Fountains Abbey is one of the largest monastic ruins in Europe and has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site since the 1980s. It was founded in 1132 by monks that had left a Benedictine abbey near York because they felt that the order needed to be much stricter and prospered for more than 400 years until the English Reformation.
Most of the buildings you will see, or what is left of them, were constructed between 1150 and 1250, but the imposing north tower was added during the 16th century. Known as 'Huby's Tower', it was erected following the instructions of Marmaduke Huby, an influential abbot at the monastery in the years leading up to the dissolution.
For much of its time as an active priory, Fountains Abbey was considered to be the wealthiest monastery in Great Britain as it was able to make a sizable income from farming on the lands it owned nearby.
More than 300,000 people visit the abbey each year and a modern visitor centre which opened during the 1990s caters for them well with a restaurant, auditorium and the biggest National Trust shop in the country.
Each Easter many children gather at the abbey to take part in a tradition of rolling decorated hard boiled eggs down a hill with prizes given to those that get theirs the furthest.
Next to the abbey is Studley Royal Park. Covering 323 hectares, it has also been designed as a World Heritage Site. The land belongs to the National Trust and is home to an abundance of wildlife.
Part of the park is has been turned into an enclosed deer park with more than 500 of the animals roaming freely amongst many flowers.
A large hall once stood in the park's north-west corner but it was sadly destroyed by a fire in 1946. Fountains Hall at the other side of the park is standing, though, and what a delightful country house it is.
Built between 1598 and 1604 by Stephen Proctor, the house is a fine example of Elizabethan design that has a few ghoulish tales to tell. One of the most commonly discussed ghost stories include a semi-invisible figure that runs at visitors in corridors.
Upstairs a shining golden lady has been sighted in one of the bedrooms, while two children are said to haunt the building' main staircase.
Village around the abbey is known merely as Fountains. There are a few houses there, but most of the cottages available to rent are actually located inside the boundaries of Studley Royal Park itself.
Some visitors to Fountains Abbey prefer to stay at the hotels and bed and breakfasts available in nearby Bishop Monkton and Ripon as travelling to the attraction is relatively straight forward.
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