Seeking somewhere rural yet close to amenities in West Yorkshire, yoga teacher Kirsten Agar Ward has just moved from Bath to the hamlet of Studley Roger in the Harrogate district. After looking at several places, she has bought a five-bedroom cottage with a modern extension and garden annexe next to the Studley Royal Deer Park, a mile from the small cathedral city of Ripon.
“I’d had enough of noise pollution and living on top of people, and the pandemic made me realise I can do my classes — via Zoom — from anywhere,” she says. However, “with so many cash buyers, it was very competitive.”
Agar Ward is following a tradition of buyers from the south returning to their Yorkshire roots — a trend amplified by the pandemic. Many are drawn to the cluster of historic market towns and villages between Harrogate, York and north Leeds, which estate agents like to call Yorkshire’s “golden triangle”.
And with flexible working patterns making train links a little less of a priority than they were 18 months ago, and access to the countryside more highly prized, the in-demand triangle has been stretching northwards, agents claim.
“It’s rather more of a ‘golden diamond’ now, extending up to Ripon and Thirsk,” says Ed Stoyle of Savills’ York office, which reports that inquiries for Yorkshire in the first 10 months of this year were up 152 per cent on the same period of 2019. “Many years buyers said that areas above the triangle were ‘too far’ [north], but they are also realising how much further their money goes there.”
The average price of a second-hand property in the so-called “golden triangle” has increased by 28.8 per cent over the past five years, from £269,619 in July 2016 to £347,269 in July 2021, according to Savills using Land Registry figures. The growth in Ripon has been similar: up 26 per cent from £210,971 to £265,743 during the same period.
The big pull for the area around Ripon has long been its grammar school — regularly voted top state school in the north of England — as well as its proximity to the A1(M) artery running north to south. It sits on the edge of the Nidderdale Valley in the eastern Yorkshire Dales — an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with heather moorland and limestone gorges. Thick gypsum deposits in the area are believed to be the reason why it is prone to sporadic sinkholes.
Agar Ward has already homed in on the extensive range of sourdough and charcuterie of Vanora’s Artisan Bakery and Deli in Ripon, and joined the reading group at the independent Little Ripon Bookshop. That it’s only 25 minutes by car to Harrogate is a benefit, she adds. “I’ve booked tickets to a show at the Royal Hall [part of Harrogate Theatre] and I don’t feel I’ve compromised on the arts and culture I was used to in Bath.”
The affluent former spa town of Harrogate remains one of the most in-demand parts of the triangle, with good state and private schools, popular restaurants, the café culture of its Montpellier Quarter, and with modern Azuma trains (which use Japanese bullet train technology) linking the town to London King’s Cross.
The number of southern buyers looking locally has increased, says Emma Kingham of Knight Frank’s Harrogate office. “Pre-pandemic, 20-30 per cent of our buyers were from the south; this year it’s 50 per cent. Many want to be within walking distance of everything in the town.”
The average price paid for a property in Harrogate in the first 10 months of last year was £306,050, according to Hamptons using Land Registry data, 8 per cent higher than in 2019. Three-bedroom semi-detached houses now start at around £250,000.
Kingham says Savills buyers from the south tend to have about £900,000-£1.25m for a well-renovated four or five-bedroom detached family house with a garden, including the Victorian villas on the wide, leafy roads of the Duchy estate, a conservation area.
The other prime locations are the roads around The Stray — a 200-acre park — York Place, Beech Grove and West Park; and Fulwith Mill Lane, overlooking the Crimple Valley on the southern fringes of the town, where properties have sold for above £2m.
But some buyers prefer smaller towns or characterful villages with good road links — depending on where they need to get to. Prices drop in the market town of Wetherby, which lacks a train station yet offers easy access on to the A1(M). Boston Spa and Bramham are popular for good amenities, says Tony Wright of agent Carter Jonas. “If schools are the driver, buyers will look at access to Harrogate, although York has a better choice of senior options.”
South-east of the triangle, Linton and Sicklinghall are sought-after villages close to Wetherby — the latter has a popular pub, the Scotts Arms, a good primary school and nice walks around the Wood Hall Estate with its spa and café. Nearby Follifoot and Spofforth sit conveniently close to the A661 between Harrogate and Wetherby (and both come with the essential village pub).
“Anything between Harrogate and Harewood [a large country estate with medieval castle] is hot right now,” says James Wort of Strutt & Parker estate agency, who says that in the £1m-£1.5m range for their buyers there is 40 per cent less stock for sale than two years ago, which is leading to bidding wars and properties selling for over the asking price.
There are especially thin pickings coming to market at this time of year, but in Kirkby Overblow — a pretty village in this popular patch with a pub and primary school — there is a six-bedroom house for sale at £1.695m through Carter Jonas.
With Leeds the biggest business hub, villages south-west of Harrogate with good commuting connections are prized; for those for whom Leeds Bradford airport is important, Huby, Weeton and North Rigton are close to the A658 that runs between it and Harrogate.
North of Harrogate, the villages of Birstwith, Ripley and Hampsthwaite are high on buyers’ lists, according to Tony Wright.
In June, Jo and Jonathan Beardsworth moved from Chiswick in London to the pretty village of Hampsthwaite with its old stone cottages.
The couple, both of whom have Yorkshire roots, gravitated towards
the area around Harrogate and fell for a contemporary four-bedroom house an 8-10 minute drive away. “Yes, we wanted a slower pace of life but there is a vibrancy and enterprising feeling in Harrogate that I didn’t fully expect,” says Jonathan, 63, who is semi-retired from working in the film and music industries.
“We feel ideally placed on the edge of the countryside — we can watch the farmers ploughing outside while we are on Zoom to international clients.”
If easy access to Harrogate or York is not so crucial, the A66 Corridor, which extends from Scotch Corner on the A1(M) east to Stockton-on-Tees, is of interest. “Villages like Middleton Tyas are popular, all the way across to Great Ayton near the A19, which is 25 minutes to the train station at Thirsk,” says Wort. From Thirsk the fastest train to London King’s Cross takes 2 hours 7 minutes.
He says that off-market sales in the £1m-£4m price bracket along this corridor have equalled those in the golden triangle in the past year, though it’s also possible to get a 3,000-4,000 sq ft house on a couple of acres for £700,000- £900,000. “Buyers tend to be from Scotland or London and more mature [than those in the golden triangle] — empty-nesters keen to escape the city environment with schools not an issue.”
Half of this area falls within the Richmondshire district that extends west into the Yorkshire Dales, where the average sold price in the 12 months to August 2021 was £281,736, according to Savills/Land Registry, up 21.7 per cent in a year. Sales of £1m+ properties increased from 3 to 14 in corresponding periods (weeks 1-44) of 2019 and 2021, according to TwentyCi.
It’s more of a second-home market there, says Ed Stoyle, though there’s a good choice of substantial Georgian houses in and around the market town of Richmond, the legacy of its prosperous wool and mining industries. A seven-bedroom listed townhouse with a guide price of £785,000 is currently under offer, while a six-bedroom, stone-built former vicarage just outside the town on three acres sold last month for £800,000. “That would easily be £1.5m if in the golden triangle,” he says. But not quite so competitive for buyers — yet.
Buyers should check train links and journey times carefully. For example, the fastest train from York to London is 1hr 47, but the average is 2hrs 40. The fastest route from Harrogate is 2hrs 52. Trains between Harrogate and York take 34 minutes. Harrogate is 25 minutes drive from Leeds Bradford Airport.
In the borough of Harrogate, there were 170 sales at £1m or above in the first 10 months of 2021 — a rise of 107 per cent on the same period in 2019, according to Savills/TwentyCi. Completed sales across all price points were up by 45 per cent in the same period.
Top-rated state secondary schools include Ripon Grammar; Fulford School, Archbishop Holgate’s School and All Saints RC School in York; Tadcaster Grammar School; St Aidan’s C of E High School in Harrogate and Harrogate Grammar School.
What you can buy for . . .
£545,000 A Grade II-listed Georgian town house in the centre of Richmond, just off Market Square. The recently refurbished property has five bedrooms, two bathrooms and a vaulted wine cellar that can also be accessed directly from the garden. For sale with Savills.
£1.5m A five-bedroom, four-bathroom house with more than 3,600 sq ft of living space spread over three floors. The property is on about 1.25 acres of landscaped gardens, bisected by the village stream, featuring several pretty bridges and a lake. On the market with Carter Jonas.
£2.495m A Grade II-listed Victorian house a short walk from Harrogate town centre. The main house can be configured to have four or five bedrooms, and an additional three-bedroom 1980s mews cottage is currently used for holiday lettings. Available through Knight Frank.