Things To Do In Ripon: A Curated Guide to Must-Visit Spots and Secret Hideaways

8 months ago   •   10 min read

By More Yorkshire
Table of contents

Looking for things to do in Ripon? Well, you're in for a treat! Ripon, in North Yorkshire, England, is a destination packed with historical gems and scenic spots. From its well-preserved landmarks to lively markets, this city guarantees you won't have a dull moment.

As you stroll through the streets of Ripon, you can't miss the majestic presence of the Ripon Cathedral, an architectural marvel that's been standing since the 7th century. And if you're in the mood for some relaxation amidst nature, the Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal Water Garden is the place to be. Here, you can immerse yourself in a blend of ancient ruins and meticulously designed gardens.

Whether you're a history buff or someone with a zest for outdoor exploration, Ripon is a treasure trove of experiences. It masterfully bridges the gap between the old and the new, ensuring every visitor leaves with memories to cherish.

History of Ripon

Ripon, a small city in North Yorkshire, England, boasts a 1,300-year-old rich history that attracts visitors from all around the world. The origins of Ripon can be traced back to the year 886 when King Alfred the Great visited the city. The warm welcome he received from the locals left such a positive impression on the King that he decided to grant Ripon a Royal town charter.

An important year in Ripon's history was 1132 when thirteen monks from York founded Fountains Abbey. Today, Fountains Abbey is England's best-preserved Cistercian monastery and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Even though the abbey became a ruin after the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII in the 16th century, it remains an essential element of Ripon's majestic past. You can witness the beauty of Fountains Abbey for yourself by visiting the site.

When visiting Ripon, ydon't miss the chance to experience the serenity and beauty of Ripon Cathedral. Its tiny chapel is the oldest surviving Anglo-Saxon crypt in England. Walking through the narrow, atmospheric streets surrounding the Cathedral allows you to feel the afncient vibe of the city. To learn more about the history and culture of Ripon, a day trip to the Ripon Museums is highly recommendable. You can explore the story of the poor and lawless through the three museums located in the heart of the city.

Remember, as you wander through the streets of Ripon and explore its historical sites, you are not only witnessing the story of a city but also that of England itself.

Historic Sites of Ripon

Ripon Cathedral

The Ripon Cathedral has been welcoming worshippers and pilgrims for over 1,300 years. As a notable historic site, the Cathedral boasts an ancient Saxon crypt and mediaeval woodcarvings. It even served as an inspiration to the famous author of Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll.

Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey is England's best-preserved Cistercian monastery, situated within a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although the abbey has been in ruins since the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII in the 16th century, its majesty remains unblemished.

Ripon Courthouse Museum

At the Ripon Courthouse Museum, you can experience the historic justice system by standing in a Victorian court and exploring prison cells. This museum provides a fascinating glimpse into the past while telling the story of crime and punishment throughout history.

Studley Royal Water Garden

Designed by John Aislabie, the Studley Royal Water Garden showcases stunning landscapes and water features that seamlessly blend with the surrounding woodland. The garden also attracts a variety of birds of prey, making it an idyllic spot to appreciate nature and history.

Newby Hall and Gardens

Visit the exceptional Newby Hall and Gardens for a blend of impressive architecture and exquisite horticulture. Known for its collection of Thomas Chippendale furniture and captivating floral displays, Newby Hall invites you to immerse yourself in a world of elegance and beauty.

Markenfield Hall

Markenfield Hall is one of the finest historic houses in the region. This magnificent building, surrounded by a moat, features stunning architecture and allows you to experience a glimpse of life in a bygone era.

Outdoor Activities

Yorkshire Dales

Explore the stunning Yorkshire Dales for a relaxing outdoor experience. You can immerse yourself in the beautiful countryside, with its picturesque woodlands, stone slabs, and captivating landscapes. Here, you can enjoy various activities such as cycling, hiking, and horse riding. Make sure to bring your camera to capture the breathtaking views.

Ripon Racecourse

For an adrenaline-pumping day out, visit the Ripon Racecourse, one of the oldest racecourses in England. Go for the Ripon Races and feel the excitement as the horses thunder down the track, while placing bets on your favourites. This is a great way to spend a thrilling day surrounded by other enthusiastic racegoers.

Ripon Spa Gardens

Image Source:

Find a peaceful retreat at the Ripon Spa Gardens, a beautifully maintained garden that invites you to relax, enjoy a leisurely walk or partake in some outdoor games. With its vibrant floral displays, traditional bandstand, and greens for bowling or putting, this oasis situated close to the city centre is perfect for recharging your energy in a serene environment.

River Ure and Canal

Discover the River Ure and Canal that flow near Ripon, offering picturesque waterways perfect for outdoor activities. Enjoy leisurely strolls along the banks, watching the locks in action, or take to the water by hiring a canoe or kayak. This is an ideal way to explore Ripon's scenic beauty from a different perspective.

Way of the Roses Cycle Route

Embark on an epic cycling adventure along the Way of the Roses, a well-known coast-to-coast cycling route. As you pedal along this 170-mile journey, take in the incredible sights of the Yorkshire Dales, historic cities, and quaint villages. It's an excellent way to explore the great outdoors while engaging in a healthy and rewarding activity.

Dining and Shopping

Ripon Market Place

Ripon Market Place is a bustling hub of trade, offering a diverse range of quality products at reasonable prices. At the heart of the city, the market is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike to browse and shop. From fresh produce and local products to gifts and stylish clothing, you'll surely find something to suit your taste.

Local Pubs

In addition to shopping, Ripon is home to several charming pubs that offer both a relaxing atmosphere and delectable food. Enjoy a leisurely lunch or evening meal paired with a refreshing pint in one of these traditional establishments. With friendly staff and a welcoming ambiance, your experience at a local Ripon pub is sure to leave a lasting impression.


Image Source:

Ripon boasts a variety of restaurants to satisfy your culinary cravings. From delicious Indian cuisine at Realitea to classic British dishes at Wilfrid's Café, there are dining options to suit every palate.

When you're exploring the city, make sure to take a break from your activities to dine at one of Ripon's excellent eateries. With a focus on quality, these restaurants offer flavourful dishes at great value. Don't miss the opportunity to indulge in the local culinary scene during your visit to Ripon.

Family Fun

Lightwater Valley

At Lightwater Valley, you can enjoy a thrilling day out with your family. This theme park offers a variety of rollercoasters and rides suitable for kids of all ages. From adrenaline-pumping attractions to gentle kiddie rides, there's something for everyone.

Studley Royal Deer Park

Experience a unique encounter with nature in Ripon's Studley Royal Deer Park. Here, you'll find a serene atmosphere with many wild deer roaming freely within the park's grounds. Take your time to appreciate the beauty of these graceful animals while strolling through the park, and make sure to bring your camera for some stunning photographs.

Studley Royal Park

Studley Royal Park is a must-visit destination in Ripon. This UNESCO World Heritage Site offers magnificent landscapes, with its stunning gardens and serene water features. Perfect for a family day out, you can explore the park and connect with nature while enjoying its historical importance.

Here's a list of activities to try in Studley Royal Park:

  • Picnics: Find a spot in the colourful gardens and enjoy a leisurely lunch with your family.
  • Nature Trails: Follow walking or cycling paths through the park, discovering hidden gems along the way.
  • Bird Watching: Observe a variety of bird species inhabiting the park, including kingfishers and woodpeckers.
  • Historical Sites: Learn about the park's history by visiting the tranquil St. Mary's Church and Fountains Abbey ruins.

Tips for your Visit

Planning your Trip

When planning your trip to Ripon, consider visiting some of the popular points of interest such as Ripon Cathedral, Fountains Abbey, and Newby Hall and Gardens. You can also enjoy a day at the races or visit the numerous museums in the area.

Research your options beforehand and make necessary bookings to ensure you have a seamless experience during your visit. Keep in mind that some attractions might require pre-booked tickets, so it's best to arrange everything in advance. Don't forget to include the city's unique experience of witnessing the Ripon Hornblower in your itinerary.

Visitor Services

When in Ripon, make use of visitor services such as tourist information centres for guidance and recommendations. They can provide you with maps, local advice, and suggestions based on your interests and preferences. Additionally, many attractions offer guided tours or audio guides to help you make the most of your visit.

Look for additional facilities at the attractions like restrooms, accessibility options for wheelchair users, and catering services to ensure your trip to Ripon is comfortable and enjoyable.

Visitor Ratings

Before finalising your itinerary, it's always a good idea to check past visitor reviews and ratings on TripAdvisor. This way, you can get a sense of which attractions are popular and well-rated by other travellers. Make sure to read reviews to better understand the experiences of others and consider user preferences while planning your trip.

Taking insights from exclusive TripAdvisor data can help you identify attractions, tours, and experiences that are worth adding to your Ripon itinerary. Remember, every traveller has different preferences, so it's essential to make choices that cater to your personal interests and tastes.

Keep these tips in mind for your visit to Ripon to make the most of your time in this picturesque British town.


Is Ripon worth visiting?
Certainly. Ripon, despite its size, boasts an array of historical landmarks, stunning architecture, and picturesque landscapes. Moreover, its strategic location offers easy access to a plethora of regional attractions.

What day is market day in Ripon?
In addition to the longstanding Thursday market, Ripon hosts a vibrant market every Saturday from 7.30am to 2pm, excluding Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year's Day.

What is Ripon famous for?
Situated in the historic West Riding of Yorkshire, Ripon is primarily renowned for the architectural marvel that is Ripon Cathedral. Additionally, the city is recognized for the Ripon Racecourse and its dynamic market.

Is Ripon good for shopping?
Absolutely. Ripon offers an amalgamation of traditional market squares and medieval streets where entrepreneurs have established unique local businesses, making it a diverse shopping destination.

Is Downton Abbey in Ripon?
While the narrative setting of Downton Abbey is near Ripon and Thirsk in Yorkshire, the filming location for the Downton village is in Bampton, Oxfordshire.

Is Ripon the oldest city in England?
Indeed, Ripon holds the distinction of being England's oldest city. It's also among the smallest, with a population of approximately 17,000. Cities in Britain attain their status through a Royal Charter, irrespective of population size.

Why visit Ripon?
Ripon offers over 1300 years of rich cultural history. The city's centrepiece, Ripon Cathedral, houses the oldest surviving Anglo-Saxon crypt in England, drawing visitors for both its historical significance and serene ambiance.

Has Ripon got a cathedral?
Yes, Ripon proudly hosts the Cathedral Church of St Peter and St Wilfrid, commonly referred to as Ripon Cathedral. It was previously known as Ripon Minster until 1836.

Is Ripon Cathedral free to enter?
Entry to Ripon Cathedral is complimentary. However, contributions are encouraged as they support the maintenance and operations of this historically significant structure.

What is the oldest building in Ripon?
Ripon Cathedral holds this accolade. It dates back over 1350 years, with the Anglo-Saxon Crypt being a significant remnant from St Wilfrid's original basilica church and the oldest segment of any English Cathedral.

Is Ripon the smallest city in the UK?
Ripon ranks as the third-smallest city in England by population and stands as Yorkshire's most diminutive city.

Is Ripon nice to live?
Ripon has garnered accolades for its quality of life. A recent survey positioned the cathedral city of Ripon 13th in the "top 50 best places to live" list, reflecting its appeal as a residential destination.

Is there a river walk in Ripon?
Yes, Ripon offers a scenic 1.8-km circular trail, ideal for walking and running. Its tranquil setting ensures a serene experience, often with minimal foot traffic.

Enjoyed reading?
Save for later or share with friends on Pinterest!

Spread the word

Keep reading