Nun Monkton - peaceful place boasts a community ferryboat

Halfway between York and Harrogate at the confluence of the Rivers Nidd and Ouse, the village of Nun Monkton has stood for centuries.

The Alice Hawthorn Inn, Nun Monkton. Pictures by Gary Longbottom.
The Alice Hawthorn Inn, Nun Monkton. Pictures by Gary Longbottom.

Located two-and-a-half miles adrift of the A59 and devoid of a through road, there is a sense of timeless serenity amid its expansive farmland surroundings.

As a conservation village, it retains a traditional feel, evidenced by its centrepiece village green, which locals claim to be one of the largest working greens in the country. It is also adorned with, reputedly, the tallest maypole in England, at 27 metres high.

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The village used to be a place where weary travellers stopping off on journeys between Ripon and York had the choice of four pubs. Now it has one, The Alice Hawthorn Inn, which is run as a partnership between two local couples, Kate and Richard Harpin and Claire and John Topham.

Nun Monkton has reputedly the tallest maypole in England, at 27 metres high.

The Harpins bought the pub from Punch Taverns in October 2013 and Mrs Harpin, whose husband Richard is the founder and chief executive of home emergency repairs business HomeServe, said: “The pub had been through a series of closures. Tenants came and went and with no passing traffic, they couldn’t make it work.

“We felt our little village had lost its twinkle so we bought it to keep it open and to keep the village’s social vitality.”

With no village hall, the pub is an important communal place.

Its regeneration has been “a labour of love”, Mrs Harpin said, but the hard work is paying off. In 2017 it was named Yorkshire Life magazine’s Dining Pub of the Year.

After a series of renovations, throughout which it was kept open, means the pub now has a new dining room and a bigger, modern kitchen.

Planning permission is also in place to open 12 bedrooms for staying guests.

“It will mean we can be open seven days a week and make it a properly viable and sustainable operation,” Mrs Harpin said.

In 2017, the Harpins also brought about the revival of a local ferry service, connecting the village with the grounds of the National Trust’s Beningbrough estate.

A previous ferry link ceased in 1952 as the motor car rose to prominence.

The Nun Monkton Ferryboat runs as a non-profit entity. It relies on a team of 25 volunteers to operate crossings for up to six passengers at a time between 11am and 4pm on weekends and bank holidays from April to October, depending on the conditions. Last year, it accommodated a total of 4,500 passengers.

When it resumes on Saturday, April 6, the ferryboat will include a new connection to Moor Monkton.

A self-navigating vessel is also available for hire for day trips.


Nun Monkton has a primary school, Pool Bridge Farm Shop and the 12th century, Grade I listed St Mary’s Church, complete with a William Morris stained glass window.

Yorkshire Heart Vineyard and Brewery, a family-run enterprise producing English wines and craft beers, can also be found nearby.

A ferry across the water to Beningbrough is believed to have first operated in 1174.