Tiny little Ripley (population 232) is one of Britain’s last surviving estate villages, tucked away on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, yet it’s only three miles from elegant Harrogate. With the magnificent Ripley castle and gardens, a medieval church, a splendid hotel and restaurant, and “The World’s Best Ice Cream”, Ripley village is an off-the-beaten-path gem that’s perfect for gentle exploring. You’ll soon see why it’s been voted “Best Village in North Yorkshire to live”.
In the 14th century, the principal local family (the Ingilby family) moved the village to the north and started to build Ripley Castle. 700 years later, the Ingilby family still own and occupy the castle – the current residents are the 28th generation!
While neither as significant or as grand as some of Britain’s better-known castles, Ripley Castle has plenty to offer the discerning visitor, with picturesque architecture, colourful history, a fabulous female heroine, and stunning gardens.
I’ve visited Ripley village many times; however, this was my first visit to the Castle itself, which has survived wars and plagues and narrowly escaped destruction during the civil war. Today it’s packed with a treasure trove of historic family treasures.
What to See and Do at Ripley Castle and Gardens
Some of the highlights include the magnificent spiral stairway in the old tower, and the secret rooms and hiding places (including a priest hole), used by Catholics to escape persecution during the reign of Protestant monarchs after the death of “Bloody Mary”.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t join a guided tour on this visit, due to COVID-19 restrictions, but I’ll be back to do this as soon as I can! On this visit, I focussed on learning about the Castle’s history, and on exploring the gardens and parkland.
The Ripley Castle Gardens
The Castle is set in extensive grounds, designed by English landscape architect Lancelot “Capability Brown”. There’s an orangery, Victorian walled garden, a large lake with a cascading weir and a beautiful deer park to see.
Visit from mid-spring until June to see the high south-facing walls of the Castle covered with glorious amethyst blooms from ancient wisteria and clematis.
The Walled Gardens – Home of the National Hyacinth Collection.
The best time to visit the Walled Gardens is in April when the bulbs are in bloom – the sight and scent of the massed flowers are intoxicating! There’s also an extensive herb garden, an extraordinary collection of rare fruit and vegetables, plus some of the most significant herbaceous borders in Britain.
The Hothouses at Ripley Castle
A peek into the hothouses produces many more delights: tropical plants, ferns and cacti of such variety.
The Pleasure Gardens
Take a look at the specimen trees from around the world and thousands of spring-flowering bulbs, daffodils, narcissi, snowdrops, aconites and bluebells in the Pleasure Gardens too.
The Deer Park at Ripley castle
One of the most enjoyable walks is the park walk which takes you around the Castle’s sizeable ornamental lake, across the waterfall and into the deer park itself. Visit to see cute bridges, waterfalls and peaceful woodland trails among ancient oak trees – some as old as one thousand years.
There’s plenty of wildlife in the deer park too. Look out for fallow deer, rabbits, squirrels, heron, Canada and greylag geese, mallard, teal and wigeon, pheasants, woodpeckers and, if you are lucky, a kingfisher as it flashes past.
Expect to spend a good few hours on your tranquil walk around these tranquil gardens!
Ripley Castle’s Family History
How the Ingilby family got their coat of arms
The Ingilby family originated in Lincolnshire during the early Middle Ages, before Thomas Ingilby married heiress Edeline Thweng and moved north to Ripley. Thomas found favour with King Edward III who fell from his horse in the royal forest of Knaresborough while out hunting.
The King was almost gored by a wild boar; however, Ingilby rode to the rescue and killed the boar. His reward was a knighthood and a family crest featuring a boar’s head.
When you walk around the village and Castle today, you’ll see many references to pigs and boars. Look out for the massive statue of a boar outside the church!
The Wild Boar statue is also a drinking water fountain – great for topping up your water bottle, or giving your thirsty dog a drink!
Ripley Castle in Tudor and Stuart Britain
When Protestant Queen Elizabeth I succeeded to the English throne after the death of her Catholic sister Mary, life got tough for the Catholic Ingilby family. Sir William remained loyal to the crown during the Catholic Rising of 1569; however, his son Francis, who was a priest, was hanged, drawn and quartered for high treason!
In the early 17th Century, Sir William Ingilby (1546-1618) hosted Scotland’s James VI on his journey to London, to his coronation as King James I of England.
Just two years later Sir William also hosted the Catholic gang of the Gunpowder Plot as they plotted to kill the new Protestant King. While Sir William was charged with treason, he was acquitted and escaped with his life.
During the First English Civil War, the formidable Jane Ingilby (known as “Trooper Jane”) took part in the nearby Battle of Marston Moor (1644) beside her Royalist brother, the 6th Sir William. After the Royalist defeat, Jane made it back to the Castle just as the victorious Cromwell turned up seeking a room for the night. While her brother hid in a secret priest hole, Jane let Cromwell in on condition that she could keep her pistols!
Sir John Ingilby rebuilt the Castle in the 1780s, then his son, also called Sir John, completely rebuilt Ripley village. More eccentric Ingilbys followed, leaving behind them a trail of mistresses, illegitimate children, and disinherited heirs.
More Things to See in Ripley
Ripley is a very pretty village, with an immaculate high street, manicured grass verges and chocolate box worthy houses and cottages.
All Saints Church
Overlooking the Castle, Ripley’s church dates to the 14th century and is rich in history. In addition to housing tombs for members of the Ingilby family, one of the church walls is scarred with bullet holes.
These mark the time when Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarian soldiers executed Royalist prisoners after the battle of Marston Moor. (First English Civil War 1644).
Sir Thomas Ingilby and Lady Edeline were buried in the old parish church on the banks of the River Nidd, but the church began to subside when the river changed course. Their son built today’s Perpendicular church on higher ground, opposite the castle gates and relocated their tomb to the new church.
The Ancient Weeping Cross
The churchyard features a 14th-century “weeping cross”, believed to be the last one remaining in Britain. The stone pedestal features small (tiny!) recesses, where pilgrims and penitents would kneel. The cross itself has been lost for years. It’s now replaced by stones where the base of the cross would have been.
A weeping cross is a stone cross built on or by a road, for the devotions of penitents or pilgrims.
Other Ancient Monuments
The cobbled village square has two Grade II ancient monuments. The first is the 15th-century village cross with a sundial which dates back to the 18th century. The cross has a square base with five steps; however, only the base of the cross remains today.
An 18th-century set of stocks remains next to the cross. The victim could sit on the lowest step of the cross, while secured in the stocks.
Both within the castle gardens, and all-around Ripley village, the spring displays of snowdrops, daffodils and primroses are breath-taking. Ripley is famous for its beautiful bluebell woods too. Find photos and details of a scenic bluebell walk here.
How to Get to Ripley
By Car: Ripley is just off the A61, between Ripon and Harrogate. The A61 connects to M1 18 miles south; to M62 20 miles south and to A1 8 miles north).
By Bus/Train: Ripley is on the number 36 bus route (Leeds – Harrogate – Ripon, with onward train connections available in Harrogate and Leeds.
Where to Eat in Ripley
The Boar’s Head Hotel: Find this stunning hotel and bar just outside the castle entrance, in the cobbled village square.
Ripley Ice Cream: It’s almost impossible to visit Ripley without trying some of the “World’s Best Ice Cream”! The ice cream is lusciously soft and creamy, with a great selection of delicious flavours. Expect to queue, as the shop is always ridiculously busy.
Q1. Has Ripley ever been a film location?
Yes. Filmmakers chose the village of Ripley as one of the locations for the 1970 TV adaptation of Jane Eyre in which Susannah York was Emmy-nominated for her portrayal of Jane. All Saints Church features several times in the movie.
Ripley Castle was also a location for “Frankenstein” (1984), staring Robert Powell and Carrie Fisher.
Q2. Where can I park in Ripley Village?
The village car park is located just off the A61 and offers plentiful, free parking. It’s moments from the centre of the village. Satnav HG3 3AX.
Q3. Is Ripley Castle dog friendly?
No dogs (other than assistance dogs) can visit the castle or gardens, due to the deer in the park. There is a scenic dog walk through the woods on Hollybank Lane, around the outside of the castle walls, with dog bins at regular intervals along the lane.
Do you love countryside walk? Here’s a picturesque 9-mile circular walk around pretty North Yorkshire villages which starts and ends in Ripley.
Pin for later – How to Visit Ripley Castle & Gardens [Yorkshire, UK]
Do you enjoy visiting countryside villages and exploring Britain’s castles too? Which ones have you visited and which was your favourite? Maybe you’ve already been to Ripley? What did you love? Did I miss anything important out? Please share your thoughts in the comments! As always, I love to hear from you x