Though there are campsites in Ripon, we decided to stay at Bilton Park
and take the bus from Harrogate. The 36 bus which runs between Ripon and Leeds via Harrogate is an absolutely superb service, with buses running every 15 minutes to late in the evening and with a luxurious bus fleet.
The same could not be quite said for the Dales bus number 139, which we took for our trip to Fountains Abbey. This is an infrequent service not only on the times operated but also on the number of the days of the week but we chose Monday, which is one of their operating days, though I understand that a different company operates a Sunday service. The bus was half an hour late and a quick telephone call confirmed that it was on its way. The label on the driver’s shirt claiming ‘Luxury Coach Travel’ was a bit off the mark for this workhorse but it did the trick, the driver was incredibly polite.
In fact the delay worked in our favour as it allowed us to arrive at Fountains Abbey closer to 12.00 and time for an early lunch. We must confess we are fans of NT lunches; they are well prepared, tasty and always have vegetables. The Abbey is about a 10 to 15 minute walk from the visitor centre and suitably fortified for a quick appreciation of this magnificent building before joining a one and a half hour tour.
The Abbey is nothing but imposing, its ruins magnificent and on par with any cathedral in the country and this together with the not so large but impressive Ripon cathedral indicates the wealth and power that the church occupied. The guide gave us a superb insight into the history of the Abbey up to dissolution and beyond.
What we did not know was that the reason that this is a world heritage site is because of its magnificent water gardens and this occupies two thirds of the tour, though a reasonable part of that time is occupied by walking the extensive grounds. The water gardens which were part of the Studley Royal Mansion were created by John Aislabie in 1718 is and is one of the best surviving examples of a Georgian water garden in England. We cannot praise our guide highly enough he was informative, kept us interested and was witty at the same time, in a very quietly spoken manner.
The only thing that remains of the house, burnt down by a fire in 1946, is the stable block, which is now a private residence. An interesting yarn was told by our guide, that the fire brigade, on receiving a call about the fire, proceeded to the pub with a similar name and then reported that the pub was safe and in the meantime Studley Royal Manor burnt down. Glad to see that the firefighters had their priorities right.
The tour finishes near the other entrance to the grounds and
afternoon teas was taken overlooking the lake. The plan was to take the walk
back through the grounds, taking the higher walk to gain a different
perspective but we decided to continue and walk to Ripon, about a couple a miles
from this gateway, passing through the deer meadow on route. In any case you have to have a reason to
We approached Ripon by taking a very pleasant river walk. The town is dominated by its cathedral and associated historical buildings and this is a very pleasant area of town or should I say city. It nevertheless has an attractive market square as a reminder of its importance as a market centre. Ripon was a fitting end to a great day out courtesy of the number 36 bus.