Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Trip to the Turkish Baths in Harrogate

At the end of January I went with my friend Sam to the Turkish baths in Harrogate. I've wanted to go for years but have never got round to it, but Sam had a day's holiday to take so we booked ourselves in and off we went. I'd say definitely book your session to guarantee a place as otherwise it gets fully booked. They run women's only sessions which is what we went to.

First of all we went to Betty's for lunch. Betty's is a Yorkshire institution and it is delicious, although slightly more expensive than I'd usually pay. Still, it's worth it for a nice lunch out. I had Yorkshire rarebit and Sam had cod and prawn gratin, and we shared some matchstick fries. Sam had tea and I had hot chocolate which was dark chocolate and wonderfully bitter.

For dessert I had chocolate mocha torte and Sam had a fruit tart. I took a couple of photos:

Sam's tea tray

My delicious torte. It was moist but not too rich!

We went to the baths for just before 1pm which is when the session started. We booked in and walked round into the changing rooms. There are individual wooden cubicles which are really old-fashioned and sweet. We got changed into our swimming costumes - although I should point out that they're optional in single sex sessions. In ours, there were a few topless women and I got showered with my costume pulled down to my waist, so if that bothers you this might not be the place for you!

Anyway, we sat down in the relaxation lounge, which is the coolest room, and we waited for a member of staff to show us round as we'd never been before. No phones are allowed in the baths, and lockers are provided for you to put everything into. However, I took these photos as I was getting changed:

Part of the gorgeous decorative ceiling.


The idea of the baths is that you get really hot, raise your body temperature, and then cool it down rapidly. There's a steam room, which ultimately was too hot for me, and three different levels of dry heat. The first room is the biggest, and a nice temperature of about 34 degrees. There's plenty of loungers and benches and seats to sit on, and magazines to read. There's also a sink and we were told to have a drink every 5-10 minutes as you're sweating a lot without even really realising it. 

The next room is around 55 degrees and this was the hottest I went. It was bearable, and felt quite delicious. The floor was really hot though, and I wish I'd taken flipflops. TOP TIP: take clean flipflops or Crocs or something! Just as long as they're not dirty from outside. Take a book, too. I read trashy magazines which was great. Other people were just sitting, and I think some people even fell asleep! 

The top of this room is the hottest part - around 74 degrees. I couldn't even get near this! Far too hot for me! Sam liked it, though. There was a lady in there who spent nearly all her time in there! I think she must've been a regular though, and entirely used to it!

So the idea is that you get your body nice and hot and then you plunge yourself cool. There are two cold showers which are the easiest way to do it if you want, but there's also a plunge pool. It's approximately 5 metres long by 2 metres wide. The member of staff told us to just get in, don't hang around on the steps, and to swim to the end and back again. She said to not make a noise when you got in because it disturbs other guests, and I swear I tried my best but my GOD it was COLD! You have to get your shoulders under which is the absolute worst part I think. 

But, once I got out, my skin was bright red and my heart was beating so quickly and I felt quite euphoric! My adrenaline was pumping! It was a lot of fun.

We went round the cycle of hot, hotter, cold, about four times. We were there about 3 hours and at the end we had a nice hot shower before getting dressed. The session lasted until 5pm, but other sessions are shorter and they do want you to be ready to leave by the time the session ends. We paid £17.50 each which was one of the cheapest, because it was a weekday session, but at the weekends it's £29.50 each. I'm not sure it's worth that, but I'd definitely pay £17.50 again. I really enjoyed it and would love to go again in a few months!

Top tips:
- They give you two towels - one for using while in the baths and one for use after your shower. However, they get quite damp, so I was glad I still had a dry towel to use after my shower
- You can use any toiletries you want in the showers
- You need a £1 coin for the lockers
- Take a book or a magazine
- Take flipflops, like I said. Some of the flooring is either really hot or quite sharp!
- You'll probably need a sugary drink for afterwards, or plan to go straight for a drink or food. We went next door to Wetherspoons which I sorely needed
- I know the plunge pool is painful but it is okay, I promise!

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