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The Boar's Head at Ripley

Michael Pelham enjoyed real Yorkshire hospitality

Three miles north of Harrogate on the A61 Harrogate/Ripon road lies the charming village of Ripley.  It was built as a model estate village by Sir William Amcotts Ingilby and completed by about 1850.  It is wonderfully homogeneous, with all the attractive, well designed houses on either side of a wide main street built in the same North Yorkshire stone, a little dark, but still pleasing, each with window boxes full of flowers and colourful flower beds in front.  The Ingilbys have owned Ripley Castle since 1308 and still live there, opening their beautiful gardens and fine house to the public, in order, presumably, like many others, to help to keep the roof on.

The Boar's Head is a most attractive hostelry, with excellent food. It's located at one end of the village and very well worth a visit either on one's way to or from Scotland or the north of England, or as a base for exploring the lovely country, the dales and the  fine houses in North Yorkshire.

The Boar's Head has the feel of an old coaching inn, but its predecessor on the same site, the Star Inn, was in fact closed just after World War I, along with the other two inns in the village, by Sir William Ingilby, to prevent churchgoers (as the hotel brochure recounts) from crossing the market square for further spiritual sustenance!  The village was dry for 71 years until the Boar's Head was re-opened in 1990.

Coming from the car park, you get an excellent first impression as you cross a charming court yard with a pleasant lawn, gardens and flowers in tubs and troughs, with seats and tables around and with guest rooms on two sides looking as though they had been converted from stables.  These rooms are charming and are attractively furnished.  The decoration throughout the hotel is overseen by Lady Ingilby and each room is individually decorated. There are excellent, large, light bed-rooms in the main hotel and also in another fine house just over the road.  Room rates are £120/140 double and £99/120 single for bed and English breakfast (and a very good breakfast it is, including, when I was there, an excellent piping hot, wet, kedgeree). There are good touches in the bed-rooms:  biscuits, tea and coffee, bath salts in a pink pig and, best of all, a toy boat for the bath.

The staff are particularly welcoming and smiling and helpful and have clearly been well trained to make all the guests feel happy. As an example of thoughtfulness, they can offer partially sighted guests a copy of the restaurant menu in Braille and can provide disabled visitors the use of mobility buggies to help them get around the Castle, the gardens and the hotel.

One can eat either in the restaurant or, more informally, in the Bistro, where the same menu is available.  And very good it is!  As a first course I had a twice baked cheese soufflé, light and "baveuse".  My friend had  scallops marinated in red wine on a pear and armagnac purée with crispy leeks, which was as good as it sounds.  In fact everything sounded good - and rather unusual too.  Other first course options included Pumpkin ravioli. a warm salad of char-grilled asparagus and Jerusalem artichokes and a brioche baked with raspberries and brie.  Another first course, which I had as a main course, was pan-fried sea-bass and pickled cucumber with a smoked trout and wild mushroom capuccino, which came in a little cup and was different and delicious.

Main courses included lobster thermidor risotto cakes with sweet pea purée and Worcester sauce vinaigrette, which my friend plumped for (if that is the phrase for a non-low cal dish!).  This was the only mild disappointment of the evening.  What a great idea! But the rice was over-cooked and the lobster took some finding.  One might have done better with the trio of lamb, the grilled fillet of beef, the braised pork shin , the breast of duck or the pan-fried salmon.  No regrets though! Nothing ventured, nothing won!

The list of desserts and savouries, again, was exciting.  I love menus like this where you're dying to try everything, rather than when you are struggling to find something you actually want to eat.  I had the Welsh Rarebit, which I love, but which could have been done better.  My friend had a chocolate, cardamon and blueberry soufflé with iced creme fraiche, which was amazing.  Of course I had a taste (or two).  The frozen mango and blackcurrant bomb with honeycomb chocolate and almond tuille biscuit on the next table looked terrific; but although friendly in every other way,  they sadly did not offer us a taste, and who could blame them?  The cheese board looked good too.

It was a very good dinner, most agreeably served in a delightful dining-room with plenty of space between tables. The dark red walls show off pictures retrieved from the castle attics - family portraits mingled with still-lifes of edible looking fish and birds.  The price of the three course meal depends on the main course and is about £28/30 - less for vegetarians. Considering the quality, we thought it represented very good value.  They change the menu regularly.

The wine list is Sir Thomas Ingilby's hobby and is varied and reasonably priced.  House wines, red and white, are Chilean and excellent value at £12.25.  For the more serious there are a good St Véran at £18.95, and a Chablis 1er cru at £29.50, some good Loire wines at £15 to £37 and an excellent Puligny-Montrachet fairly priced at £39.50.

For red wines there are some good reasonably priced Rhones and a St Emilion, Ch. Rocher Corbin '91 at £24.50, amongst others, and there is a fine selection of New World wines.  There is a good selection of half bottles and some Warre '80 for £10 a glass or £59 a bottle.  House champagne is £24.50 and excellent value  It is a very good list, if I may say so, Sir Thomas!

In all, the Boar's Head and Ripley itself, and its Castle, are definitely places to visit and to enjoy. It would be a good base for this year's Game Fair at Harewood House, 1st-3rd August.  All you have to do is to turn off the A1! 

Michael Pelham   June 2003  

The Boar's Head 
Ripley Harrogate 
North Yorkshire HG3 3AY 
Tel:  01423 771888 Fax: 01423 771509

Michael Pelham is proprietor of Pelham Tours, Old Way House, Beaulieu, Hampshire SO42 7YL Tel: 01590 612264  Fax:  01590 612747  E-mail:

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