6 ISSUES FOR JUST £6 Subscribe to Yorkshire Life today CLICK HERE

Richmond - taking the tourist trail in the Yorkshire Dales

00:40 12 March 2012

Richmond - taking the tourist trail in the Yorkshire Dales

Richmond - taking the tourist trail in the Yorkshire Dales

The busy market town of Richmond is working hard to attract visitors to what is a very special part of the world as Terry Fletcher discovers Photographs by John Cocks

The Normans were still consolidating their somewhat tenuous grip on England when they planted their first castle on the Riche Mont, the strong hill

overlooking a bend in the River Swale in the Yorkshire Dales. Most early forts were wooden affairs but Alan Rufus, the Conquerors cousin, had more respect for his troublesome locals and opted to go straight to something more solid. Almost 1,000 years later the 100ft high keep is still virtually intact and continues to dominate not justRichmond but the surrounding area, a great stone exclamation mark visible from every approach.

Even to modern eyes, accustomed to tower blocks and grand buildings, it remains an imposing sight so it is scarcely possible to imagine its impact on terrified Saxon peasants who had seen little bigger than wattle and daub huts and the occasional church. Small wonder that few dared to attack it or that it has seen virtually no fighting down centuries of turmoil.

But if Richmonds most prominent landmark is Norman mediaeval aggression carved in stone its heart is pure English Georgian and its second most prominent feature is the vast Market Place, hemmed with still elegant buildings despite the modern and sometimes garish shop fronts at street level.

This huge cobbled expanse, probably best appreciated from the top of the English Heritage-run castle, is reputed to be the largest in England and no less a fan than Prince Charles suggested that it rivalled the great Campo in the Tuscan city of Sienna. It slopes away downhill as though it might slide off into the river were it not pinned in place by the solid anchor of Trinity Church, once the castles place of worship but now the home of the Museum of the Green Howards, the local regiment.

Many of the surrounding buildings are the legacy of the towns 17th and 18th century heyday when local industries like lead mining were at their peak and the town prospered, hosting its own horse racing meetings and fashionable assemblies. A building boom saw the mediaeval shops and houses swept away to be replaced by elegant town houses, such as that of the Bathurst family, which is now the handsome Kings Head Hotel overlooking the Market Place.

Other streets and alleys, known locally as wynds, radiate outwards in higgledy-piggledy fashion and contain yet more Georgian gems as well as the specialist shops and art galleries that make Richmond such a pleasant place to stroll around. Among them is the local base of Mackenzie Thorpe, the Middlesbrough-born artist famed for his square sheep and moon-faced children whose work attracts collectors from all over the world.

The Georgian period also saw the creation of one of Richmonds continuing delights, the Castle Walk, a level pathway that completely encircles the fortress and offered promenading visitors the chance to admire the views down to the river with its lively falls and westwards into the deep cleft of Swaledale itself. The views remain spectacular and the pleasure of a stroll around the walk undiminished.

Just round the corner is another period gem, the Georgian Theatre. It was built in 1788 by actor-manager Samuel Butler, and its first patrons would still recognise the perfectly-preserved interior which plays host to everything from Shakespeare to concerts, pantomimes and stand up comedy. Even if you cant see a show there are tours taking in the tiny auditorium which is a star in its own right.

Richmonds commitment to visitors is strongly in evidence at the local Tourist Information Centre where Hilda Ellis leads a team of 15 volunteers who defied council spending cuts to keep the centre going last year. When the council pulled out local businessman Barrie Proctor stepped in to underwrite the rent and now Hilda and her team staff it and try to cover costs by running a small cafe there. She says: We need our visitors and they need the TIC to help them get the most from a visit. Theres so much to see and do in Richmond and the surrounding area.

Surprisingly Richmond remains largely within its centuries-old boundaries with little building on the far bank of the Swale. An exception was the railway which arrived in 1846, largely to carry away lead, lime and coal from local mines. The branch line escaped Dr Beechings axe and limped on until it closed in 1969. But the buildings remained and have now been restored to house a two-screen cinema, cafe and several artisan food producers in what is still a Grade II listed building and more than repays a crossing of the river.

Getting there: Richmond is easily reached from the A1 at Catterick.


Where to park: Disc parking in the Market Place (market day Saturday). A signposted smaller car park further out.


What to do: Visit the castle, take in a show at the Georgian Theatre, do the Castle Walk for a stunning view of the Swale and stroll through the narrow streets and wynds. Beyond the town lie all the glories of Swaledale. For more information and links visit richmond.org

0 comments

Shop with us at Great British Life

More from Out & About

Yesterday, 00:00
Sunbridge Wells, underground retail development in the city centre with bars and shops

Shoppers in Bradford will be going underground when an unusual new mall opens next month

Read more
Bradford
Thu, 00:00
The weed dance is the February highlight of the great crested grebe calendar, and one of natures most stunning courtship rituals (c) Alistair Marsh Photography

It’s the most romantic month of the year and although it’s chilly across Yorkshire’s countryside, the amorous antics of our wildlife can certainly warm the heart. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Tom Marshall gets all loved-up

Read more
Thu, 00:00
All Saints Church - still the beating heart of the town

Never visited Pocklington? Then put it on your to-do list now, says Richard Darn. Photographs by Joan Russell

Read more
Wed, 00:00
City of Troy Maze

There’s no need for a wooden horse if you want to take in Troy while on this walk in the hills near Scackleton, writes Terry Fletcher

Read more
Mon, 19:27
Ripon Cathedral

The Very Reverend John Dobson, Dean of Ripon, tells us about his cathedral city. Photographs by Joan Russell

Read more
Mon, 17:04
Image courtesy of Welcome to Yorkshire

If you want the right answer, you've got to find the right venue, says Jo Haywood

Read more
Mon, 00:00
The night sky above Ribblehead viaduct

A week-long festival is being held in Yorkshire’s national parks to celebrate our starry skies

Read more
Thursday, February 4, 2016
Handler Chris Wadsworth (left) joins Jon Traill in the West Beck chalk stream to investigate the riverbed gravels at the heart of the ‘Crystal Clear’ project

Horse power has been giving nature a helping hoof in the Wolds. Words and photographs by Tom Marshall

Read more
Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Leeds city centre

The most interesting people, places and organisations you should be following on social media in and around Leeds.

Read more
Leeds
Monday, January 25, 2016
A chinook brings in supplies so repair work can get underway at York’s Foss Barrier

Receding water levels and a rising tide of community spirit – how Yorkshire is fighting back. Photographs by Nigel Holland

Read more


Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad



Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook


Local Business Directory

Yorkshire's trusted business finder

Job Search in the Cotswolds



Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search