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HometreasuryOverlooked Ripon Offers Astonishing Landscapes and Charming Hospitality

Overlooked Ripon Offers Astonishing Landscapes and Charming Hospitality

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Ripon, the smallest city in Yorkshire, may be often overlooked in favor of its more famous neighbor Harrogate, but it has plenty to offer visitors. With its medieval cathedral, bustling market place, independent shops, and charming streets, Ripon has a unique charm that is hard to resist. However, in the early 20th century, the city made an ambitious move to become a spa town, despite lacking the natural resources for it.

In 1904, Ripon decided to establish itself as a spa town, even though it had no natural springs of its own. Instead, it had to pipe in water from a location four miles away. This decision was seen as unwise, especially since nearby Harrogate had almost 90 natural mineral springs and was already an established spa town. The “spa baths” in Ripon, although a splendid Edwardian building, were eventually closed in 1936 and turned into a swimming pool, which has recently closed as well. Nonetheless, Ripon can still boast that it has the last traditional spa to be built in Britain.

Despite this setback, Ripon quietly continues its business without boasting about its attractions. Visitors often flock to Harrogate, known for its tearooms, gardens, Turkish Baths, and antique shops, without realizing the hidden gems that Ripon has to offer. Rick Jones, owner of Valentino’s Italian restaurant-with-rooms, comments, “We live in a community of niceness with these crazy pockets of glory around – the Cathedral, Fountains Abbey, three museums – which you don’t realize until a visitor mentions.”

One of the notable features of Ripon is its extraordinary friendliness. Owner of the Anglo-Indian café, Realitea, Sarita, even managed to convince a visitor to sign up for Bollywood dancing lessons while they were quietly enjoying their tea. The city’s charm is exemplified in the welcoming atmosphere of its independent establishments like Oliver’s Pantry and Storehouse Kitchen. The city’s museums, which may seem prosaic at first glance, provide an unexpectedly absorbing experience. The Victorian Workhouse, Prison and Police Museum, and the Courthouse Museum shed light on Ripon’s history and give visitors a glimpse into the lives of its past inhabitants.

Ripon is more than just a cathedral city; it is a market town with a sense of pride and a strong support for its local businesses. The market, which sells everything from matronly underwear to delectable cheeses, is a bustling affair that showcases the town’s diversity. The city’s market place is an eclectic mix of Georgian and Tudor buildings, where traditional establishments like Appleton’s butchers can be found alongside more modern retailers like Argos. A longstanding tradition of the city is the “Hornblower,” who blows a horn every evening at nine o’clock to signal that the watch is set and the citizens are safe.

Ripon’s independent shops are also worth exploring. The Little Ripon Bookshop stocks books that the people of Ripon are interested in, and the owners pride themselves on offering a personal touch that online shopping cannot provide. Tartine’s Lounge, a small back-room restaurant, exudes a French vibe and serves delicious food. The GreenHouse, which sells eco-friendly products, and Realitea, which offers an Indian twist on traditional afternoon tea, are also popular among locals and visitors alike.

One of the most beautiful streets in Ripon is Kirkgate, which is lined with cozy restaurants and the David Stead Gallery. The gallery showcases the artist’s vibrant and expressive landscapes, inspired by the stunning Yorkshire Dales limestone landscape and the North York Moors. Stead points out that Ripon is the perfect location as it is right in the middle of everything, surrounded by astonishing landscapes in every direction.

As I left Ripon, the sun was casting a warm glow on the west facade of the cathedral, making it resemble a Tuscan duomo. It was a reminder that Ripon has its own unique beauty and charm, despite being overshadowed by its more famous neighbor. Ripon may be small, but it has a lot to offer visitors who take the time to explore its hidden treasures. So next time you find yourself tempted by the glitz and glamour of Harrogate, remember that Ripon has astonishing landscapes, friendly locals, and a sense of pride that is hard to resist.

More detail via The Telegraph here… ( Image via The Telegraph )

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