Inside the hidden village that’s privately-owned but bustling with life

If you often travel through North Yorkshire, you might have passed this tiny village that often goes unnoticed.

Hidden in plain sight just off the A61 is the small but bustling village of Ripley, known as the ‘village that never dies’.

It attracts tourists all year round to experience its scenic walks and ‘world-famous’ ice cream.

The village, just a few miles north of Harrogate, is so small that quite often you might not have even realised you’d driven through it.

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The little village is bustling with life, culture and history, with a grand castle that houses a baronet that owns much of the village, reports Yorkshire Live.

Ripley has previously been crowned North Yorkshire’s best village to live in back in 2015 and then in 2017, it was ranked number 17 of the 20 best villages in England to live in by The Times.

A Yorkshire Live reporter headed down one morning to explore the village, learn about the history and find out from residents why they made it home.

On arriving, and parking in Ripley’s lovely big, free car park, it very quickly became apparent how friendly everyone living there was.

It was a cloudy day that was teetering on the edge of rain, but there were lots of people out and about, and most seemed more than happy to chat.

Sue Butler and Nicola Elmore, who were just finishing a walk with Sue’s dog Mabel – regularly come to Ripley for a walk.

Sue Butler and Nicola Elmore and Sue's dog Mabel enjoy a walk in Ripley
Sue Butler and Nicola Elmore and Sue’s dog Mabel enjoy a walk in Ripley
(Image: YorkshireLive)

Sue told Yorkshire Live: “It’s a really nice little village here. It’s pretty and there are some lovely walks around. It’s great to bring your dog here. We usually go for a coffee at the café in the courtyard.

“It’s very busy at the weekend. It seems quite off the beaten track even though it isn’t really at all.”

Sue and Nicola recommended checking out the Boar’s Head Inn for a meal or a drink.

They were right about it being pretty – as the village centre has a neat rows of old stone houses with matching windows and doors.

Two of the buildings are Grade I listed, and 55 of them are Grade II listed.

There’s a specific reason the village looks as it does, due to the village’s most famous landmark: Ripley Castle.

The history of Ripley

Carol Swales, John Vauvelle and their friend were experts in the village's interesting history
Carol Swales, John Vauvelle and their friend were experts in the village’s interesting history
(Image: YorkshireLive)

As previously mentioned, Ripley is privately owned – and much of it belongs to the Ingilby family, who have been living in Ripley Castle for only the past 700 years.

Some of the businesses and properties are no longer owned by the family, currently headed by Sir Thomas Ingilby, sixth Baronet and his wife Lady Emma Ingilby, but many are.

Long-time Ripley residents Carol Swales and John Vauvelle are all well-versed in the history of the village.

“I’ve lived here since I was 22,” Carol told Yorkshire Live.

“It’s lovely – it used to be this quiet, sleepy little village but then Sir Thomas took over and now it’s really busy, always pretty, and gets lots of visitors. And that really helps the businesses in the village.”

An ancestral Ingilby family member apparently saved the king from a boar and received a knighthood for his efforts
An ancestral Ingilby family member apparently saved the king from a boar and received a knighthood for his efforts
(Image: YorkshireLive)

The current Ingilbys made the decision to commercialise Ripley and the castle for the first time after they took over and opened the castle up to the public in the late 1980s.

This is when some of the estate outbuildings became shops, with leases given to business owners in the castle courtyard, and the castle began hosting weddings and receptions.

“You can walk all the way from down by the castle to Clint in Nidderdale and it’s beautiful,” Carol added.

“It’s a very unique place. The cottages were modelled on the buildings in a village in Alsace-Lorraine, France – the owner at the time visited in the 19th century and decided to change the whole village.

“That’s why our town hall is called Hotel de Ville instead.

“We’re very lucky to live here, it’s so lovely.”

Instead of a town hall, Ripley has a Hotel de Ville
Instead of a town hall, Ripley has a Hotel de Ville
(Image: YorkshireLive)

Carol, John and their friend attend regular classes and social events at the Hotel de Ville, and always go out for lunch after church on a Wednesday.

John said: “There’s such a lovely community here. I do a regular litter pick with my group Friends of Ripley – everyone is very friendly and helps out.”

Carol and John’s friend explained the village has its own annual 20-year-old ‘Scarecrow Pig Fest’, where residents organise a trail of pig scarecrows through the village.

The festival is inspired by Thomas de Ingilby, who apparently saved King Edward III from a wild boar attack in 1355. He was knighted and his crest became a boar – the emblem of the village.

A statue of a boar in honour of the village’s favourite animal stands just outside the church.

Living and working in Ripley

Ripley's 'world famous' ice-cream store, part of the Ripley Store
Ripley’s ‘world famous’ ice-cream store, part of the Ripley Store
(Image: YorkshireLive)

There’s lots going on in Ripley – despite it being a grey Wednesday morning – the little village was full of cyclists, walkers and residents heading in and out of the popular independent businesses dotted around.

There’s two galleries and an interior design store, a village shop and ice-cream parlour, a gin store and school, a butcher’s and a tea room.

Ripley is also home to a primary school and a nursery.

Its ‘world-famous’ ice-cream shop, which is part of the Ripley Store on the main square, is a family business, owned and run by Jonathan and Kirsty Peters and their two daughters.

“Our soft ice cream is what we’re world-famous and renowned for,” Jonathan explained.

“We usually do vanilla and another flavour of that every day. We also expanded into scoop ice cream and a dairy-free range. We do everything – from your ordinary flavours to things like Stem Ginger and Blackberry crumble.

“It’s nice because some people come in a try something different every day and we have some locals who order the same ice cream every day and have done for years.”

Ripley Castle and its inner gardens were closed for refurbishment when I visited, but remains an impressive building
Ripley Castle and its inner gardens
(Image: YorkshireLive)

Jonathan and Kirsty had already been running the shop but purchased it during lockdown in 2020. In the main store, which is the only food shop in the village, they sell a big range of groceries, hot and cold foods, gifts, confectionery and more.

Jonathan added: “We actually did very well during Covid. People love coming down for ice cream, especially in the summer, and we’re the only place in the village to get groceries.

“We were so busy we had two days off all year in 2020! It’s hard work but we absolutely love it, things are going so well.”

For Jonathan, who used to come to the ice-cream shop as a child, running the shop is coming full circle. They also own the Magnesia Well Café in Harrogate.

Deborah deBrunner supports local creatives with her shop Just Makers
Deborah deBrunner supports local creatives with her shop Just Makers
(Image: YorkshireLive)

Elsewhere, Deborah de Brunner owns Just Makers on the castle courtyard, which sells a range of handmade works and art from local sellers and creatives.

Deborah said: “It’s such a vibrant little place here – there’s always something going on given it’s such a little village. It’s a lovely place to meet friends and walk and grab a coffee, browse the shops.

“Everyone who comes in is friendly – we do art workshops regularly. We’ve been here for six years now and we’ve built up a bit of a following.

“It’s great to support local artists and makers.”

Katy Bell, who works in Just Makers, lives only minutes away in the village.

“The village is lovely, and everything is so nearby,” she said.

“It’s sort of like you’re in the middle of nowhere but it’s actually so easy to get everywhere. All the businesses are very supportive of each other and you feel very connected to everything.”

Ripley resident Paul says the village 'never dies', even in the off-season
Ripley resident Paul says the village ‘never dies’, even in the off-season
(Image: YorkshireLive)

Just next door, Paul Bell is manning the counter at gin store Harrogate Tipple.

Paul has worked at the store for two years and has lived in Ripley since 2003.

Harrogate Tipple sells a huge range of gins and has its own gin school – its range includes a popular Downton Abbey inspired drink.

“It’s amazing here. It’s such an accepting village – you don’t need to have been here 50 years for people to say hi and chat to you,” he said.

“I think people love it because it’s so convenient for nearby places. I don’t drive, but the bus service into Harrogate, Ripon and Leeds is fantastic.

“It never dies, this village. Other places like this go quiet out of season, but never here.”

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