Are these really “charity shops and cafes”? Spent a day in Yorkshire’s smallest town – just a 30 minute drive from Teesside

At a quick glance, it might seem that Yorkshire’s smallest town doesn’t have much more than charity shops and cafes. That’s what some locals said to a Yorkshire Live journalist during his first visit to Ripon.

Determined to dig below the surface and see what the city had to offer if you venture from the Market Square, Megan Banner returned for a thorough examination of Ripon. It turns out the town is full of independent shops – from quirky boutiques to quirky furniture stores – and even has a vegan hairdresser and a unique Indian tapas joint.

Here’s how Megan found her trip to Yorkshire’s smallest town, which is only a 30-minute drive away for some Teessiders, in her own words:

READ MORE:What life is like in Yorkshire’s smallest town, less than an hour’s drive from Middlesbrough

Ripon has three rivers dotted with bars and restaurants where you can take in the stunning scenery, with some restaurants having the cathedral as a backdrop. From the market square you will find small streets and snickets that house the quirky shops for which Ripon is loved.

Among them are unusual cafes, pubs and unique cuisines that are unique to Yorkshire’s smallest town. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to look for these unique and quirky spots – we’ve put together a guide to our favorite shops and independent businesses in Ripon.

Where to shop independently?

The independent shops are what keep people coming back to visit Ripon – it’s full of unique experiences with things you can only buy once and can’t buy in larger Yorkshire towns such as Leeds or York.

When I last visited Ripon I was told by local residents that the town lacked door-to-door stores and that they had to venture to York or Leeds to get what they needed. But when you step away from the hustle and bustle of the square, there are home decor stores that offer up to 30 years of industry experience.

The castle houses everything that is for the house

The castle houses everything related to household items. I honestly could have spent hours exploring the multiple rooms they have full of original design pieces – it was my idea of ​​a dream.

Karma is a great clothing and gift shop that even offers unique clothes made from recycled sarees, all designed by the store owner. The shop also offers a range of incense, sage and oils for your home.

Every nook and cranny of the city has something different to share, and the best thing about independent stores? They can jump on a new trend so quickly.

It’s independence that’s kept stores like these going for so long, according to locals, who say if they didn’t offer what people want, which are different from chains, they just wouldn’t last . The shop owners are trying to spread the word about Ripon and make people realize that they don’t have to go to the big cities to shop.

Where to eat and drink?

Realitea is an independent tea room and Indian bistro with a twist. From lattes and cappuccinos to melted hot chocolate, the quirky tea room also offers indulgent afternoon tea and delicious pastries.

The twist? Realitea serves tapas in the evening with family favorite Indian dishes. You can bring wine or beer and there is no menu, Realitea cooks what they want – which has proven very popular with customers.

If it’s a hot summer day why not sit outside at Rat d’Eau which sits beside one of Ripon’s three rivers. It offers stunning views of the tranquil water away from the hustle and bustle of downtown, with the cathedral as a backdrop.

Ripon Market is legally required to trade every Thursday – another of the town’s quirky factors – and it has plenty of food and drink stalls to sample.

Vanora's is an idyllic bakery tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the Market Square
Vanora’s is an idyllic bakery tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the Market Square

Vanora’s Bakery provides the most delicious baked goods that people line up at the door for. The beautiful exterior appears to have been salvaged from the south of France and placed in Ripon. They also sell baskets which make a perfect gift for a special occasion.

Where to stay?

As the town grew in popularity, Ripon residents and business owners realized that there were not enough rooms for people to stay. Now some restaurants have been smartly converted to accommodate visitors on sites like Airbnb – they are already in high demand with full occupancy until October

Ripon is trying to become a staycation destination rather than a day trip, they say people don’t spend enough time in the town to enjoy it.

What is there to see?

Not only does the town have some unique shops, but it’s also home to a boutique cinema and a pop-up theater in an otherwise quaint bookstore, which offers daily access to 500,000 books.

The Ripon Theater Festival takes place this weekend (June 23-26) where over 20 professional theater companies and independent artists take part in a four-day event. More than a dozen venues across the city host this unique festival which is expected to see thousands flocking to it.

Acts taking part in the event include: Red Ladder from Leeds with their production of The Damned United, Outdoor Theater Specialists, Arts Hub, Fell-Foss Theater and Pyramus & Thisbe Production and Pyramus and Thisbe.


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