Spent a day in Yorkshire’s smallest town to see if it was really just ‘charity shops and cafes’

From your first look at Ripon you might think ‘Yorkshire’s smallest town’ has little more than charity shops and cafes – that’s indeed what some locals have told me last month.

So I decided to go back and venture out from the marketplace to really dig below the surface to find if it really had more to offer.

It turns out that Ripon is full of independent shops ranging from quirky boutiques to furniture stores with everything imaginable, vegan hairdressers and Indian tapas.

Read more: Angry Ripon residents slam police for unanswered 101 calls as yobs drive town ‘downhill’

The town, the smallest in Yorkshire, also has three rivers with bars and restaurants where you can take in the beautiful scenery with the cathedral as a backdrop.

With a thriving market square and a magnificent cathedral, this bustling little town has a lot to offer. From the market square you will find small streets and snickets which house the quirky shops for which Ripon is loved. Among them are unusual cafes, pubs and unique cuisines unique to Yorkshire’s smallest town.

The castle houses everything at home

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

Ripon is big on independent stores and that’s what they say keeps people coming back – full of unique experiences with things you can only buy as one and couldn’t buy in the big cities like Leeds or York.

On my last visit to Ripon I was told by local residents that the town lacked home shops and that they should venture to York or Leeds – but when you venture away from the hustle and bustle of the square, there are home and furniture stores that offer up to 30 years of industry experience.

The Castle, shelters everything at home. I honestly could have spent hours exploring the multiple rooms they have chock full of quirky decor – it was my idea of ​​a dream.

Karma is a great clothing and gift shop that sells everything imaginable, unique clothing made from recycled sarees, all designed by the shop owner, body and mind, 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.

Residents say independence is what has kept stores like this for so long, if they weren’t what people want and so different they couldn’t last. The shop owners are trying to spread the word about Ripon and make people understand that they don’t have to go to the cities to shop, we can shop locally.

Where to eat and drink

Realitea is an independent tea room and Indian bistro with a twist. From lattes to cappuccinos to melted hot chocolate, the quirky tea room has it all. – you can also indulge in afternoon tea or pastries. The twist? Realitea serves tapas nights 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 people.

Vanoras is an idyllic bakery tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the market square
Vanoras is an idyllic bakery tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the market square

If it’s a scorching summer day why not sit outside at the Water Rat which is located beside one of Ripon’s three rivers – it offers stunning views of the tranquil water away from the hustle and bustle from the city center, with the cathedral in the background.

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

Vanoras provides the most delicious baked goods that people queue up for – looks like they were scavenged from the south of France and placed in Ripon, the bakery is idyllic – they also make baskets with stock.

There are also many vegan options in the city. The town is also home to a Michelin-starred restaurant.

Where to stay

Residents and business owners of Ripon realized there weren’t enough rooms for people to stay, they cleverly converted restaurants into Airbnbs to accommodate visitors – they’re already in high demand with occupancy complete 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.

The obelisk, in the market square, where the traditional market is held every Thursday
The obelisk, in the market square, where the traditional market is held every Thursday


Not only does the city have unique shops, but it is also home to a boutique cinema and a pop-up theater in a quaint bookstore that has 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 acts take part in a four-day event. More than a dozen venues across the city host this unique festival which is also 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.

For more information on the Ripon Theater Festival, click here.

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