24 Hours in Richmond, North Yorkshire, England – Must See Sights + Top Tips

The bridge heading into Richmond in North Yorkshire

In 2024, the Caravan and Motorhome Club are running a Read, Tour, and Explore Campaign to encourage people to read more and visit places associated with book settings. We aim to help promote authors, both old and new, while providing suggestions on which locations to explore that, at one time, offered inspiration to those who went on to put pen to paper.

Richmond is a market town in North Yorkshire on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, known for its impressive 11th-century Norman castle, free-flowing waterfalls and cobbled streets. Sitting on the River Swale, the narrow pebbled lanes weave around the centre of town, surround the castle and head out towards the Culloden Tower and regardless of which direction you wander, you will either get a great view out over the nearby rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales National Park or of the elegant Georgian architecture that circles the town.

It is here that author Lewis Carroll, then known as Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, went to Richmond Grammar School. Lord Baden-Powell, who started the Scout Movement, lived here, along with John Fenwick, who founded the Fenwick department store brand, and John Wycliffe, who translated the Bible into English.

A plaque dedicated to John Wycliffe, translator of the Bible in Richmond North Yorkshire

 

 The History of Richmond

At over 950 years old, founded in 1071 by the Normans, Richmond, in Yorkshire, has seen many other Richmonds named after it worldwide.  Beginning its history during the time of William the Conqueror, Richmond went on to become the Headquarters for the Parliamentarians during the English Civil War, prospered during the 17th century thanks to the lead mining and wool industries before seeing its heyday during the Georgian era when the Town Hall, the Theatre Royal, the Culloden Tower, and the obelisk in Market Place were all built.

 24 hours in Richmond Itinerary

Richmond in the Yorkshire Dales National Park is a beautiful market town brimming with history. You could easily spend a few days exploring both the centre and the surrounding area. However, if you only have 24 hours to explore, we have created the perfect one-day walking itinerary for you, including a list of the top sights to make the most of your day in town.

Day 1 Richmond Itinerary

The Little Drummer Boy coffee shop in Richmond, North Yorkshire

The Little Drummer Boy for breakfast

This place is an institution in Richmond, and it is often so full that the team will ask if you mind sharing a table. This is a great way to learn more about the area, as many locals are only too happy to share their thoughts on what to see and where to go. 

Named after the legend of the Little Drummer Boy dating back to the end of the eighteenth century, when a tunnel was discovered between Richmond Castle and Easby, the now ruined abbey. While soldiers found the tunnel, the passageway was blocked and only big enough for a small drummer boy to fit through. He was told he needed to follow the tunnel, banging his drum as he went so the soldiers above could follow. However, the drumming stopped on the way to Easby, and the boy was never seen again. To this day, the mystery remains, and in memory of the young boy, a stone has been laid at the spot where they believe the drumming stopped; plus, it is now the name of this very popular coffee shop.

Fruit scones from the Little Drummer Boy Coffee shop in Richmond

You can either sample one of their many egg dishes or one of the delicious cakes on display. You can also take away more for later, and we highly recommend the fruit and the blueberry scones.

The Blueberry scones at the Little Drummer Boy Coffee shop in Richmond Yorkshire

Head to Richmond Castle 

After breakfast, head towards the castle, which was completed in 1086 and stands proudly above the river Swale. It remains one of the finest 11th-century fortifications of its kind in all of England. For many years, there were ownership tussles by royals and dukes until the early 1500s, when records show that the castle was left to ruin, although it was still in use. 

By Queen Victoria’s time, it had become the headquarters of the North York Militia before becoming the headquarters of the Northern Territorial Army and Baden Powell in the early 1900s. While in the hands of the Armed Forces, it was often used as a prison. 

Richmond Castle in North Yorkshire is a well preserved Norman keep

Today, you can wander around what remains, take in the exhibitions, look at the graffiti in the cells even after all this time, and learn more about the Richmond Sixteen that were once detained here. Visits cost £8.50 per adult and £4.50 per child if booked in advance or £10.50/£5.50 if purchased on the day (2024), and you can explore between 10 am and 5 pm daily.

Pick up a new book at the Castle Hill Bookshop

The Castle Hill bookshop in Richmond North Yorkshire

No trip to Richmond would be complete without stopping at the Castle Hill Bookshop to top up those ‘to be read’ piles. You may want to pick up your own copy of Alice in Wonderland after learning that the man who penned it once lived here, or you may be after some recommendations for new reads from the team who are happy to match books to your reading preferences.

Take in the view from the Culloden Tower

Continue through town and down towards The Bar, one of the only remaining pedestrian gates within the town wall dating back to the 1300s. From here, you need to walk down the steep hill and across to the open field beyond, where you will see the Culloden Tower.

The Culloden Tower in North Yorkshire, England

This tower dates back to the 1740s and is also known as the Cumberland Temple. It celebrates the victory of the Duke of Cumberland’s army in the battle of Culloden. The tower is an impressive sight, but remember to turn back to get a fantastic view out over the town and the castle.

Continue walking along the river towards the Waterfalls

Follow the river rather than cross over the bridge towards the sound of fast-flowing water. You will soon round the corner and come face-to-face with the Richmond Falls, the last waterfalls of the Swale River.

The Richmond Water falls across the River Swale in North Yorkshire

In the warmer months, when the water is low, people paddle in the river nearby, while others sit on one of the many picnic benches provided to enjoy the relaxing sound of the cascading waters as they fall away from the rocky outcrops.

The swale river leads to the Richmond Falls

No trip would be complete without a visit to The Station

The Station was, at one time, a functioning train station for the town dating back to 1846, but the line sadly closed in 1969. Rather than losing this iconic bit of history, the Station became a Grade II-listed building in 1986. It was brought back to life in the early 2000s, becoming the vibrant community hub it is today.

The Station at Richmond, North Yorkshire

Here, you can visit the cinema, look at the ever-changing art exhibitions featuring local artists, peruse the shops of local traders, or enjoy lunch in the heart of the building. Menus are seasonal, and the mouth-watering offerings all feature local produce, making it the perfect stopping point during your trip to Richmond.

The books on sale at The Station

The books on sale at the entrance to The Station

Walk back towards the Friary Gardens

When you walk into the gardens, you will be faced with the remains of a 15th-century tower, one of the town’s oldest monuments. The tower originally formed part of the larger Friary building established by the Franciscan Order of Grey Friars. The building would have contained several monastic buildings around a cloister, a guesthouse, a dormitory, a refectory, and a room reserved for studying.

The remains of the Friary in Richmond North Yorkshire

However, during the reign of Henry VIII and through his determination to dissolve the monasteries, the friars lost favour with the public. The buildings were destroyed at this time, and the stone was taken for other building projects, leaving just the tower behind.  Remarkably, this tower remains intact today, and while the surrounding brickwork is in a state of disrepair, you can still see the grand arches that would have once housed beautiful stained-glass windows. 

Head just across the road to the theatre

The Georgian Theatre Royal is Britain’s oldest working theatre, dating back to 1788. Since 1830, when performances became less frequent, it has become, among other things, an auction house and a wine vault. However, in 1963, it reopened as a theatre, becoming a Grade I-listed building.

With sympathetic restoration, the playhouse has retained its 18th-century interior and boasts that no other theatre can offer the same authenticity. With only 154 seats, seeing a play here is a very intimate affair. Even if you cannot time your visit with a play showing, make sure you take the guided tour that runs throughout the day and costs £8 per adult and £3 per child (2024).

Learn more about the history of the area at the Richmondshire Museum

Since 1978, this museum, which was once a joiner’s cottage, has provided a wealth of information on the local area and has displays dating back to the Stone Age. While some displays are seasonal, others remain. At any time, visitors can explore the displays of Roman artefacts, a selection of toys through the ages and a collection from the ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ film set, which local author and vet James Herriot wrote.  It is only open from April to October each year, and adults will be charged £7 to enter, while anyone under 16 will get in free of charge (2024).

Visit the Green Howards Museum to learn more about military history

The Green Howards Museum is in the old Church in Market Place

The Green Howards Museum is in the old church in Market Place

It is no surprise that with Carrick Barracks just down the road, there is a museum dedicated to the history of those who have served their country. At the Green Howards Museum, you will discover 300 years of history, all set in a former church in the middle of Market Place. 

Over 35,000 objects in the collection trace the history of the Green Howards, the 19th Regiment of the Foot. Inside, you will find uniforms, personal equipment, medals – including 14 Victoria Crosses and 3 George Crosses – weapons and historical documents charting the activities of these brave individuals. A visit here will set you back just £8 for adults and £5 for children (2024), and all tickets are valid for 12 months should you wish to return.

Enjoy Thai for dinner 

After a full day of exploring, head to nearby Sunitra’s Thai restaurant in Greyfriars Yard, just off Market Place and enjoy an authentic meal of curry and noodles. While their menu is limited, each dish is freshly cooked and transports you to Northern Thailand with each mouthful.

Have some drinks in town

The Beer Garden of the Bishops Blaize looks out over the castle

The beer garden at the back of the Bishops Blaize

Finish your day in one of the many watering holes surrounding the main cobbled square. The Bishops Blaize is one of the oldest in town and was once called The Elephant, dating back to the 18th century, while the Golden Lion is a small pub with perhaps the lowest prices in all of Yorkshire.

Final Thoughts 

As with many of the towns in North Yorkshire, if you were in a rush, you could pop in, walk around the castle, have a quick coffee, and head off again. However, to truly experience this welcoming town, you need at least 24 hours, perhaps even longer, if you enjoy shopping and would like to explore all the local boutiques that have reappeared in recent years. It could also be a great location to base yourself for a more extended trip to the area.

Recommended Tours

  • Spend the day at Barnard Castle exploring both the castle there and the Bowes Museum, following in the footsteps of Charles Dickens, William Wordsworth and Daniel Defoe.
A view of Barnard Castle from the river. A striking addition to the skyline of the town.

A view of the castle from the river

  • If you are a fan of waterfalls, Aysgarth Falls is a must while in the area and was a filming location for Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.
  • Easby Abbey, one of the best-preserved monasteries in Britain dating back to 1152, is less than 2 miles from Richmond. 
  • Kiplin Hall is a magnificent Jacobean country house containing 400 years of treasures, including a Gothic library built in 1820 containing more than 2500 books and a beautiful stained-glass window.

If you have time to visit further afield:

  • Ripon is a city full of narrow streets and snickets that are home to an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants, and is where Lewis Carroll spent a great deal of time enjoying the animal carvings in the cathedral.
  • Set on a sprawling estate, the Fountains Abbey is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the largest Cistercian monasteries remaining in England. 
  • The priory church and ruins of Bolton Abbey can be found in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales and offer a peaceful place to picnic and walk for miles in the adjoining grounds.
  • Head to Darlington and the Railway Museum to see the world’s first steam engine to run along a public passenger line in 1825.
  • Visit Bolton Castle, a well-preserved family home once attacked by Cromwell during the Civil War Siege, and where today you can wander around inside and explore the many rooms, including Mary Queen of Scots’ bedroom.

How to get to Richmond

With train stations at Darlington and Northallerton, visitors can jump on one of the many buses heading into Richmond. While for those travelling by road, Richmond is just a few miles from the Scotch Corner junction of the A66 and the A1(M).

Travelling by Motorhome to Richmond

For those travelling in their motorhomes, should you not wish to stay at a campsite nearby, there are a couple of parking options for you, including:

  • Yorke Square car park (DL10 4RG) near Culloden Tower allows motorhomes to park there during the day and is close to the town centre.
  • The Farmers Arms at Brompton-on-Swale (DL10 7HZ), just over 4 miles from Richmond, allows overnight parking when using the pub, and it is worthwhile phoning in advance to confirm availability.

Where to stay in Richmond

Should you wish to stay in the heart of town during your visit, The Kings Head Hotel is a prominent building in the heart of Market Place, and whilst it is an 18th-century building, it has been sympathetically refurbished, keeping many of its original features. During its history, the musician Franz Liszt gave a piano recital in the ballroom back in 1841, and more recently, travel writer Alfred Wainwright has been a visitor to the hotel. JMW Turner is also believed to have stayed here, saying it was ‘the finest hotel in all of Richmondshire’.

Just a short walk from town, The Frenchgate Restaurant and Hotel offers a comfortable stay in luxury surroundings in a Grade II-listed former Georgian Gentleman’s residence. If, however, you are staying for longer, you may prefer to stay at The Old Sunday School on the green, a beautiful house offering accommodation for up to 8 people and including a hot tub to relax in after a day of sightseeing.

The front of the Old Sunday School which is now a holiday let

The entrance of the Old Sunday School

Motorhome Campsite Options

If, however, you opt to travel in your motorhome or caravan, then the Richmond Hargill Motorhome and Caravan Site offers the perfect solution. Close to Scotch Corner and the A66, it provides a secure location without the need to navigate the narrow streets of Richmond itself while being close enough to visit for the day. 

Welcome to the Richmond Hargill Caravan and motorhome club

Should you want to leave the motorhome behind, there is a bus stop right outside the campsite with buses that run frequently. Just down the hill, there is a little village home to one pub that serves food throughout the week.

The garden area of the Richmond Hargill site in North Yorkshire

The gardens of this site are extremely well maintained

You can also visit many other attractions from the campsite, and there are several walks for those who want to explore more on foot.

The view from the Richmond Hargill Caravan and Motorhome Club site

The site itself, while located just off the busy road, is still peaceful. All 63 pitches are large and positioned so that everyone is afforded a view of the rolling Yorkshire hills, made famous by both the James Herriot novels set in the surrounding area and the paintings of JMW Turner. There is also a small shop within the reception area should you forget any of the essentials, plus a toilet and shower block, which is one of the best we have ever experienced. 

Reception at the Richmond Hargill Caravan and Motorhome Site

The reception area and shop on the campsite

For those visiting with children, there is also a designated play area set aside for ball games. If you are still trying to figure out what to do in the region, the information hut contains valuable tips and suggestions for places to visit and restaurants to enjoy.

The information hut at the Richmond Hargill Site in North Yorkshire

Have you visited Richmond? What would you recommend others visit when in the area?

(N.B. The Caravan and Motorhome Club did provide us with a free pitch for the duration of our trip, but all research and recommendations are our own and have in no way been influenced by others).

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24 hours in Richmond, North Yorkshire in England via @tbookjunkie

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