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RHS Harlow Carr and Harrogate

Enjoy Harlow Carr’s Winter Walk in all its glory

Harlow Carr, the most northerly of the RHS’s four gardens, lies outside Harrogate, in North Yorkshire. It’s a grand place to stay for a short break – excellent restaurants, shopping, beautiful buildings  – and plants, obviously.

We visited on a Tuesday in February and it was still busy. The biggest draw in the garden in February is the Winter Walk, full of dogwoods, birches, Prunus serrula, hellebores, winter aconites and snowdrops – the colours beggar belief.

It’s so important to visit big gardens to pick up tips – one thing I’ll remember is the use of died-back Perovskia (Russian sage) stems, a blue/white contrast to the dogwoods. That’s the last time mine get cut back in autumn.

We were lucky to have a still, sunny day, perfect for walking round the arboretum, Geoffrey Smith’s streamside walk and the kitchen garden.

The alpine house was just starting to come into its own, with perfect, fragile little blooms.

There’s a section of gardens through the ages, complete with still-frozen Edwardian pond and Jekyll-style planting.

After almost three hours outside, scones, fat rascals and cakes (fresh raspberry macaroons) at Betty’s were a treat.

There’s also a sizeable garden centre and terrific book and gift shop, as you expect. My haul? A couple of cannas, two packets of seeds and roll of twine – very modest.

It’s a place you could never tire of coming back to, as every time there will be something new to see. Even my other half, who is no gardener, enjoyed it. A must if you’re in Yorkshire.

Harrogate: Places to stay, eat and drink

Cakes at Jakes

We stayed at The Camberley, 52-54 Kings Road, Harrogate, HG1 5JR, opposite the conference centre and a few minutes’ walk into town. Bed and breakfast for two nights was £130. The hotel has a green/use local produce policy.

To book, phone 01423-561618, email info@thecamberley.com or log on to www.thecamberley.com. Insert BEDPOSTS into your online booking to receive an 8 per cent discount.

For excellent food with a twist, try Runamocha bistro and steakhouse, 15 Cheltenham Crescent, HG1 1DH, phone 01423-538009, email info@runamocha.co.uk, or log on to www.runamocha.co.uk, or Facebook/Runamocha.

I had sea bass with a lobster and crab risotto, while Gary chose a tenderloin of pork Sunday lunch with all the trimmings. The restaurant also does splendid-looking Mad Hatter’s afternoon teas.

Light refreshment at Major Tom’s Social

Staying on the cake theme, Jakes, 47 Oxford Street, HG1 1PW has a tremendous choice – I picked Tunisian orange, while Gary had pistachio.

Jakes is in the oldest building in High Harrogate and is spread over three floors, with an extensive artisan Italian menu and wine list. For details, log on to www.jakeanthony.co.uk.

Last but not last, Major Tom’s Social, The Ginnel, HG1 2RB, an eclectic craft beer bar, part of the Space vintage emporium, www.spaceharrogate.co.uk (including second-hand record shop Wall of Sound).

If you like proper beer, the Dandy to read and old 70s board games to play while relaxing in squashy old leather sofas, this is the place for you. I went twice in a day.