Skip to main content

The charity making life better by water

Row of buildings along a canal on a sunny day

Ripon Canal

The Ripon Canal starts in the heart of the medieval city of Ripon, with its twisting lanes, and stunning 7th century cathedral.

Ripon Canal

Length2.3 miles

Maximum boat dimensions

Length17.37m 56ft 11"
Width4.3m 14ft 1"
Draught1.01m 3ft 4''
Headroom2.5m 8ft 2"

Free guides for fun days out

Looking for a perfect place to relax and unwind? Download your free regional guide today

Local to you

Show me places within...

Explore your nearest canals and ways to enjoy them Find walks, activities and more within:


The canal basin is overlooked by restored historic buildings, including a renovated warehouse. A walk along the towpath takes you past moored narrowboats and locks, along a green corridor through the city and out into the countryside.

It is a scenic route, alive with wild flowers and grasses, and a wetland bird sanctuary runs alongside it on the section by Ripon Racecourse. However, this route may not be appropriate for cyclists.

The canal was abandoned in 1956, but restored thanks to the efforts of local volunteers.

The Ripon Canal history

The waterway was planned as long ago as 1766 when the engineer, John Smeaton, presented a proposal for five lock structures on the eight miles of the River Ure, and the 2.5 miles of the Ripon Canal itself. Public subscription raised £15,000 and a petition was made to Parliament in 1767. A Bill authorising the navigation received Royal Assent on 15 April 1767.

The works were carried out by the engineer John Smith, and Milby Lock and cut were completed in 1769. One of the first cast iron bridges in the country was built over the canalised section of the waterway to carry the Great North Road to Boroughbridge.

Coal traffic to Boroughbridge was seriously affected when the Great Northern Railway opened from Darlington to York in 1841. The canal was purchased by the Leeds & Thirsk Railway in 1844, becoming part of the North Eastern Railway in 1855.

Although the British Transport Commission obtained Royal Assent for the abandonment of the Ripon Canal in 1956, it was successfully reopened for navigation as far as Littlethorpe Road Bridge in 1986. The canal was officially reopened right into the centre of Ripon in September 1996, with the assistance of the Ripon Canal Society and local authorities, with funding from English Partnerships. For a short while, Ripon Basin was the northernmost point on England's waterway network - but as a result of the new Ribble Link, which connects the Lancaster Canal to the main system, this title is now claimed by Tewitfield on the Lancaster Canal.

photo of a location on the canals
newsletter logo

Stay connected

Sign up to our monthly newsletter and be the first to hear about campaigns, upcoming events and fundraising inspiration