Omnibus Journey To Arx Celebris Fontibus

Recently, my wife and I took the No.36 Ripon bus from Leeds, journeying to the charming North Yorkshire spa town of Harrogate.

For a public transport bus ride, it turned out to be a surprisingly pleasant experience. Amongst the accoutrements provided on this coach were WiFi and USB access; in addition to each stop being announced via auto message by BBC Look North presenter Harry Gration.

I’d never been so pampered on a bus journey before……. Unless you count the cheese and wine party on the No.19 to Garforth a few years back….. Or indeed the lobster and claret get together on the No.166 to Castleford in 1999….. Or perhaps a recent massage on the 163 into Leeds (although I can’t elaborate on that until after the court case).

As we reached our destination stop, Harry’s assuring Yorkshire tones confirmed we’d reached Montpelier Hill close to the centre of the spa town. At this point my diminutive wife and I alighted the bus.

On stepping onto terra firma, we were greeted with the warmth of the bright North Yorkshire sunshine on our West Yorkshire visages.

On alighting, I overhead a confused old woman behind us asking her friend “I wonder where Harry Gration was? I couldn’t see him anywhere!” Her equally misguided friend replied she suspected he was hiding under the bonnet.

It’s always uplifting to see Harrogate’s elegant Georgian structures, spa buildings, the original Betty’s café and the enchanting Valley Gardens park.

Historically, this citadel’s profile and size arose after the merging of the hamlets of High Harrogate and Low Harrogate.

To confuse potential invaders at the time, High Harrogate was on lower ground than Low Harrogate. For additional security, both hamlets could only be entered by stating a secret password.

This turned out to be highly effective at mitigating against invasion, apart from the day an errant group of Normans guessed the password of ‘Z123!mKlO564‘, at which point the dwellers of these hamlets had no choice but to let them in.

The hamlets’ head of security received swift and severe punishment for not making the password secure enough to keep out invaders. His laxness resulted in his forced attendance at a two week IT Project Management course, followed by a week of been locked in a room with a Personal Protection Insurance (PPI) refund salesman

By 1700, Harrogate was well established as a Spa, with doctors producing leaflets about the qualities of its waters.


These days, this alluring part of North Yorkshire is a dormitory town, which is predominantly home to individuals of affluence. A section of whom commute to the large legal and financial hub in the nearby city of Leeds.

An example or this affluence was brought home when a robin landed within a foot of my wife Karen and I, as we ate lunch alfresco on a park bench.

There are none of your pigeons scrounging for food in Harrogate’s Valley Gardens park; they have an altogether better class of scavenger…….. Incidentally, if you’re ever stuck what to feed a robin they seem to like egg & tomato sandwiches….. Well the bread bit anyway.

My missus and I then spent a leisurely couple of hours in the park, which included sitting on a bench watching the world go by, with a Ripley ice cream and severe indigestion.

During my time of self indulgent inertia I pondered over many aimless, unimportant thoughts. Random questions entered my erratic mind, such as if robins like kebabs, as is the want of their pigeon cousins. After pondering this conundrum for a while, I concluded they’d probably only indulge in this culinary delicacy after a few beers.

After exchanging Facebook account details with the robin, we left the park feeling refreshed, with a calmness not ordinarily displayed during our day to day schedules.

After purchasing a stem ginger cake (to eat later) from the renowned Betty’s café/shop we headed to the bus station for our return journey to Leeds.

As we pulled out of Harrogate bus station heading towards the A61 south,  I looked out of the window with a touch of sadness. This melancholy fuelled by leaving a town that never fails to enchant, along with annoyance at losing the robin’s Facebook address.

As we reached the Pannal area, for some reason Karen attempting to educate me as to the meaning Harrogate’s motto of ‘Arx celebris fontibus’.  My wee spouse informing me that the Latin phrase had the English translation of ‘Try the Betty’s stem ginger cake. It’s lovely’

Not wishing to be disparaging, but I suspect the translation an erudite acquaintance recently taught me of ‘a citadel famous for its springs’ is probably more accurate.

So, red of face from the sun, we bode au revoir to the citadel famous for its springs. Hopefully, we’ll be back to sample its wares in the not too distant future.

With a bit of luck I’ll remember my sun screen next time!

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