One of the luggage trollies at the Majestic Hotel was once used to wheel an unexploded bomb out into the garden.
Not many hotel reviews open like that!
It was Thursday the 12th of September, 1940, around lunchtime. German bombers had been attacking industrial towns in the north for weeks, but on that Thursday one of them had been sent to bomb the Majestic Hotel.
German intelligence wrongly believed that the hotel, formerly a favourite of the Victorian elite visiting the spa town to “take the waters”, was now being used by the British Air Ministry.
It wasn’t. There were plans to move the Air Ministry out of London to escape German bombing, but in September 1940 the hotel was still a hotel. The Germans came anyway, and just after noon, a Junkers 88 dropped 3 bombs.
Air raid sirens wailed, and people ran. One bomb demolished a nearby house, leaving a 40 foot crater with ruptured gas and water mains. A second exploded in the hotel grounds, shattering windows as far aways as King’s Road.
One report claims that the doorman’s wife was killed, others dispute this. Sadly, it did destroy the Winter Gardens, an 8000 square foot glass structure that had been dubbed “Yorkshire’s Crystal Palace”.
One of the bombs scored a direct hit on the Majestic, hitting a steel girder in the roof and ending up lodged in a staff bedroom, thankfully without exploding.
After two hours of work by Army bomb disposal experts, the bomb was made safe and wheeled away on a luggage trolley. Allegedly it was displayed in a local shop window and “admired by many”.
Locals later joked that the bomber crew “had been waiters at the Majestic and were getting their revenge”…
Rooms and facilities
The DoubleTree by Hilton Harrogate Majestic started life simply as The Majestic. Opened in 1900 and looking like a grand railway station, the Majestic was built thanks to Harrogate’s continuing popularity as a spa town. It certainly is grand.
In the 100 foot long Great Lounge on the ground floor you can still see the murals depicting 8 English spa towns. There is also an imposing 8 foot tall clock made of mahogany, which was brought up from the Central Hotel in Marylebone when the hotel first opened.
If you choose to take a seat in the plush Great Lounge, perhaps to enjoy an afternoon tea, you’ll be following in the footsteps of Prince Henry of Prussia, the Maharajah of Patiala, Victor Sassoon, George Bernard Shaw, Edward Prince of Wales, and dozens of minor royals, artists, composers, tycoons and socialites.
And Cliff Richard and the Bee Gees. The glamour of Harrogate’s spa town heyday has faded a little…
There’s nothing faded about the rooms though. Having been rebadged under the DoubleTree brand in 2019, the DoubleTree by Hilton Harrogate Majestic has undergone a thorough renovation and is in great shape.
Benefitting from its Victorian origins, guest rooms are huge. Impressively, unlike so many hotels in old buildings, everything works well.
There are no creaking floorboards, no draughty windows, and the shower creates a pleasingly powerful blast of warmth instead of a feeble trickle.
Inside the rooms, you could believe you’re in a modern purpose-built hotel, barring the lack of air conditioning.
The bathroom is fine, with the usual Crabtree & Evelyn amenities, and all new fixtures and tiling. There is a reasonable desk. Not the biggest, but at least there is one. The bed is very comfortable with an obviously new mattress and good quality linens.
In the deluxe rooms there is a mini-fridge in the wardrobe, and robe & slippers. There is a kettle, a Nespresso machine, and some good old Yorkshire Tea bags. The room service menu looks OK but I didn’t try anything.
There is a 24 hour gym which is quite well equipped with cardio, some resistance machines, and free weights.
The pool looks very nice, and there is a spa, although I can only say that the service wasn’t the best.
Here’s a tip if you work in a customer facing position. Don’t keep answering the phone when there’s a customer standing right in front of you. Let the phone ring, they’ll call back.
The person standing in front of you probably has the patience to wait through one phone call, and will probably be polite when you take a second, but on the third time they’ll return to their room and knock a star of your review score….
Perhaps the only disappointment is the “eight acres of landscaped grounds” that the hotel website proudly boasts. Perhaps it will be better in summer, but as you can see it’s not what you might imagine from the description.
Afternoon tea in the Great Lounge. Looking around at the decor it’s very easy to imagine it full of wealthy Victorians “being seen”. That was probably their version of posting selfies on Instagram.
In the evenings, there is a pretty decent cocktail menu and the bar at the end of the great lounge is rather grand.
The dining room is beautiful. High ceilings, chandeliers, luxurious seats and plenty of space.
The breakfast buffet is a delight. Loads of space, prompt service, great coffee. There’s a big spread of cold meats and cheeses, fruits, and cereals. The hot buffet has perfectly cooked bacon, good quality sausages, fried and scrambled eggs, hashbrowns, mushrooms and tomatoes.
This is Yorkshire, home of England’s best full English, and so of course the buffet also features black pudding.
There are plenty of fresh breads and bakery items including freshly baked muffins, and even an automatic pancake maker.
I really couldn’t fault it. Breakfast is included for Hilton Honors members with Gold or Diamond status, one of the reasons why I love Hilton Honors.
Prices vary quite a lot depending on conference activity in the town. At quieter times it is easy to find a room for as little as £59, and if you’re a Hilton Honors member you’ll most likely get an upgrade to a deluxe room.
When there is a conference on, the hotel can be sold out. The conference centre is a couple of minutes walk down the road. If it is fully booked, the Crowne Plaza and Premier Inn are also just minutes away from here on foot.
At £59 or 28,000 points, you’re better off paying cash. Even ignoring the points you would earn when paying cash, this would be around 0.2p per Hilton Honors point, which is less than half of what you should consider a minimum.
At busier times, rates for the cheapest rooms can be over £180. On these dates, the points cost rises to 30,000. That would give you closer to a 0.6p return for your points. That’s OK, if you want to save cash, but it’s possible to do a lot better.
I’d be saving my points for somewhere I can get over 2p of value.
If you’re staying at the DoubleTree by Hilton Harrogate Majestic Hotel then you should check out some fascinating books on the history of Harrogate, including the amazing stories from the second world war. There are a great many historical sites and buildings close to the Majestic that you can visit.
Walk in Elgar’s footsteps through the Valley Gardens, and see the house where JRR Tolkien once stayed. The leading local historian writing about Harrogate has several books available on Amazon in paperback or for Kindle. Get the cheapest prices through these links:
Telephone: +44 1423 700300
Address: Ripon Road, Harrogate, HG1 2HU
The DoubleTree by Hilton Harrogate Majestic Hotel has very spacious rooms, does a brilliant breakfast buffet, and has a perfect location for the town centre and conference venues.
Freshly refurbished rooms are modern and comfortable, but the hotel still retains beautifully elegant decor and signs of its Victorian spa town heyday.