Things to do in Ripon

Ripon an exciting place to visit with 1300 years of history. With so many things to do in Ripon it’s easy to see why it attracts many local and foreign tourists.

Ripon is a wonderful Cathedral City located in North Yorkshire just half an hour away from Harrogate. Known for its majestic Ripon cathedral, Ripon has a rich cultural 1300 year history that appeals to many tourists. There are many things to do in Ripon for solo travellers but also families with kids. While it may be the third smallest city in England, Ripon is a popular destination because of its proximity to the UNESCO World Heritage Site which consists of Studley Royal and Fountains Abbey.

Whether you are after historic houses, want to enjoy day tours to learn about the city or just wish to walk by the river Ure, there are many Ripon attractions waiting to be discovered. Here are all the fun things to do in Ripon.

Ripon Cathedral

Perhaps the most well know attraction in Ripon is the Ripon cathedral, which can be seen from the distance, standing tall and majestic just as you enter the city. Initially founded as a monastery by Scottish monks in 660s, the cathedral is now a Grade I listed building.

The cathedral is known for this gothic west front in the Early English Style and its Geometric east windows. The tiny chapel is the oldest surviving Anglo-Saxon crypt in England.

You are more than welcome to come and explore the building and the entrance is free. There are several programme and events held here, including art exhibits and light installations.

Ripon Cathedral in North Yorkshire

Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC BY-SA 3.0

Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey is one of the largest and best preserved ruined monasteries in England. It was founded in 1132 and the abbey operated for 407 years. Fountains Abbey was featured in movies like the Witcher.

Curently, the Fountains Abbey is a Grade I listed building under the care of National Trust. It is also part of the designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

National Trust members can enter the Fountains Abbey for free. There is ample parking available on site. Parking is also free for members.

Cory sitting on a bench at the fountains abbey

Studley Royal Park

Studley royal water garden technically includes the Fountains Abbey as well. There are many routes to enjoy the ample park with miles of footpaths to explore the estate. Explore the woodland and see the high-sided Seven Bridges.

Grab a picnic and enjoy a full day of running, jumping and exploring. Studley Royal Park is on an area of 800 acres and it features a stunning 18th century landscaped gardens.

Love history? There was once a Studley Royal House on the grounds. A medieval manor house, unfortunately destroyed by a fire in 1946. A large stable block survived, and it’s now a private house.

Glass house at the fountains abbey

Newby hall and gardens

One of the best things to do in Ripon is to explore the surrounding countryside, gardens, and manor houses. Newby hall should definitely make it to your wish list. A large Georgian house with gardens and a seasonal adventure playground is the perfect place to pass the time with your whole family.

The gardens were mainly created in 1920s and there are over 15 different gardens to be explored year around. Visit the manor with its superb 18th century interiors decoration. Book a guided tour, see the ground and first floor rooms and learn about the house history.

At Newby Hall you can also take a relaxing boat trip along the river. Purchase tickets from the Railway Shop on the day of your visit.

Newby hall and gardens

Chris Heaton / Newby Hall / CC BY-SA 2.0

Ripon market place

Ripon’s market is held every Thursday from 7.30am until 3pm throughout the year. Meander around the medieval city with its stunning buildings, then stop for some local purchases and souvenirs. Ripon market offers a range of goods including fruits and vegetables as well as fish, meat, eggs and homemade goods. There are plants and flowers on sale too.

There’s nearby parking available. If you can’t visit Ripon on a Thursday, there’s a smaller market held every Saturday.

Ripon market place

Ripon spa gardens

One of the best things to do in Ripon is grab an ice cream and enjoy a long stroll in the local gardens. Spa Gardens is a beautiful local park right in the heart of the city. It’s been awarded a Green Flag status thanks to its high quality maintenance and standards.

See the Victorian bandstand during the week or see band concert on a Sunday afternoon during the summer months. Admire the gorgeous tree sculpture, depicting characters from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

The park is ideal for bird watchers.

Visit Harrogate and Knaresborough

Since you are in Ripon, it’s only fair that you visit the nearby lovely towns of Harrogate and Knaresborough. There are numerous activities and things to do in both towns, and they are just 30 minutes away from the centre of Ripon. Sit down and have an afternoon tea at the historic Betty’s Tea Harrogate and have a quick wander around Mother Shipton’s Cave, England oldest attraction in Knaresborough.

View of the Knaresborough viaduct from the castle grounds

Ripon Canal

The Ripon canal starts at the heart of Ripon and continues for 2.3 miles. The canal is lined by historic buildings and and warehouses. Walk along the paths and photograph the moored narrow boats and locks. Take a look at the Ripon Marina full of fancy boats, have a picnic along the way or spend your time admiring the nature and spotting wildlife.

Cycle along the canal of take one of the boat tours if you prefer the views from the river.

Ripon Canal - walk along the canal

Ripon workhouse & garden museum

Many houses in Ripon are about grandeur, but are you curious what it was like to be poor in Victorian England? Before England has a welfare system, many ended up in the workhouse.

Follow an inmate journey from admittance, through the fumigation process, to the cells. Read real stories from workhouse inmates and what they did during their time there.

The visit time is around 90 minutes. The ticket includes a visit to both buildings, the Gatehouse building and the Main Block.

The workhouse and garden museum in Ripon

Ripon Heritage Ghost Walks

The streets of Ripon are filled with stories, some of which are less pleasant than others. As many medieval cities in England, like York, there is a darker side that involves mystery, darkness and sometimes even the macabre.

Book a ghost walk that’s suitable for families with children, or enjoy an adult private ghost tour. The ghost walks are ran by volunteers who know and love their city.

Participate in a Ripon ghost walk

Lightwater valley theme park

Calling all theme park lovers here who want to have a lot of fun! Enjoy over 40 rides and attractions for the whole family. There is a new interactive arcade with virtual reality.

Since 2022, the lightwater valley theme park introduced a Hall of Mirrors, a wacky new room to get the fun going. The park is suitable for all ages but it’s ideal for family with kids who want to have a good day out.

There are tree top trails and parents can organise birthday parties here as well. Book your tickets online. Remember that under 4 years go for free.

Lightwater valley theme park

Rippon Racecourse

Ripon Racecourse is a horse racing venue located in Ripon nicknamed the Garden Racecourse. Racing on the present site began in 1900 but racing has taken place in other locations in the city since 1664.

The annual race season at Ripon now includes Ripons “Big Night Out” and Family Day in May, Ladies Day in June and the opening day of the Go Racing in Yorkshire in July [source].

The Ripon Racecourse continues to be one of the most exciting and prestigious horse races in England.

Ripon Racecourse

Markenfield Hall

If you love historical houses, then here’s another wonderful point of attraction near Ripon. Markenfield Hall is located south of Ripon, and it’s a well-preserved medieval, moated family home.

The Markenfield Hall is open for short periods of time, although there are opportunities to visit throughout the year.

The house has over 700 years of history. Markenfield is the seat of the Grantley family — builders of nearby Grantley Hall. Make sure to book your tickets online in advance to ensure it’s open on the day you wish to visit.

Markenfield Hall in Ripon

Druids’ Temple

A historic 19th century folly, the Druids’ Temple was built to alleviate local unemployment. It’s not as historic or impressive as other monuments indeed, like the Stonehenge, but it’s definitely an atmospheric location which warrants a visit.

For parking there is an honesty box and then you can follow the path to the temple. There are woodland walks and bike tracks for those who wish to make a full day out of it.

Feeling peckish? There’s a cafe by the car park which serves tasty food and drinks.

Druids temple in Ripon

Ripon Hornblower

The tradition dates back over a thousand year to Saxon times. Back then, Viking raids were common and many locals lived in fear. To bring safety and stability to locals, King Alfred the Great granted the people of Ripon Royal Charter and gifted them a symbolic horn.

The people of Ripon decided to employ a night watchmen to patrol from dusk to dawn and be ready to sound the horn in wake of trouble. The watchman is called the wakeman.

Among his duties was to sound the horn at 9pm, in the market place to let everyone know that he is present and ready to keep watch.

That ritual is still carried out at 9pm every night at the Obelisk in Ripon market square.

Ripon Hornblower

Ripon courthouse museum

The Ripon courthouse was built in 1830 and it was opened as a museum in 1999. The interiors were redecorated in the original colour scheme used when first opened.

The museum is suitable for all ages and it consists of three rooms: the Jury Room, Justices’ Retiring Room and the Courtroom.

Just remember that this is a small museum and it’s best paired with a museum pass to visit all three museums in Ripon.

Ripon courthouse museum

Ripon City Wetlands

The Ripon City Wetlands is a nature reserve ideal for visitors who wish to enjoy a quiet day out and see some magnificent wildlife as well as other ranges of birds.

There is a car park right at the entrance of the reserve. From the car park make your way towards the Riverside Lagoon viewing screen then take the canal towpath towards the Canal Heedbed Hide.

While there is no loop trail, the paths are easy, flat and surfaced with gravel.

Ripon City Wetlands

Ripon prison and police museum

Step in a 1800s prison and discover the history of crime and punishment as it was like in Victorian times. Visit the ground floor and learn about the history of policing in Yorkshire from the Anglo-Saxons times. See the first floor and get engaged in several hands-on activities which make it a little easier to imagine what sort of horror it must have been like back in the days.

There are many photo opportunities and right now, there is a current exhibition called Women in Policing to explore the role of some of the first female police officers who joined the force.

Ripon prison and police museum
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Cory from You Could Travel entering Senso-ji in Tokyo, Japan

Cory Varga – Cory is a published travel writer and award-winning photographer. She travels full time with her husband and is passionate about creating in-depth travel guides. Cory published her first book on Japanese customs and manners because she’s obsessed with everything Japan. She has visited hundreds of destinations and has lived in 7 different countries. Cory is multilingual and an alumna from The University of Manchester.


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