Yorkshire, England – Ripon and the Cathedral and Tykes on Bikes

Ripon Market Place

“I came around a corner in the road, not thinking of anything other than reaching my destination, miles to the north, in the Yorkshire Dales,  rising up ahead of me… was a gorgeous church, practically towering over me.” 

I have been challenged several times for neglecting to visit more places in the United Kingdom and so after many years avoiding UK travel opportunities for some unexplained reason I decided completely out of character that we should set off for a couple of days into neighbouring Yorkshire.

The journey was a pleasant, mostly free flowing motorway and as this was a bank holiday I considered ourselves fortunate to reach the Cathedral city of Ripon in a little under two hours and parked the car close to the large Market Square and wandered into the centre.

Yorkshire Dales Postcard Map

If I had temporarily forgotten why I don’t travel in England I was reminded straight away.  Apart from the obvious differences in physical layout (and to be fair Ripon has a large and attractive market place) they are all the same.  Every town has the same shops, there is practically no individuality in the town centres.  Every shop that I can expect to find in my home town could also be found here.  These are not shops that interest me a great deal in Grimsby so it was completely unlikely that they would do so in Ripon.

Even worse than this however is the fact that town centre shops are in decline and just as in every other English town there was an over-supply of banks, building societies and pay day loan money lenders.  The trouble with financial service providers of course is that they simply cannot make their window displays interesting and except for a different logo all they can display is a list of lending and savings rates all of which are mostly similar anyway.

And then there are coffee shops. Coffee shops everywhere, they are spreading like a disease and I fail to understand the attraction of paying an inflated amount for a teaspoon full of granules and some hot milk and water.  If you want a drink – go to the pub!

Not being a fan of cycling I had forgotten that the 2014 Tour de France was starting with three stages in Yorkshire and this at last explained why there were so many yellow bicycles on display. Bicycles everywhere, yellow jerseys, yellow shop displays, yellow flags.  Every shop window, every advertising hoarding, every lamp post – the biggest and most successful French invasion since the Norman Conquest.

Tour de France Yorkshire

Personally I find it rather odd that they should start the Tour de France in Northern England, it’s like playing the first week of Wimbledon at Roland Garros or racing the first ten laps of the Canadian Grand Prix at Indianapolis and almost as daft as holding the FIFA Football World Cup in Qatar.

It didn’t take very long to walk around the centre of the fourth smallest city in England (fourth after Ely, Wells and the City of London) and after visiting a display of local art (not very good) in the Tourist Information Office we made our way along a street of charity shops and tea rooms to the jewel of the City – the Romanesque Cathedral.

The website Britain Express awards Ripon Cathedral a Heritage rating of four out of five and we entered through the main doors and waited for a few minutes while prayers were being said and then made a rapid tour of one of the smallest cathedrals in England.

Ripon is the Cathedral of the Bishop of Leeds for the Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales.  This is a new Diocese created by a Church reorganisation in 2014 and as well as Ripon the Diocese has two more cathedrals at Wakefield and Bradford.  In fact Yorkshire has five cathedrals in all because there are two more at York and at Sheffield.  I used to think that each English County had only one Cathedral city but it turns out that as well as Yorkshire having five, Lancashire has four and Cambridgeshire, Kent and Hampshire all have two each.  Of all the forty-two Diocese however, West Yorkshire and the Dales is definitely however the only one with three cathedrals!

It is also possibly the largest Diocese in England although both Lincoln and York are working hard to dispute this claim and take bragging rights for themselves. It’s a very close thing, all of them cover an area of about two thousand seven hundred(ish) square miles but this is nothing however compared with the Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe which is geographically the largest diocese of the Church of England covering nearly a fifth of the entire World including North Africa, Europe (but not the UK obviously because this is split between Canterbury and York), a bit of Asia (Turkey) and the countries of the former Soviet Union.

Despite this immensity it has only one cathedral, the Diocesan Cathedral is the Holy Trinity, Gibraltar which is interesting for its Moorish style of architecture and it is headed by the Bishop in Europe, Rob Innes.  Except for having to live in Gibraltar* that sounds like a rather good job!

Plain and austere (except for Gibraltar), Anglican Cathedrals are no way near as interesting as the great Catholic cathedrals of Europe so it really didn’t take a great deal of time to look around.  At one stage there are some nice carvings of a handful of English medieval Kings and an impressive stained glass window but the Cathedral is most proud of its Saxon crypt which dates from 672AD and is claimed to be the oldest church building in England which has been in uninterrupted continuous use.  The crypt, less than ten feet high and seven feet wide, is part of one of England’s first stone churches and was founded by St Wilfrid to be the guardian of the Christian faith in the Saxon kingdom of Northumbria.

On account of this I was expecting great things but a steep set of steps led to the overwhelmingly disappointing bare room and another set of steps led out again almost immediately from the other side.

And so we left the Cathedral and found a small café where we stopped briefly for a light lunch and a pot of Yorkshire tea and then made our way back to the car park and drove out of Ripon towards our next destination at nearby Fountains Abbey.

Ripon Cathedral Yorkshire

Some interesting information about cathedrals

* Actually he doesn’t live there at all.   The Right  Reverend Dr Robert Innes  lives in Brussells on the dubious basis that he represents the Archbishop of Canterbury in matters European.  No wonder he his smiling…

Day to Day affairs in Gibraltar are left to Archdeacon Davis Waller but he doesn’t live in Gibraltar either, he lives in Palma, Majorca.  I really had no idea that there were so many good jobs to be had in the Church of England.

Maybe I took the wrong career path, apart from working on Sundays I can’t see any downsides to being a Church of England Priest, you get to keep the Easter collection money as an annual bonus and you don’t even have to remain celibate.



54 responses to “Yorkshire, England – Ripon and the Cathedral and Tykes on Bikes

  1. Not a fan of cycling? Andrew I don’t believe it. 🙂 I do agree about it being odd starting the Tour de France in England. Very humorous comparisons. Now could you get me one of those yellow bikes?


  2. I don’t see the relevance of the shops especially as you always say you don’t like shopping. And I don’t know anyone who chooses a holiday destination based on the shops.

    What’s wrong with starting the TdeF in Northern England? It’s been started abroad ie outside France since you were born! And seven years ago it started darn sarf. Yks has spectacular scenery and some evil hills that I would NOT be cycling up. Not the Pyrenees, but still touch on the old legs.

    Now what else, oh yes. Gib. You haven’t even been, so you can hardly pass a view on the cathedral based on whatever you have read. Personally, I think it is plain. As are most of the Christian churches I have visited here. I seem to remember writing about the diocese a while ago but can’t find the post!


  3. Isn’t Yorkshire area where “All Creatures Great and Small was filmed?


  4. Hope you won’t mind me asking a question about another of your blogs but, as that blog was some time ago, I thought you might not pick up my question. My husband and I are invited to the Royal Garden party for the Red Cross next week. (No idea why! We’re supporters but only in a very small way.) Anyway, the paperwork says that we can enter by a gate near Hyde Park but I can’t see it anywhere on maps. Did you see other entrances while you were in the Palace gardens? maybe we should settle for the main entrance; is it special to walk through the Palace entrance? I really enjoyed your article.


  5. Sigh. We always think our worn backyards are boring. I haven’t traveled much in my country because it is more expensive than traveling abroad. Doesn’t make sense but there you have it. I might be disappointed as well for the sameness as you mention in your post.


    • It is familiarity. Going away in your own country means doing the same things, using the same currency, eating the same food, watching the same TV, it just isn’t exciting! I’ll leave England to overseas visitors while I exchange with them!


  6. Yorkshire is a lovely area of England. Lovely scenery. The north is more scenic than the south as the hills give definition to the landscape.


  7. Pingback: Yorkshire – Ripon Cathedral and Tykes on Bikes | Have Bag, Will Travel

  8. With regard to Crawley and Gibraltar, I’ve lived just outside one, and visited the other and it’s a close run thing as to which was the more depressing place, but I think Crawley just edges it, because Gibraltar has better weather. That’s about it though!


  9. Your demolition of our high streets is so pertinent


  10. As ever a great blog covering a lot of ground… quite a tour in fact! Good points about the sameness of cities and towns – but we always wander away from the high streets and explore the neglected other places and can come across some lovely treats – interesting churches, bits of strange wall, ghost signs, peculiar people… One of our favourite local places to visit is Bridgwater, and people (especially locals) are amazed that we visit so frequently and find so much of interest!
    I think I have been to Ripon but it was such an age ago i can’t really remember it…


  11. Ever since I started looking for things to photograph I have found cities and town in Australia much more interesting that I had thought before. I think you will always find what you are looking for.


  12. I coffee shop is as good as the cakes it sells.. 😉


  13. It doesn’t make sense at all to begin the Tour in Northern England, or even Southern England, but it is hilarious that you describe it as the most successful French Invasion. I have no sympathy at all for your complaints of coffee shops because we’ve got 13 zillion of them here, with more going up every day. They are valuable to me in the form of free bathrooms and wifi, so I try not to get too annoyed. We are distinctly lacking in pubs, though. The description of the cathedral tour was priceless. Your tone in this post had me giggling throughout.


  14. Pingback: A to Z of Cathedrals – R is for Ripon in Yorkshire | Have Bag, Will Travel

  15. The Grand Depart for 2014’s Tour de France held in Yorkshire was truly magnifique!


  16. I love it when you go off on a rant. And the little conversation with Kate took me to her lovely photo of the cathedral in Gib (of all places).


  17. You’re absolutely right about English city centres. They are just so boring, and cannot compare with Ireland, for example, where there seemed to be so many local family run businesses.
    “Jobs for the boys” my Dad used to call it, and it sounds like the Church of England is a great place to get one. It would be really interesting to hear what Archdeacon Waller does in a week and how much he gets paid for it. “He represents the Archbishop of Canterbury in matters European ” What a joke!


  18. I’ve yet to find England boring, Andrew. Maybe I should hang out there more. Grin. How do you feel about Scotland and Ireland? We’ve made it to Amsterdam and start on our Rhine River cruise tomorrow. No problems on the flight over except the modern misery of airplane travel. We were just glad our flights behaved and was on time, not cancelled and didn’t leave us stranded anywhere. We flew Icelandic. –Curt


  19. I just visited Ripon Cathedral about a month ago and found it lovely, but cathedrals fascinate me!


  20. I don’t mind the sameness of shops, although I’m definitely not a shopper, I mostly avoid all but the smaller, more interesting independent ones.

    I love old buildings and have a dislike of all modern buildings from high storey office blocks and apartments to the boring boxes of modern new build estates.

    I agree about the imported coffee shops too – I fail to understand the trend of picking up a cardboard cup of coffee from Starbucks on the way to work, what’s wrong with popping the kettle on when you get there, cheaper too. 🙂


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