My friend suggested a drive out into the Yorkshire countryside and a visit to Ripley Castle. Ripley is situated 3 miles north of Harrogate. It is also the preferred starting point of a 53 mile circular walking trail known as ‘The Nidderdale Way’ which passes through some delightful Yorkshire beauty spots including Brimham Rocks. We managed to find one of the few remaining spaces in the village car park from where there are beautiful views of both the castle and the Nidderdale valley.
The village is based on a French model village and has some delightful old stone architecture. It is the only place in Britain to have a ‘Hotel de Ville’ instead of a Town Hall! There’s a cobbled market square with a war memorial, market cross and village stocks. In case you might be wondering what ‘stocks’ are – they were used as a form of physical punishment involving public humiliation. The wooden stocks partially immobilised its victims and they were usually to be found in public places such as market squares. Facing the square is an old coaching inn, ‘The Boar’s Head’ which is one of the Great Inns of Britain. This inviting hostelry serves local ales, bar snacks and full meals and there are several rooms for overnight stays.
The village school, Ripley Endowed was founded in 1702 and rebuilt in 1820 and is set back slightly from the main road. Wouldn’t you just love to have attended a primary school like this? I certainly would! The population of Ripley is approximately 260 and it’s a thriving community with a parade of shops, all fashioned from old stone cottages, these include a post office, traditional butchers, general store and an ice cream shop.
It was then time to visit the castle and gardens comprising the Ripley Castle estate. The Ingilby family are one of the ten oldest families in the country still occupying the same residence (700 years in 2009), the castle having belonged to the same family for 26 generations.
Stepping through the ornate entrance gates we marvelled at the ancient castle with its large lawned estate stretching out as far as the eye could see. A guided tour of the castle takes 45 minutes taking visitors through the formal rooms and ending in the Knight’s chamber. We then followed the terrace around the castle to reach the Lakeview Path leading to the Lakeside Walk. It takes around 30 minutes to take this circular walk which leads over the waterfall bridge to the deer park. We didn’t spot any deer on our walk but we did see some ducks, geese and a heron as we strolled along. Some of the ancient oak trees are over one thousand years old and these have such a wide girth and gnarled branches but still looked healthy.
We then explored the walled gardens which have huge herbaceous borders which were a riot of colour. Ancient wisteria and clematis cling to the south facing stone walls whilst the herb garden contains both culinary and medicinal herbs all beautifully labelled using old stone signs.
Our tour then took us to the glass houses which contain many specimen tropical plants, ferns and cacti, most of which had been labelled for ease of identification. Before leaving we visited the Castle tearoom which serves a good selection of scones, cakes and cooked dishes.
As it was such a nice day most people were sitting outside enjoying the warm sunny weather. The end of a lovely day out in Ripley, if you are just visiting the gardens admission is free on weekdays. More details can be found here.
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