Alex and I are lucky to have a “second home” in North Yorkshire thanks to his mum and dad, and as we spend a lot of time up there, I’m going to list my top 5 things to do around Ripon in case you ever find yourself up that way too.
These are the simple pleasures in life that I love. If you’re around Ripon to relax, these will be right up your street.
Without further ado…
(1) RHS Harlow Carr
Top of my list is visiting Harlow Carr gardens, the RHS’ northernmost site down by Harrogate. I love gardens and gardening. I could spend hours just sat outside, admiring nature and studying the intricacies of flowers. I’m desperate to grow my own fruit and veg.
RHS Harlow Carr combines all these things. There are different areas to the garden, all inspiring in their own way: gardens through the decades; woodland; streamside walks; veg patches; an alpine greenhouse.
For those with kids, there’s also a play area and often child-friendly features and “treasure” hunts.
The RHS website explains how Harlow Carr’s ‘chief aim was to set up a trial ground where the suitability of plants for growing in northern climates could be assessed’ when originally established by the Northern Horticultural Society in the 1950s. This is still evident – we always spot some sort of trial going on whenever we visit.
There are regular flower shows and other events (such as the Peony Show held on June 26) to excite your interest. The perfect way to finish off is with a browse around Harlow Carr’s ample garden centre and gift shop (I’ve never come away empty-handed!) and something to eat or drink in the on-site branch of Betty’s tearooms.
I now have annual RHS Individual membership (which cost me £42.75) as we go more often, and it gets both Alex and myself in “free” and easily each time. Other packages are available here, and of course you can then access other sites for “free” too. Otherwise, entry is £11.00 each for adults paying with GiftAid.
(2) Eating out in Ripon
I love to eat out with Alex. Ripon is an absolutely amazing place to eat, to say it’s so small as a town. There’s no shortage of choices. Places we’ve tried at least once and loved include:
- La Grillade: Italian and French cuisine in a little Parisian-style place opposite the cathedral.
- The Water Rat: Delicious “pub grub” by the river, perfect for sunny days (although the conservatory is cosy for the rainy ones).
- Byblos brasserie: Mediterranean food in a small and comfy environment, again near the cathedral.
- Balti House: Quite possibly the best curries I have ever eaten in my life, plus it’s bring-your-own-booze which can reduce costs quite a lot.
- So! Bar & Eats: We love this place with its gorgeous food AND it’s amazing cocktails – we’ll often eat elsewhere and still end up drinking here (before and/or after!).
You’ll also find your chains like Prezzo and Wetherspoons in the town centre, and for a no-frills takeaway Zorro Pizza can’t be beaten.
One place in Ripon we still haven’t eaten at, next on my list, is Lockwoods – it looks small but sweet!
(3) Shopping in Harrogate
What Ripon has in the way of dining, it lacks somewhat in shopping. It has the basics, like a WHSmiths, Boots, supermarkets and even an Edinburgh Woollen Mill (!), plus a few lovely little boutiques, but if you want more variety of chain stores, head to Harrogate.
What’s more, Harrogate has a quaint arts and antiques quarter, the Royal Pump Room museum, and amazing-looking furniture and fittings shops to inspire and provide.
You can find some fancy bars and eateries dotted about the side streets.
There’s also a pleasant stroll to be had through the Valley Gardens if you get a moment (that said, I did see a man peeing slap bang in the middle of the lawns once when I went with a friend..!).
(4) Newby Hall & Gardens
We’ve only been once, but it’s made a lasting impression, and it’s definitely somewhere I want to visit again. Newby Hall itself is a grand old house which visitors can have a look around as long as it’s not closed for a private function.
The hall is set within picturesque grounds sloping gently down to the river. It incorporates lawns, large flower beds and wooded areas. Exhibitions are regularly held at Newby – we visited during a large outdoor display of African sculpture, most of which was for sale.
The Yorkshire Party Company runs a restaurant in the grounds for when you get thirsty or hungry, and there is a small giftshop and garden centre by the entrance/exit if you’re after a souvenir or feel horticulturally inspired.
House & gardens tickets currently cost £15 each for adults, while gardens only are £11 each on arrival.
(5) Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal
Definitely go and have a wander round this surprisingly well-preserved ruins of this old Cistercian abbey. When weaving in and out of the weathered chambers and columns, Alex and I even spotted robed children! I presume they were on a school trip, and not ghosts of monastic life past…
After the majesty of the soaring stonework, take in the pools, follies and wooded hillsides of the landscaped grounds beyond. Keep your eyes peeled as deer can be spotted over fences and through gaps in the trees.
There are places to grab refreshments such as paninis, scones and cuppas around the grounds.
Just after you’ve made your way in, you’ll come across Fountains Hall – which I had never heard of – and although you can’t look around a lot of it, what you do see put me in mind of Wuthering Heights and rugged pre-Industrial Revolution living (albeit aristocratic!).
It costs £13 each for an adult to visit Fountains Abbey with GiftAid, and £6.50 for children, but a family ticket costing £32.50 can also be purchased.
Other honourable mentions include: beautiful Ripley Castle; a trip out to the scenic Pately Bridge (where my own parents have a “second home”); beautiful York; the market town of Thirsk; a drive out to the coast at Whitby; Leyburn and Aysgarth Falls by the Yorkshire Dales National Park; and Markenfield Hall, if you can time your trip to fit in with its few open days (it’s still someone’s actual family home, after all!).
Is there anywhere in North Yorkshire that you think I’m missing? I’d love to hear of any other suggestions for future stays up in Ripon, so share them below, and remember, you can follow my blog on Bloglovin’ or follow me on Twitter and Instagram!