Three years ago, I was studying abroad in Nottingham and our group went on a long weekend trip up north. As we were driving from Fountain’s Abbey to York, Bob the bus driver made a detour and drove us in a quick loop around Ripon. I saw the magnificent cathedral, and (since we couldn’t stop) knew that I would have to come back to Ripon and see it properly.

I finally got that chance last month, now that I’m living in York permanently! Ripon is a great daytrip from York, or a great stopping point if you’re going to Fountain’s Abbey. This cute Yorkshire market town is small but still worth a quick trip. Here are the main places you shouldn’t miss!

Ripon Cathedral

Like so many small towns, the main attraction in Ripon is definitely the cathedral. Originally established by St. Wilfrid in 672 (you can still see the tiny crypt remaining from the original church!), most of the cathedral today dates from the late 1100s to the early 1500s. You can’t miss the magnificent west front, especially if a wedding has just finished like when I visited!

The choir is one place you can’t miss, especially because of the medieval misericords carved into the seats! The most important misericord is of a griffin chasing a rabbit down a rabbit hole, which supposedly inspired Lewis Carroll to write Alice in Wonderland (his father was a canon at Ripon Cathedral from 1852). The Ripon Jewel, currently kept in the treasury museum, is a beautiful Saxon find from the area and worth checking out too.

The cathedral grounds are also beautiful and well worth a walk, especially if it’s a nice day. I love seeing gorgeous buildings like this from all angles!

Market Place

The hub of action in Ripon is the Market Place—market days are Thursday and Saturday, and the third Sunday of the month. If you’re in Ripon in the evening, make sure to show up at the Market Place at 9:00pm. Every evening, the Ripon hornblower (or Wakeman) blows his horn at each corner of the giant obelisk, a tradition that supposedly dates back to 886, when Ripon was granted a town charter. Since I was only in Ripon for the day, I missed this—but apparently the hornblower also gives a little talk on Ripon’s history! You can see a list of all the hornblowers form 1814 to 2004 on a plaque on the obelisk.

Prison and Police Museum

This fantastic museum is housed in the building that used to be the Ripon Prison. I was really impressed by this museum—there is SO much information here! You can see and sit in the former cells, see tons of old police uniforms, and learn about punishments, famous prisoners, and day to day life in prison. The whole museum is really well done (and easy to navigate the route), and definitely worth a stop.

The other two museums in town are the Workhouse Museum and the Courthouse Museum. If you only have time to visit one, I would definitely do the Prison and Police Museum. If you’ve got plenty of time, you can visit all of them—they do a joint ticket for all three for £12 (£11.50 for students).

River Skell walk

One of my favorite parts of my visit to Ripon was walking along the River Skell, directly south of the cathedral. Even though it was raining, it gave amazing views of the cathedral! The houses lining the river are also beautiful and worth taking a few photos. You can also walk along the Ripon Canal, or even do a canal tour if you feel like it.

Ripon is easily accessible from York by bus. You can take bus #22, which takes about 80 minutes to get to Ripon. A return ticket only costs £7.50, which is an absolute bargain for bus fares from York!

I absolutely loved getting to finally explore Ripon, after having such a long-lasting memory from my first glimpse three years ago. It is another small Yorkshire town that is definitely worth a daytrip!

Have you ever returned somewhere you had always wanted to explore? Share your experiences in the comments!