The Cairn Hotel From 1890
The Cairn began life in the mid-nineteenth century as a large Victorian house set in beautiful gardens, situated on the north side of Harrogate. The house was extended somewhat and graced with fine stained glass windows as it became home for the local vicar.
On Tuesday 3rd June 1890 at 3.00pm precisely, the Cairn came under the hammer the auctioneers, Messrs Hirst and Capes of Harrogate. Advertised as “the estate known as The Cairn – situated on the summit of Ripon Road, along with gardens, tennis courts, stables and a coach house”, the Cairn was sold by it’s then owner, A E Harter Esq. Mr Harter had built the Cairn for his own use and was said to be greatly saddened at the sale of this absolutely splendid property. The property was, and still is, the leasehold of the Duchy of Lancaster, the annual rental of the property at that time being £62.00!
From the ashes!
Only 16 months after the sale, disaster struck as the whole of the east wing was destroyed when a servant ignited a curtain with a lighted candle. Major changes soon took place. Being ideally located in the beautiful spa town of Harrogate (at that time having a worldwide reputation as a health resort) the Cairn became a ‘desirable gentleman’s’ hunting lodge.
Extended to almost the size it is today, the Cairn actually produced it’s own newspaper – The Cairn Times- so naming, The Print Room – known today as the Mountbatten Room, one of our most popular function suites! The Cairn’s own motorbus was also a great attraction, ferrying passengers from the railway station in far less time, than the usual horse and carriage.
Spend a penny for a bath!
In 1898, the price list was as follows:
£3. 17s .0d or £5. 5s. 0d per person per week, depending on the type of room
The charges above included room with attendant, morning bath, breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. Fires in bedrooms cost either 2 shillings per day, 1/6d for the afternoon or only 1shilling for the evening alone!
The bath and spring waters which were then part of what became known as the ‘The Cairn Hydro Hotel’ is still in place today, though sadly not currently in use. It has always been a hope by Strathmore Hotels to restore these rooms to their former glory. Many guests who come to stay with us are fascinated by the original hand painted tiles, still in tact today in the old baths area, and we are always proud to show them off – so please do ask if you come to stay.
2nd World War to Royal Ownership
During the 2nd world war, the Cairn was the Main Post Office for the northern part of England. In the evenings, when possible, dances were held to the ‘big bands’ in the wonderful Promenade ballroom, which to this day is still extremely popular.
Spending it’s first 50years as a ‘hotel in splendour’, hosting many Royal guests, the flavour for “taking the waters” changed, and the Cairn with it. Sold from private ownership to the Prince of Wales Group for £825,000, the hotel became more popular with leisure guests visiting the area to see Harrogate and the surrounding Dales and countryside. With the growth of Harrogate as a major conference venue, the Cairn, as well as welcoming leisure guests, also plays host to many international conferences and exhibitions being held at the famous Harrogate International Centre or indeed the Cairn itself.
Strathmore and the return of dancing!
The Cairn is now owned by Strathmore Hotels, based in Scotland, who purchased the hotel from the receivers in 1992. From taking over the hotel in such a very poor state of repair, Strathmore have spent many millions undertaking major refurbishments both internally and externally. Every year, another part of the hotel is refurbished and since 1992 to 2008 the foyer, lounge and public areas have been refurbished twice.
With the revival of dancing – due to popular TV viewing – the Promenade Ballroom with its truly wonderful sprung dance floor proves so popular, it is extremely difficult to book a weekend dancing, less than 18 months in advance. With its reputation as the ‘largest sprung dance floor’ in the north east of England, the hotel has a waiting list of clients wishing to book weekend dancing parties and functions. Most weekends in the year, the hotel hosts a range of dancing, ranging from Modern sequence dancing, line dancing, square dancing, social, ballroom and Latin dancing. The Cairn was proud to host a ballroom dancing weekend led by Vincent and Flavia from ‘Strictly’ fame. A truly spectacular and colourful weekend! Find out more about our Dance Holidays here.
You can read so much more about the fascinating history of the hotel in our celebratory 125 Year Booklet packed full of amazing photographs.