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!
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.
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.