Ripon is a small cathedral city in North Yorkshire, England. Its main attraction is the cathedral, and the nearby UNESCO World Heritage Site of Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal Water Garden. It’s also a good base for exploring the Yorkshire Dales.
Ripon claims to be the oldest city in England, and it’s certainly one of the smallest, with a population of about 17,000 (2011).
Ripon is 5 miles west of the A1(M), take the A61 turn-off. Other roads eg B6265 look like short-cuts on the map but don’t connect directly to the A1(M).
The main bus into town is the Transdev 36 which runs every 15 minutes from Leeds (90 min) via Harrogate (35 min). From York, buses 142 and 143 run every two hours (Mon-Sat only), taking 80 minutes, usually with a change at Boroughbridge. From Thirsk, Dales Bus 70 (from Northallerton) runs every two hours (Mon-Sat only), taking 40 min.
Ripon is on National Express route 537 between Glasgow and Corby. This leaves Glasgow daily at 7AM, running via Edinburgh, Newcastle and Durham to reach Ripon at 1345. It continues south through Leeds, Sheffield and the Midlands. The return route leaves Corby at 7:30AM, reaches Ripon at 1345, and continues north to Glasgow for 8PM. For other destinations including London, travel via Leeds which is much better connected.
The closest railway station to Ripon is at Harrogate, which has frequent trains to Leeds (every 30 min, takes 40 min) and York (hourly, takes 40 min). From Harrogate take bus 36 for Ripon.
To & from the north, Thirsk railway station may be quicker – but often not, as it’s longer to get there, and it has fewer trains.
Dales bus 159 runs from Ripon to Masham, Leyburn and Richmond every couple of hours, Monday to Saturday. This bus runs past Jervaulx Abbey and Middleham Castle. See below for buses to Fountains Abbey.
Dales bus 139 runs from Ripon to Fountains Abbey, M Th Sa only, at 9:45AM, 11:15AM and 4:25PM, taking 15 min. It returns at 11:30AM, 2:40PM and 4:40PM.
In town, stroll the ancient streets, and the highlight is the Cathedral. The Law & Order Museum is on three sites: the Workhouse Museum, the Courthouse Museum, and the Police & Prison Museum, you buy a combined ticket for a Rake’s Progress of social decline. The market is held in the Square on Thursdays. At 9PM every evening the Watchman blows his horn here, as he has every night since 886 AD, to warn everyone to get indoors, safe from marauding Vikings. The horn was originally presented by King Alfred the Great, to symbolise Ripon’s charter as a city, and to remind folk to stay vigilant against the foes he’d defeated.
- 1 Cathedral, Minster Rd HG4 1QT. M-Sa 8:30AM-6PM, Su noon-5PM. The oldest part of the building is the Saxon Crypt, the only remnant of the stone church built here in 672 AD by St Wilfred. It’s been continually added to, smashed down and rebuilt ever since, so the present fourth incarnation of the building is mostly Gothic and Early English.
- 2 Law & Order Museum (Workhouse, Courthouse and Prison & Police Museums), ☏ . Daily Mar-Nov. Combined ticket (valid for 12 months): adult £13, conc £12.50, adult plus one child (6-15) £19. Individual museum entry also available, as below.
- Workhouse Museum & Garden, 76 Allhallowgate HG4 1LE. 10AM-4PM. £6.50, £6, child £5.
- Courthouse Museum, Minster Road HG4 1QS. 10AM-4PM. £4.50, £4, child £3.75.
- Prison & Police Museum, St Marygate HG4 1LX. 10AM-4PM. £6.50, £6, child £5.
- 3 Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, Fountains, Ripon HG4 3DY (4 miles west of Ripon, follow B6265.), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Daily Apr-Oct 10AM-6PM, Nov-Mar 10AM-5PM. This is the reason you’ve come to Ripon. The abbey was founded in 1132 by a group of monks who’d been expelled from the Benedictines. (Rioting, rowdiness, just the usual.) They were allowed however to affiliate with the Cistercians, and their abbey took shape in the following decades, in Cistercian Norman style. Its fortunes fell, rose and fell again over the centuries until Henry VIII dissolved all the monasteries in 1539. The land came into the hands of the Mallory and Aislabie families, and John Aislabie began beautifying the area with a landscaped water garden. He certainly had the time, it’s amazing he still had the money, having being expelled from Parliament in 1720 for near-bankrupting the nation through the disastrous “South Sea Bubble” (just the usual for a Chancellor of the Exchequer). Apart from the water garden, he and his family renovated Studley Royal Hall and added Fountains Hall (neither can be visited) and a deer park. St Mary’s Church was erected in the grounds in the 19th C, paid for with the unspent ransom for Frederick Grantham Vyner, murdered in 1870 by Greek bandits before they could collect. The Choristers House is a charming Victorian Gothic creation within the grounds. Formerly a music school, nowadays it’s let by the National Trust as a holiday cottage and isn’t open to the public. (Some cottage: five bedrooms, sleeps ten.) Start by seeing the abbey, then move on through the gardens & grounds. Adult £16.50, child £8.25, NT members free.
- 4 Aldborough Roman Villa, Front St, Aldborough, Boroughbridge, YO51 9ES (7½ miles south east from Ripon along B6265), ☏ . Mar-Oct: Sa Su 10AM-6PM. The Brigantes were a Celtic tribe occupying much of the north of England at the time the Romans arrived. They were usually at peace with the Romans and themselves became Romanised, with the large fort and settlement of Isurium Brigantum growing up here in the 1st & 2nd C AD. The site, run by English Heritage, has a stretch of the defensive walls and two fine mosaics from a villa. The village church stands on the site of the forum. A mile north, near the river bridge, are "The Devil's Arrows", three standing stones. Adults £5, children £3.
- Go to the races at Ripon Racecourse HG4 1UG, with regular flat-racing events April-Oct. It's a mile southeast of town on Boroughbridge Road B6265.
- 1 Lightwater Valley, Water Lane, North Stainley HG4 3HT (4 miles north of Ripon), ☏ . Daily in Aug & autumn midterm, Sa Su Sept & Oct, 2019 re-opening not announced. Theme park with about 40 rides including Europe’s longest roller-coaster, The Ultimate, a six-minute ride. Adult £24.
- The Jolly Fryer, 62-63 Allhallowgate HG4 1LE, ☏ . Tu-Sa 11:15AM-9:30PM. Well-regarded fish and chip shop.
- Oliver's Pantry, 86 North St HG4 1DP, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 8:30AM-5PM, Su 10AM-6PM. Breakfast & lunch plus coffee, tea, snacks & pastries.
- Lockwoods, 83 North Street HG4 1DP, ☏ . Tu-Sa 10:30AM-3PM & 5-9:30PM, Su 10AM-3PM. This is Ripon's top choice for dinner.
North Yorkshire really does dinner, so if you’re prepared to drive, there are several top-rate restaurants within ten miles or so. Harrogate also has many choices.
- The Dining Room, 20 St James Meadow, Boroughbridge YO51 9AR. Tu-Sa 6-10PM, Su noon-2:30PM. High quality British fare.
- Vennell’s, 7 Silver St, Masham HG4 4DX. W-Sa 7:30-11:45PM, from Sep: Su noon-2:30PM. Classic British cuisine.
- One Eyed Rat, 51 Allhallowgate HG4 1LQ (NE of Market Square). M-Th 5-11PM, F Sa noon-11PM, Su noon-10:30PM. Traditional pub with log fire, excellent range of well-kept real ales.
- 1 Swinton Park, Masham HG4 4JH (10 miles north of Ripon), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Mock Gothic castle in grand but relaxing style. Samuel's Restaurant is excellent. B&B doubles from £400.
- Unicorn Hotel, 10 Market Place HG4 1BP, ☏ . Run by Wetherspoons. In 17th-century inn, many parts of the hotel are not wheelchair-accessible. B&B doubles from £50.
- 2 Yorke Arms, Ramsgill-in-Nidderdale HG3 5RL (5 miles north of Pateley Bridge), ☏ . Upscale hotel in 18th-century lodge covered in Virginia ivy, it changed owners and had a major refurb in 2018/19. Rooms only available with dinner reservation - the food is outstanding. No children under 12. Half board double from £300.
As of Jan 2021, Ripon has 4G from all UK carriers, though Three and Vodafone are patchy. 5G has not reached this area.
- Harrogate is a charming spa town with fine gardens; Knaresborough is its smaller sister.
- York and Durham are both unmissable historic cities.
- Ripon is a good base for exploring the Yorkshire Dales – take in Masham, Jervaulx Abbey and Middleham Castle on the way – and the North York Moors east of Thirsk.
- For big city attractions, Leeds and Newcastle are the obvious choices.
|Routes through Ripon|
|Leeds ← Wetherby ←||S N||→ Northallerton → Newcastle-upon-Tyne|
|Leeds ← Harrogate ←||S NE||→ junction → Thirsk|
|merges with south ←||SW NE||→ Thirsk → Middlesbrough|