AFTER a weekend in the spotlight, Yorkshire was still basking in the glory of the success of the first stages of the Tour de France, and show organisers said they hoped to continue with the celebratory atmosphere for the three-day event.

The opening day, on Tuesday, July 7, saw an appearance from Sophie, Countess of Wessex.

The popular royal was the guest of honour on the first day and threw herself into meeting as many of the exhibits and exhibitors as possible.

The Countess came face to face with the world’s largest eagle, met several of Britain’s most prized cattle, launched a new centre for bees and honey and encountered a namesake springer spaniel.

Ben Potter, who runs a bird of prey breeding and conservation project at Newsham, near Barnard Castle, said the Countess agreed to take hold of the Steller’s Sea Eagle - which has a wing span of more than eight feet.

“I was surprised when she agreed,” said Mr Potter. “But the countess was very assured, and the eagle just kept her eye on the food - I wouldn’t take any risks, especially with a Countess.

“It was a real privilege to meet her.”

Gundog breeder Les Dixon, of Montague Gundogs at East Harlsey, near Northallerton, introduced the Countess to her canine namesake, Sophie the springer spaniel.

“She just laughed,” he said. “I didn’t twig at first when she asked the dog’s name, but you could tell she loves dogs.”

The Countess, who is also president of the Royal Cornwall Show, inspected many of the show’s prize cattle and met the Bayston family as they viewed the Hereford cattle.

Chief executive of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society Nigel Pulling said: “The first day has gone very well and the royal visit was very successful.

“The Countess got around a lot of the show ground and was very charming.

“Tomorrow (Wednesday, July 9) will see our second royal visit with Princess Anne – it is unusual to get two visits in one year so we are thrilled.”

Mr Pulling added: “The spotlight has been on Harrogate this weekend with the Tour de France and that celebratory feeling was something we wanted to continue.

“We want to attract as wide an audience as possible and the Grand Depart gave us the chance to do that.”

He said the one of the highlights of the second and third days of the show would be the cattle parade.

“That is something that the show is known for – it is one of the largest in the UK and we are very proud of it.”