05 Jun | 10:32 AM

A World Class Welcome: Ripon

A World Class Welcome: Ripon

This unspoilt cathedral city may be England’s third smallest, but it has big character and a rich cultural heritage that it balances perfectly with exciting contemporary living.

Ripon, founded over 1,300 years ago, is famed for its imposing cathedral, fascinating museums and a bustling market square. If that wasn’t enough then the ancient centre of the town hosts a wide variety of shops, cafes and restaurants and with the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden sitting just a few miles away, it’s clear that the area has a lot to offer visitors.

Its ease of accessibility and range of hospitality outlets makes it another exceptional host location for the UCI Road World Championships, and the rolling roads which surround it will make for spectacular time trialling.

Ripon Cathedral is a magnificent building that has dominated the skyline since the 7th century and is home to the oldest cathedral crypt in the country, having been founded in 672AD by St Wilfrid.

The cathedral is a mother church for the Diocese of Leeds and was a source of inspiration for many a creative mind over time with Ripon local and famed war poet Wilfred Owen and author Lewis Carroll both remarking of their love for the awe-inspiring building.

It is also said that the carvings and crypt tunnel here allegedly inspired Carroll’s characters and the rabbit hole in the author’s most famous work Alice in Wonderland.

Carroll isn’t the only author to have been associated with Ripon, Robinson Crusoe author Daniel Defoe once described Ripon’s charming market square as 'the finest and most beautiful square that is to be seen of its kind in England'. Even today, the square remains the heart and soul of Ripon, also proudly retaining its tradition of the hornblower who can be found ‘setting the watch’ every evening around 9pm.

With its vast Cisterican abbey ruins, a Georgian water garden, a medieval deer park and Elizabethean Hall and Gothic church – Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden is a true, hidden Yorkshire gem. The term ‘hidden gem’ is particularly apt here as the attraction is veiled in a secluded valley and came from humble beginnings to grow both wealthy and powerful.

Also a few KMs from the city is Newby Hall, the family home of Mr & Mrs Richard Compton. Newby Hall is one of England's finest houses, an exceptional example of 18th century interior decoration. Built in the 1690s in the style of Sir Christopher Wren the house was later enlarged and adapted by John Carr and subsequently Robert Adam. The superb contents of the house, collected by Weddell, ancestor of the Compton family, on the Grand Tour include a rare set of Gobelin Tapestries, a gallery of classical statuary and some of Chippendale's finest furniture.

Moving closer to the centre of the city, you’ll find Ripon racecourse, which is arguably one of the most picture-perfect racecourses in Great Britain. Its nickname is Yorkshire’s Garden Racecourse and it’s not difficult to see how it has gained this name, as its lush, green surroundings coupled with sumptuous planting, makes it a beautiful course to visit for a day out.

The first recording horse races in Ripon took place in 1664 and in 1723 Ripon made racing history when it had the first ever race exclusively for lady riders. Since 1990, the racecourse has been in its current location and in 2011, 2014 & 2015 it has been voted Best Small Racecourse in the North.

For an action-packed family day out, thrill seekers should head to Lightwater Valley Theme Park. With over 35 rides and attractions, including the legendary roller coaster; The Ultimate – a thrilling 1.5 mile cocktail of speed, cornering and airtime. Unique amongst modern day attractions, The Ultimate remains the longest roller coaster in Europe with a ride time approaching six minutes.

Back in the city centre, there's also not one but three museums in Ripon which tell the unique story of the Liberty Courthouse, Prison and Victorian Workhouse. Together the three museums tell a sorry and interwoven story of Law and Order in times past. These museums provide a fascinating experience into Ripon's history and are a must visit for history buffs out there too.

The UCI Road World Championships takes place between 22-29 September and the city of Ripon plays host to two events, the Men U23 Individual Time Trial and the Women Elite Individual Time Trial.

Both events start in Ripon and end in Harrogate after 30km of cycling and both take place on 24 September.

21 days ago
Written by Danny Roberts

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