple.

15. East Herts Miniature Railway

East Herts Miniature Railway

Now in its fifth decade, this miniature railway can be found a few minutes out of Harlow at the Van Hage Garden Centre.

The railway is run entirely by volunteers, opening on weekends throughout the year, and will be a hit with young children and nostalgic adults alike.

The line is a 1/4 mile in length and has five steam-powered locomotives, as well as two petrol, one diesel and one electric.

A lot of care has gone into the setup, which even has a little station, with booking office, as well as a signal box, turntable, steaming bays, bridge, engine shed, workshop and water tower.

Days out for everybody

The county boasts a coastline of over 350 miles, fronted by verdant marshlands and evocative creeks. For a nation that loves nothing more than a day beside the seaside, Essex’s coast has it all. From remote places or bustling beaches with all mod cons, the Discovery Coast offers plenty to see and do, from Harwich in the north to Southend-on-Sea in the south.

With a history that pre-dates the Romans but influenced our nation’s greatest events, from the oldest recorded town to the Magna Carta, the Tudors to both World Wars and a vibrant culture composed of art, film, music, dance and literature, Essex is both surprising and rewarding for visitors.

What could be more quintessentially English than a country house? Essex is blessed with a wealth of historic venues that make a fantastic day out for all the family. The first jolt to the senses is arguably the sight of Audley End House and Gardens. One of England’s grandest stately homes, it offers a stunning backdrop for the perfect day out.

With one of the mildest climates and the least rainfall in the country, the county has a wealth of stunning gardens and green spaces, each possessing a distinctive character and atmosphere all of its own. Whether you’re a connoisseur of natural beauty or cultivated splendour, you’ll find everything you’re looking for in the gardens of Essex.

For lovers of more traditional country pursuits, Rural Essex is ideal for stretching your legs and going for a ramble or a ride. Contrary to popular belief, Essex is an essentially rural county and despite its proximity to London, its rolling countryside, quiet lanes and picturesque villages remain undiscovered by the majority of visitors. With over 3,500 miles of public footpaths, bridleways and byways, there’s plenty of countryside for you to explore.

Wherever you choose to go, the warmth of the welcome is second to none. With so much to discover and enjoy, you’ll be able to share in Essex’s sunny disposition.

The county boasts a coastline of over 350 miles, fronted by verdant marshlands and evocative creeks. For a nation that loves nothing more than a day beside the seaside, Essex’s coast has it all. From remote places or bustling beaches with all mod cons, the Discovery Coast offers plenty to see and do, from Harwich in the north to Southend-on-Sea in the south.

With a history that pre-dates the Romans but influenced our nation’s greatest events, from the oldest recorded town to the Magna Carta, the Tudors to both World Wars and a vibrant culture composed of art, film, music, dance and literature, Essex is both surprising and rewarding for visitors.

What could be more quintessentially English than a country house? Essex is blessed with a wealth of historic venues that make a fantastic day out for all the family. With one of the mildest climates and the least rainfall in the country, the county has a wealth of stunning gardens and green spaces, each possessing a distinctive character and atmosphere all of its own. For lovers of more traditional country pursuits, Rural Essex is ideal for stretching your legs and going for a ramble or a ride.

Wherever you choose to go, the warmth of the welcome is second to none. With so much to discover and enjoy, you’ll be able to share in Essex’s sunny disposition.

Excellent garden centre cafe near… – LIME TREE CAFE

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Harrogate Tourist Information

Harrogate is a superb spa town with plenty of wide-open spaces – the largest of which, covering 200 acres, is the Stray, which wraps around the southern (and older) parts of the town.

The town is also something of a gardener’s paradise, with the stunning RHS Harlow Carr Gardens – just 1½ miles from the town centre – and the English Heritage Grade II listed Valley Gardens – less than half a mile from the town centre.

Video by Visit Harrogate

Find accommodation in this area:

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Harrogate is home to some truly beautiful buildings. The Grade II listed Royal Hall Theatre, designed by the famous English theatre designer, Frank Matcham in 1903, is the last remaining Kursaal (spa town public assembly rooms) in Britain and includes a grand ambulatory corridor that runs entirely around the auditorium. This allowed patrons to enjoy a stroll and take in the waters that Harrogate was famous for.

Harrogate is located at the edge of the Yorkshire Dales and many visitors use it as base for day trips into the Dales. But Harrogate itself has a wealth of attractions to appeal to almost all tastes. And, talking of taste, Harrogate has justly earned a reputation for being the home of good food, with the award-winning Bettys Café Tea Rooms.

Maintaining the town’s long-standing tradition as a place of health and well being, Harrogate Turkish Baths on Parliament Street offers a variety of spa rooms, including steam room, laconiumm, calidarium, tepidarium, an invigorating cold water plunge pool and a relaxation room. Also on offer are a selection of spa treatments, ranging from beauty treatments to massages and alternative therapies, so why not take some time out to relax and reinvigorate yourself.

In recent years Harrogate has become a popular conference destination, mainly due to the opening of Harrogate International Centre in 1982. The conference venue boasts a 2,000 seat auditorim and scaleable exhibition space ranging from 650m2, to an enormous 16,500m2. This prestigious Harrogate conference venue played host to the 27th Eurovision Song Contest in its opening year. The British entrant, Bardo, finished 7th, but HIC is definitely first class, and one of the finest conference venues in Yorkshire.

Check the Hello Yorkshire blog.

Places to visit and things to do in Harrogate:

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, Ripon

Newby Hall, Ripon

Ripon Races, Ripon

Black Sheep Brewery, Masham

Poplars Adventure Mega Maze, Knaresborough

RHS Harlow Carr Gardens, Harrogate

Paintball Yorkshire, Harrogate

Harrogate Turkish Baths & Health Spa

Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate

Knaresborough Castle & Courthouse Museum, Knaresborough

St Robert’s Cave, Knaresborough

Mother Shipton’s Cave, Knaresborough

Old Farmyard, Ripley

Royal Baths, Harrogate

Royal Pump Room Museum, Harrogate

Valley Gardens, Harrogate

Ripley Castle, Ripley

Pateley Bridge

Brimham Rocks

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    Harrogate

    Pottery Centres and Ceramic Cafes

    When you arrive in this friendly little pottery painting cafe you will be shown a vast array of bisque (prices start from £5). Once you have selected…

    Suitable for 0-12 •Indoor 0.1 miles from Harrogate

  2. The Royal Pump Room Museum

    Harrogate

    Museums and Art Galleries

    The Royal Pump Room Museum is a small but full family friendly museum where you can discover Harrogate’s spa history through fascinating displays. Yo…

    Suitable for all ages •Indoor 0.1 miles from Harrogate

  3. The Valley Gardens

    Harrogate

    Parks and Playgrounds

    The grass is always greener at The Valley Garden, Harrogate. Visit a grade II heritage listed garden for a carefree and stunning day out. Wander thro…

    Suitable for all ages •Outdoor 0.1 miles from Harrogate

  4. Bead Harrogate

    Harrogate

    Arts and Crafts

    Bead of Harrogate Bead is a jewellery making, art and craft boutique based in central Harrogate which is also home to the Bead Bar, a private and sep…

    Suitable for 4+ •Indoor 0.2 miles from Harrogate

  5. The Harrogate Treasure Hunt Trail

    Harrogate

    Tourist Attractions

    Forget the seven seas; Captain Heave Ho has buried his treasure right here in Harrogate! Problem is he’s forgotten where… If you’re a family of sa…

    Suitable for 4+ •Outdoor 0.3 miles from Harrogate

  6. ODEON Harrogate

    Harrogate

    Cinemas and Theatres

    Explore outer space, deep in the jungle and really just about anywhere your imagination will take you at ODEON Harrogate. With 5 screens of multimedi…

    Suitable for all ages •Indoor 0.3 miles from Harrogate

  7. Curious About Harrogate

    Harrogate

    Tourist Attractions

    Curious About Harrogate gives an exciting glimpse into what makes this historic spa town what it is. Be challenged whilst being entertained! Walks ty…

    Suitable for 9+ •Outdoor 0.4 miles from Harrogate

  8. The Hydro

    Harrogate

    Swimming Pools and Leisure Centres

    A good local pool is worth its weight in gold, especially if you have children! The Hydro is Harrogate has three pools altogether, which means there’…

    Suitable for all ages •Indoor 0.7 miles from Harrogate

  9. Kidzplay Harrogate

    Harrogate

    Indoor and Soft Play Areas

    Kidzplay children’s play area and party centre is the premier Harrogate and Yorkshire indoor play area for babies and children. Formally The Time Mac…

    Suitable for all ages •Indoor 1.3 miles from Harrogate

  10. Harrogate Climbing Centre

    Harrogate

    Climbing

    Harrogate Climbing Centre is a superb climbing and bouldering facility on Harrogate’s Hornbeam Park. Catering for climbers of all abilities from 5 ye…

    Suitable for 4+ •Indoor 1.4 miles from Harrogate

  11. RHS Harlow Carr

    Harrogate

    Stately Homes and Gardens

    Enjoy a beautiful day out in Harrogate at RHS Garden Harlow Carr – the garden is family-friendly with lots of natural play features for your cheeky m…

    Suitable for 4+ •Outdoor 1.4 miles from Harrogate

  12. Winkies

    Harrogate

    Indoor and Soft Play Areas

    At Winkies children’s play and party centre you will find: Winkies Town: a unique child sized house and shops where children can play and explore usi…

    Suitable for 0-12 •Indoor 1.8 miles from Harrogate

  13. Mother Shiptons Cave

    Knaresborough

    Caves and Mines

    Behold the hidden powers of the magical water in Mother Shipton’s Cave that turns all it touches to stone! Get ready to discover the wonders of Engla…

    Suitable for all ages •Outdoor 3 miles from Harrogate

  14. Knaresborough Castle

    Knaresborough

    Castles and Palaces

    A majestic stronghold of medieval kings, even nowKnaresborough Castle towers imposingly over the River Nidd and is guaranteed to get little imaginati…

    Suitable for all ages •Indoor, Outdoor 3.2 miles from Harrogate

  15. Knaresborough Spy Mission Treasure Trail

    Knaresborough

    Tourist Attractions

    Have you got your thinking caps on? You’ll need them as the Knaresborough Spy Mission Treasure Trail is devilishly tricky and full of clues that need…

    Suitable for 4+ •Outdoor 3.3 miles from Harrogate

  16. Knaresborough Pool

    Harrogate

    Swimming Pools and Leisure Centres

    Knaresborough Pool arguably ranks as the local children’s favourite with the emphasis very much on family and fun with its hot water bubble pool and…

    Suitable for all ages •Indoor 3.4 miles from Harrogate

  17. Ripley Castle

    Harrogate

    Tourist Attractions

    Ripley Castle, built in 1345, is full of armour, priests hiding holes and lots of great histrorical things to look at. There are also beautiful garde…

    Suitable for 0-12 •Indoor 3.4 miles from Harrogate

  18. Live For Today Adventures Ripley

    Ripley

    Activity Centres

    Live For Today Adventures at Ripley Castle is an Outdoor Activity provider near Harrogate. Do you worry that your children are always bombarded with…

    Suitable for 9+ •Outdoor 3.4 miles from Harrogate

  19. Half Term Fun

    Tropical World Roundhay

    Leeds

    Zoos and Wildlife Parks

    Summon your inner explorer at Tropical World (Roundhay) – discover tumbling waterfalls, humid rainforests and pools of exotic fish in the not-so-far-…

    Rating 4/5 (2 reviews)

    Suitable for all ages •Indoor 10.7 miles from Harrogate

  20. Stockeld Park

    Wetherby

    Parks and Playgrounds

    Looking for something special to do during the school holidays? Open only on special dates between February and Christmas, the beautiful Stockeld Par…

    Suitable for all ages •Outdoor 5.9 miles from Harrogate

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