I’ve got so many posts scheduled now that I’ve got one a week ready until mid 2023! I’ve just been doing too much travel – so I’m going to have to up my posting frequency. I’m still writing up the remainder of my Baltics trips (I’ve not even got to Latvia and Estonia yet!), but before that I also had a few days in Yorkshire in early May. This is my next post in that series, following on from York, Helmsley & Rievaulx and Whitby.
Ripon is a beautiful market town in North Yorkshire, right on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It’s perfectly placed for a day trip from York, or as a base for exploring the Dales. Here are 8 amazing things to do there, which you can (just about) squeeze in to a very long day, or split leisurely across two.
1. Ripon Cathedral
This cathedral was founded as a monastery by Scottish monks in the 660s, and was then re-founded as a Benedictine monastery by St Wilfrid in 672. Today what you see is the fourth version of the cathedral, built between the 1200s- 1500s. It’s just amazing we have buildings from that long ago and it’s not even close to being the oldest in England!
What I loved about the cathedral was the way it is set up as a modern cathedral. It has boards welcoming everyone of any faith, or no faith, to enter. It holds lots of community events, open to all. It lets groups use it, whether for music practice or coffee mornings – it’s just there for the community and I liked that.
I also absolutely loved all the Jubilee decorations everywhere. Elizabeth II celebrated her 70th year of reign this year, so everything was adorned in EIIR (Elizabeth II Regina) bunting. Beautiful. (And you can tell this trip was months old pre-jubilee weekend!).
2. Fountain’s Abbey & Studley Royal
Fountains Abbey is one of the largest and best preserved ruined Cistercian monasteries in England. It’s just outside the centre of Ripon (about a 10 minute drive or 1hr walk along the river), but it’s well worth visiting. It was founded in 1132 and was operational for 407 years before its dissolution by our good old friend Henry VIII in 1539. And it’s MARVELLOUS.
It really is special and I absolutely loved my time exploring this wonderful place. You can go to see just the Abbey in a couple of hours, but the site is so big and beautiful, it’s well worth at least half a day (if not a full day) of your time.
Be sure not to miss the gardens if you can help it, there is a water park on site and it’s just stunning to explore.
3. Workhouse Museum
Switching to another period of history, The Victorian Era, and there’s a great museum in the centre of Ripon at the site of the old workhouse. Workhouses were a result of the poor law in 1800s and early 1900s Britain. Those who were too poor to survive entered the workhouse, and literally worked in return for shelter and food – this was before the benefits systems was introduced and aimed to reduce homelessness and destitution. The result was institutions which seriously harmed many physically and mentally, and were often run in completely awful conditions.
4. Police & Prison Museum
Another interesting museum in central Ripon is the Police and Prison Museum, again situated in the old prison building. It has a few really interesting exhibits, including one on the history of women in the police force – did you know women were only granted the title of PC (instead of WPC identifying them as female) in 1990? And as late as the same time, women were refused firearms training by their seniors routinely as it was seen as ungainly for them.
5. Leper’s Chapel
Another ancient building, this time built in 1139 (don’t say I don’t treat you!), the Leper’s Chapel formed part of a ‘hospital’ for secular brothers and sisters to minister to lepers and blind priests. The medieval chapel still stands, and it’s just so beautiful.
6. Market Square and shops
Ripon is home to lots of lovely shops, streets, and my favourite – tearooms. It also has a market running on some days, and it’s easy to spend an hour or so strolling around eating, drinking and browsing the shopfronts.
7. River Skell stroll
You can walk from Ripon to Fountain’s Abbey along the River Skell – or, if you don’t fancy such a long walk, walk just a section of it. It’s a really lovely riverside to follow with pretty views back over the Ripon and the cathedral.
8. Courthouse Museum
The Liberty Courthouse remains virtually unchanged since it was built in 1830. Explore the Jury Room with its ceremonial pair of halberds and library of 18th and 19th century manuals, plus read the story of many prisoners and magistrates on both sides of the law.
So what do you think of Ripon? I really enjoyed exploring more of Yorkshire on a recent visit and think it’s a vastly under-rated part of the country. I hope I’ve managed to show you that as well. Stay safe and happy travelling.