Built between 1780 and 1860 as a model village by the owners of the castle, Ripley is a popular stopping off place on the road to Ripon and the dales. Its attraction lies in its sturdy stone houses, its shady cobbled square and of course the castle, still the home of the Inglebys who first constructed it in the late middle ages. The medieval church with its rood screen and family tombs and the weeping cross in the churchyard complete the picture.
Distance: 8.5 miles
Time: 5 hours
Conditions: a variety of field paths, bridleways and cycle paths, all well signed; wheelchair friendly cycle path
Refreshments: Ripley, Hampsthwaite, Killinghall
OS Explorer Map 26 & 27
Originally published: 22 May 2015
Our 8 and half mile walk to Hampsthwaite, Killinghall and Knox starts from the large, free car park 100 yards from the village centre along the road to Harrogate (GR 283603). Walk into the former market place and bear left past the church. Then follow the lane beyond the entrance to the castle. It descends to cross Ripley Beck where it flows out of the two lakes, created when Ripley Park was landscaped in the mid 19th century.
Now part of the Nidderdale Way and National Cycleway 67 (with a new tarmac surface), the lane was once the Roman road from Ilkley to Aldborough. It appears too in John Ogilby's 1675 survey of England's main roads as the high road between York and Lancaster. In half a mile at Sadler Carr we pass the site of Dark Hall which appears on the Ogilby map and was once a medieval manor house.
The lane continues through Hollybank Wood to a gate where you'll find an almost indecipherable marker stone dated 1767. In some 20 paces leave the tarmac lane left on the Horseshoe, a narrow path between hedges which was probably Ogilby's road. Traces of the original stone paving can still be spotted. At the end bear left on the lane from Clint to Hampsthwaite which soon crosses the line of the railway which once ran through to Pateley Bridge. Continue along a causeway to the three arched Hampsthwaite Bridge over the Nidd which dates from1598, rebuilt in 1645.
We continue past the parish church of St. Thomas a Becket and along the main street of handsome stone houses to the green. Here an excellent noticeboard describes the village's attractions and there's a choice of refreshments (the cafe is open daily except Tuesdays). If packhorse bridges interest you then follow the lane on the right side of the school for a few steps to a fine example spanning Cockhill Beck.
You could of course return by the same route to Ripley (total distance 4 miles). However our main walk continues along the path to the left of the school. It's well used and has the company of Cockhill Beck for well over half a mile across the river meadows. It then crosses the beck just before its confluence with the Nidd and is then signed around the local sewage works and up the middle of the next field to a farm lane. Turn left to the hamlet of Crag Hill which has extensive views across the valley to Ripley.
At Crag Hill Cottage (at the far end of the houses) go right on a path which crosses two fields to a gate where turn right. (A longer alternative along the lane is also mapped). In about 100 yards turn left through a gate and cross one field before following a path between high hedges to emerge in Killinghall. Turn left to the Three Horseshoes on the busy A 61. (Frequent buses go to Ripley from Killinghall if you wish to truncate the walk). The main walk follows the A 61 right towards Harrogate for some 250 yards to Crofters Green where go left to Nidd House Farm.
Just before the farmyard a path goes right and is well signed over fields and across two access drives to Spruisty Hill Farm. Again just before the farmyard a path goes right, down across a couple of horse paddocks and another two drives into the valley of Oak Beck. In the last field before the houses aim 100 yards to the right of a large pylon to find a wall stile and a path down a long fenced passage which will bring you into the pretty hamlet of Knox.
Ahead is the 17th century Spruisty Bridge with low parapets to ease the passage of laden packhorses over Oak Beck. Away upstream the former Knox watermill is visible. The bridge and its adjoining ford (blocked to traffic) were once part of the ancient route from Knaresborough to Ripley and upper Nidderdale. It’s a tranquil spot now, equipped with seats for picnics or quiet contemplation.
From the bridge our walk climbs the lane ahead following the well signed Ringway, a long distance path which encircles Harrogate. In less than half a nile it turns left through the houses of Old Trough Way and then left again along Old Barber and into the nature reserve which stretches along the riverbank almost to Knaresborough.
Follow the Ringway and Nidd Gorge signs, crossing an access road to a sewage farm on the left and then bearing left between two small pools. The Ringway then climbs a little bank to the heights above the River Nidd. In some 200 yards, instead of descending with it down steps alongside a steel fence, bear right (signed Nidd Gorge) across open land on a newish hard core path to the Nidd Viaduct.
The viaduct, spanning the river over 40ft below, once carried the Harrogate-Ripon railway, axed in the 1960s. It has now been revived as part of Cycleway 67 and makes for an easy 2 and a half mile walk back to Ripley. As you cross the viaduct there are glimpses of the wooded gorge, formed in glacial times. Good views soon unfold of the rich farmland upstream and even of the distant Pennines. After about a mile the way bears left on the Nidderdale Branch railway which it follows for another mile through a cutting and over an embankment. The final stretch is by the Nidd with a distant view of the the 16th century Killinghall Bridge and mill.
The tarmac track then climbs to the old road between Ripley and Harrogate where go right up to the traffic lights on the A 61. On the other side a path leads across fields to the car park.