The charming city of Ripon is a great base for exploring the myriad attractions of Nidderdale in North Yorkshire. Whether you love a day at the races, poking around historical buildings, or spending time in the glorious Yorkshire countryside, there are so many things to do near Ripon!
Taking a few days out near Ripon makes the perfect addition to your UK itinerary. In this post, you’ll find my recommendations for the best places and things to do near Ripon.
Related Post: 13 Things to Do in Ripon – A Tiny City to Love
The Best Things to Do Near Ripon
Here are some of the best places to visit near Ripon on your trip to Nidderdale.
1. Enjoy A Day At The Races
Yorkshire has more racecourses than any other county in England, so if you’re a racing fan, there are plenty of race meetings to choose from.
For over 300 years, Ripon Racecourse (known as “Yorkshire’s Garden Racecourse” has hosted some of the best racing in the country, and it was voted “Best Small Racecourse in the North” by the Racegoers Club in 2011, 2014, and 2015.
During the flat racing season, a day at the Ripon Races is an enjoyable way to spend the day, and Ladies Day is a real treat!
Location: Boroughbridge Rd, HG4 1UG
2. Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal
One of the best things to do while you’re visiting Ripon is to spend a day at the hauntingly beautiful UNESCO World Heritage site, Fountains Abbey – a medieval monastery founded in 1132 by Benedictine Monks that was ruined on the orders of King Henry VIII, during the dissolution of the monasteries.
Fountains Abbey is England’s best-preserved Cistercian monastery, just under four miles from Ripon. The Abbey sits within the Studley Royal estate, which includes the magnificent Studley Royal Water Gardens, St Mary’s Church, Fountains Hall, and a stunning deer park!
Location: Fountains, HG4 3DY
Check out: What to See and Do at Fountains Abbey
3. Lightwater Valley
Just 10 minutes from Ripon, Lightwater Valley is a popular theme park with about 30 thrill rides, children’s play areas and animal attractions.
The standout white-knuckle ride is the 2,268 metres ride “The Ultimate”. It’s the longest steel rollercoaster in Europe and the second-longest in the world.
Eagle’s Creek farm has pygmy goats, Shetland ponies, and donkeys for visitors wanting less of an adrenalin rush.
Location: Water Lane, North Stainley, HG4 3HT
4. Talon Falconry
Talon Falconry allows you to see how falcons are handled and trained and to see them in action at the flying demonstrations. You can even don a gauntlet and let one of these amazing birds of prey land on your arm!
There’s also a wild birds area, bird boxes with webcams, owl and hawk experiences, plus falconry courses.
Location: Water Lane, North Stainley, HG4 3HT
5. Markenfield Hall
Markenfield Hall is a mostly 14th-century Grade I-listed manor house with a 16th-century Tudor gatehouse. Look out for the vaulted Gothic undercroft/kitchen, the great hall, chapel, and the impressive four-poster bedroom!
Location: Markenfield Hall, HG4 3AD
6. Newby Hall and Gardens
Glorious Newby Hall is a late-17th-century country house next to the River Ure. Visiting here is like stepping back through the pages of history to meet some of England’s most famous designers!
- Sir Christopher Wren was involved in the house design.
- Robert Adam helped remodel the interiors.
- Thomas Chippendale hall and dining chairs, and Pembroke tables for the house.
The chairs in the Tapestry Room are covered with unique tapestry fabric from the famous Gobelins factory in Paris. They are the only remaining Chippendale suite still to have original coverings and to be in their original setting.
Other highlights at Newby Hall include the Sicilian marble floors, stucco panels, mahogany doors, Corinthian columns, Renaissance paintings, and alabaster urns.
In the 25 acres of award-winning gardens, look out for the double herbaceous border, water garden, rose garden, tropical garden, woodland garden, and two rock gardens! Find out more about Newby Hall, including opening hours.
Location: Newby Hall, Skelton-on-Ure, HG4 5AE
7. Druids’ Temple
In the early 19th century, scholar and wealthy landowner William Danby built a folly on his estate in lower Wensleydale. near Ripon. Using cheap local labour in a scheme to alleviate unemployment, he created The Druid’s Temple as a tribute to Stonehenge.
Today, the monument is a favourite picnicking spot, wrapped in fern-bedded woodland. Despite its well-documented history, many tales of devil worship and strange secret rituals have circulated about the Druid’s Temple over the last 200 years!
Location: Knowle Ln, HG4 4JZ
8. Brimham Rocks
Known as “The Wonder of Nidderdale”, these massive rocks were formed millions of years ago. Many of the rocks have been named after things they look like. It’s fun to walk around the huge site spotting “the eagle”, the “dancing bear” and the “castle”.
Brimham Rocks is a National Trust site, so it’s free to visit if you’re a member. For other visitors, the only charge is for the car park.
Tip: Visit Brimham at dawn for the most incredible sunrise shots!
Location: Brimham Moor Road, Summerbridge, Harrogate HG3 4DW
9. The Himalayan Garden & Sculpture Park
This beautiful 45-acre Himalayan-inspired park is packed with interesting plants and 85 sculptures. With over 20,000 plants, this Himalayan garden has the biggest collection of rhododendrons in the country! When they are in bloom, it’s spectacular!
The park is set in a beautiful valley with 3 lakes and there’s also a lovely arboretum with over 300 trees, including an oak tree that’s over 1,000 years old – descended from the King Alfred oak at Blenheim Palace.
Location: The Hutts, Grewelthorpe, Ripon, HG4 3DA
10. Coldstones Cut
Coldstones Cut is the biggest public artwork in Britain, but it’s hidden away in deepest Nidderdale. The massive structure overlooks the working Coldstones Quarry and has incredible views over the Yorkshire Dales.
It’s located in one of the highest places in the Dales and can be very chilly – so you need to wrap up warm if there’s even a hint of wind or rain in the forecast!
11. Discover Falls & Follies at Hackfall Woods
The woodland garden at Hackfall Woods was designed in the 1700s by the Aislabie family, who also landscaped the water gardens at Studley Royal. Hackfall Woods is quite different to the manicured style of Studley Royal, though as it was designed to be a “beautiful wilderness”.
There are surprises at every turn, from lush woodland to a 40-foot waterfall, a ruined castle and several follies with plenty of easy-to-follow paths. If you fancy stretching your legs further, the 17.5-mile circular Hackfall Woods Walk from Studley Royal includes Hackfall Woods and is very scenic.
Active Things to Do Near Ripon
If you’re fit, you’ll love the National Trust Long Dales Route that winds through the most incredible Yorkshire scenery. It’s quite a challenge!
The route starts from Fountains Abbey and takes in the Studley Royal deer park, cute country lanes, thigh-trembling steep climbs and the prettiest villages. Find full details here.
Book Your Trip to Ripon
Directions to Ripon
The nearest airport to Ripon is Leeds Bradford, with Manchester the nearest international airport.
There’s no train service to Ripon, so the best option is to drive – especially if you want to explore some of the lovely places near Ripon highlighted in this post.
Where to Stay Near Ripon
Grantley Hall is an exceptional luxury country house style hotel just outside the centre of Ripon with a spa and a lovely restaurant. It’s the perfect place to unwind after a busy day of sightseeing. It’s surprisingly affordable too – especially if you’re more used to paying London prices.
If you prefer to be located in the city centre, the Unicorn is a quirky 700-year-old coaching inn in Ripon’s Market Square, while The Tailor’s Clubroom is simply THE place to stay if you’re going to the Ripon Races.
I hope this post inspires you to visit Yorkshire. Let me know in the comments if you’ve been to Yorkshire, are planning to go, or maybe you’ve been to Ripon? Did you explore and try out some of the best things to do near Ripon? I’d love to hear your highlights.
More Travel Inspiration for Your Trip to Yorkshire
Find all the posts about Yorkshire in the Yorkshire Travel Guide.