The concept of town twinning, conceived just after the Second World War, was intended to foster friendship and understanding between different cultures and between former foes as an act of peace and reconciliation.
Harrogate is credited with establishing one of the original agreements. In 1953 the town twinned with Bagnères de Luchon in the French Pyrenees to develop links in tourism and trade.
In the early 1960s a similar twinning agreement was made with Montecatini Terme in Northern Tuscany in Italy.
Although smaller in population than Harrogate, both Luchon and Montecatini were internationally renowned for their Spas.
More recently the common factor has become international road cycling, linked to the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and the World Road Racing Championships.
A new twinning agreement was established in 2013 with Barrie, Canada but with a very different back story. Sir Robert Barrie, who the city is named after, served in the British Navy during the War of 1812 between Britain and America. He later became a resident Commissioner of Canada. He married Julia Wharton Ingilby of Ripley Castle and is buried in All Saints’ Church, Ripley on the outskirts of Harrogate.
There are also less formal links with Wellington, New Zealand and Harrogate, Tennessee. HIP is designated as a ‘Sister City’ with Wellington and the ties with Tennessee are less formal but with direct contact to the current Mayor.