Visitors to the Great North Art Show in Ripon, Yorkshire, often extend their stay to take in the other sights and attractions this beautiful cathedral city has to offer.
Ripon has an abundance of fascinating museums and historical buildings, as well as a bustling market square proclaimed by Daniel Defoe to be ‘the finest and most beautiful square that is to be seen of its kind in England’.
The region’s official visitor website, Welcome to Yorkshire, describes Ripon as an unspoilt North Yorkshire gem, balancing a rich cultural heritage with exciting contemporary living. And skip just 10 miles in any direction and you’ll discover a wealth of first class visitor attractions in the surrounding beautiful Dales countryside.
Here are our top nine must-see visitor attractions in and around Ripon.
(1) Ripon Cathedral
Home to the Great North Art Show since it began in 2002, Ripon Cathedral is a magnificent building. The cathedral’s fascinating 1300-year history is reflected in its architecture, combining an Early English 13th century west front with both rounded Norman and pointed early Gothic arches, alongside the Perpendicular (late Gothic) style nave.
Founded in 672AD by Saint Wilfrid, the cathedral remains a popular place of peace and tranquility for worshippers and visitors alike today.
(2) Great North Art Show Art Trail
Alongside the main exhibition in Ripon Cathedral, there is a Great North Art Show Art Trail, which takes in a number of venues and sites around Ripon. The Art Trail runs for the duration of the Great North Art Show (30th August to 21st September 2014). We’ll be announcing the 2014 Art Trail map soon, but in the meantime you can take a look at the 2013 Art Trail for more information.
(3) Ripon Market Square
The market square in Ripon is the main bustling hub of the city, with a busy market taking place every Thursday. Ripon’s right to hold a fair was granted by charter in 1108, although the Thursday market dates back to the eighth century: Ripon Cathedral founder Saint Wilfrid is said to have died on a Thursday, so Thursdays in Ripon were ‘kept as a feast as though it were a Sunday’ and celebrated. They would draw extra pilgrims for whom traders would set out their stalls. More about the history of Ripon market place here.
The Market Square retains a Georgian look and feel. One of its main features is the Obelisk, built in 1703 and remodelled and restored in 1781. The Ripon Horn and a star sit at the top of the Obelisk.
(4) Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden
Voted the top place to visit in Ripon on Trip Advisor, Fountains Abbey is a Cisterian abbey, with an elegant Georgian water garden and medieval deer park. The abbey itself suffered during the dissolution of the monasteries and is now a ruin, but remains a popular visitor attraction.
Now recognised as a World Heritage Site, Fountains Abbey has been attracting and inspiring visitors for centuries. The beautiful grounds are perfect for a family walk and picnic.
(5) The Workhouse Museum
The Workhouse Museum is set in an original Victorian workhouse. The museum is housed in the Gatehouse building, part of the larger Workhouse site, which visitors are welcome to explore. It contained the Guardians’ Room, Vagrants cells and Receiving Ward for inmates. The museum gives a fascinating, if grim, insight into what life was like for its former residents.
The Workhouse Kitchen Garden, located to the back of the original Workhouse site, is set in the 1890s and grows varieties of fruit and vegetables that were available at the time.
(6) The Courthouse Museum
The Georgian Courthouse remains virtually unchanged since it was built in 1830. Following closure of the Magistrates Court in 1998 it was opened as a museum a year later.
At the Ripon Courthouse Museum, visitors can discover what being the Liberty of Ripon meant and experience what standing in the dock awaiting sentence was like in a courtroom in the 1800s.
(7) Police and Prison Museum
Visitors to the Ripon Police and Prison Museum can experience what it was like to be locked up in Victorian times. Upon entering, you will be greeted by an old fashioned Constable before stepping in to see unfortunate individuals incarcerated by several means. You can sit in a prison cell, try on prison uniforms, imagine the horror of being set in the pillory, strapped in a restraint chair or hung in chains. Or turn the crank, carry out shot drill or work the treadmill.
(8) Newby Hall and Gardens
Newby Hall is one of England’s renowned Adam houses, housing an exquisite collection of Chippendale furniture, Gobelins tapestries and classical statuary. Designed under the guidance of Sir Christopher Wren, this stunning country house epitomises the Georgian ‘Age of Elegance’.
The award-winning 25-acre gardens boast one of Europe’s longest double herbaceous borders and an enchanting woodland walk. Children can enjoy the children’s adventure garden with a miniature railway, island fort, boating and water play. Combine this with an excellent restaurant, stylish shop and quality plant stall and you have a wonderful family attraction.
(9) The Town Hall
Ripon Town Hall is one of the most prominent buildings in the main market square. Originally built in 1799 by James Wyatt for Mrs Elizabeth Allanson (granddaughter of John Aislabie, the creator of Studley Royal Water Garden at Fountains Abbey), this elegant building is now open to the public.
Ripon Town Hall houses a number of important works, including portraits of John Aislabie, Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1718 and principal sponsor of the infamous South Sea Company, and Frederick John Robinson, Earl of Ripon.
If you are interested in portraiture, do check out the Great North Art Show 2014 contemporary portrait exhibition and Ripon Cathedral’s royal portrait collection.
Booking your stay in Ripon
For a list of bed and breakfast accommodation, caravans and campsites, self catering holiday homes and hotels in Ripon: