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Ripon is a small cathedral city in North Yorkshire, England. As a historic Yorkshire city, Ripon had a population of 15,922 at the 2001 census, making it the fourth smallest city in England after Wells, Ely and the City of London (in the rest of the United Kingdom, St David's, Bangor, and Armagh are also smaller). Ripon is situated at the confluence of the streams Laver and Skell with the River Ure, which is crossed by a fine bridge of nine arches. The streets are for the most part narrow and irregular, and, although most of the houses are comparatively modern, some of them retain the picturesque gables characteristic of earlier times. Ripon is part of the Skipton and Ripon parliamentary constituency.

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      05.04.2007 11:03
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      Ripon, a cathedral city, steeped in history and tradition

      LOCATION

      Ripon is a cathedral city, although more like a small market town, in North Yorkshire, ideal for exploring the Yorkshire Dales for a weekend break or longer stay.

      It is easy to find if travelling by road, just follow the A1 and follow the signs for Ripon and Thirsk. There is parking in the market square, but this gets very busy so look for other car parks nearby.

      By rail the nearest train station is at Harrogate, and then you will have to take a bus from there to Ripon, these run every 20 minutes on weekdays, every 30 minutes weekends.

      CATHEDRAL CITY

      Ripon Cathedral dates back to the 7th century and was founded by St Wilfrid, in AD672. The cathedral that stands today is actually the fourth to stand on this site, but the Saxon crypt is said to be one of the earliest and has survived almost intact.

      Throughout the year there are concerts and events at the cathedral and pilgrims visit from far and wide to witness the peaceful atmosphere. I have never been to any of the services held there, but just love to wander around taking in the tranquillity of the surroundings.

      Near to the cathedral is a Heritage Centre, Thorpe Prebend House. It is believed that the knot garden here was the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. His father was Canon of Ripon in the 19th century. Worth a visit.

      MUSEUMS

      There are several museums in Ripon. These give an insight into the lives of the poor and infirm in Victorian times, as well as showing how thieves and poachers were dealt with.

      The Georgian Courthouse and the Prison and Police Museum allow you to try on uniforms, turn the crank and almost relive the horrors of the punishment bestowed in Victorian times on lawbreakers. Great for children as there is lots of interest for them and some hands on experiences, although it could be a little scary for the more nervous child I suppose!

      OTHER ATTRACTIONS

      A short walk away from the market square is sthe Spa Gardens, where there is an 18 hole putting course, a crazy golf course and a bowling green, or just stroll around the gardens and stop for refreshments in the Sun Parlour cafe, which is open from February until December.

      Ripon has a racecourse and between April and September flat racing takes place. I have not been to the races so cannot comment on this.

      There is a canal and marina where you can stroll along the towpath. The marina is alongside the racecourse and a recent visitor centre has been opened which explains about the wildlife to be found in the area. Lots of interesting things to see around here.

      Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal are National Trust attractions and are only three miles from Ripon. This is a magnificent medieval park, where deer stroll around and you can wander along the trails through the gardens and grounds. A great place for the children to run around and let off steam, but do keep a careful eye on them as there are many water features.

      In fact, recently the NT has decided to remove the stepping stones which generations of us have enjoyed tackling to cross the water. They deem them to be dangerous!!!! So, sorry, but I am yet again disillusioned by the National Trust, although I do love Fountains Abbey. These stepping stones have always been very much a part of the fun of a visit here.

      Eight miles south of Ripon is Ripley Castle, again there are deer in the grounds, a lake and a children's play trail. There is a cafe and gift shop on site too and it is possible to hire the castle for private functions.

      Lightwater Valley is another family attraction, here you can experience rides like Europe's longest roller coaster or visit the Bird of Prey centre to see a golden eagle. Something for all the family, lots of fun to be had here.

      TOWN CENTRE

      The main centre of Ripon is centred around the Market Square. Shops specialising in local produce, such as Yorkshire curd tarts and mouthwatering pork pies, stand beside cafes and restaurants. There are the usual chain shops too, but thankfully Ripon is still very much a traditional shopping centre.

      Every third Sunday of the month there is a Farmers' Market where you can buy local produce, including seasonal vegetables, homemade pies and cakes and locally reared meat. You know it is fresh and has come straight from the producers, all reasonably priced too.

      There are gift and souvenir shops too, as well as a supermarket, all within the confines of the market square.

      TRADITION

      For me the best part of Ripon is the tradition of the Hornblower. At one time Ripon was responsible for policing its own streets and handing out justice, and the Hornblower can still be seen every night at 9pm, when he "sets the night watch". Dressed in traditional costume he appears at the four corners of the obelisk in the market square and in his loud voice calls out the traditional call of "Hear ye, it's 9 o'clock and all's well" before blowing the horn.

      PLACES TO STAY

      Situated at the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales there is a good choice of accommodation within Ripon and the surrounding areas.

      These include coaching inns and more stately hotels, such as the Old Deanery which is set in private grounds near the cathedral. There are caravan parks too within easy distance of Ripon.

      Tourist Information will be happy to help with any enquiries and they can be contacted on 01765 604625.

      RECOMMENDED

      If you are in Yorkshire then do visit Ripon, it is a traditional place steeped in history and a perfect stepping stone to view other attractions in the area.

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