Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Park
Set within the grounds of the expansive Studley Royal Park, Fountains Abbey remains one of the best-preserved Cistercian monasteries in the country. Recently named one of the UK’s top attractions by a ‘Which?‘ poll, the monastery and surrounding gardens provide a spectacular yet relaxing day out.
From marvelling at the 12th century architecture, to strolling through the deer park, to admiring the Georgian water features and follies, the attraction can be explored for hours on end. Just 3 miles from the nearby Ripon, and 12 miles north of Harrogate, this National Trust property is not to be missed.
Location: Fountains, Ripon HG4 3DY
Fountains Abbey offers a unique insight into the history of the Cistercian order of monks. In the early 12th century, a group of monks, fleeing from conflict, arrived on the bank of the River Skell, which runs through the present day gardens. The monastery would have initially been built out of wood, but was quickly refashioned with stone into the structure which remains standing today. Visitors can stroll through the domed halls and paved passageways, and imagine what life was like all those years ago.
In the 1500s, the Abbey was seized by the Crown and has changed hands many times since, until it was purchased by the National Trust in the 1980s. While some past owners vandalised the building for the use of its stone, the monastery remains extremely well preserved, and is the largest of its kind left standing. Fountains Abbey and the Studley Royal Park have been added to the list of UNESCO world heritage sites.
The awe-inspiring beauty of Studley Royal Park
After visitors have wandered through the halls of the old monastery, they may venture further out into the grounds of Studley Royal Park. The perfect place for a picnic, and with countless eye-catching vistas, the gardens are accessed via a network of paths, which wind past a broad variety old trees and ornamental plants, well looked after by the National Trust. The gardens host not only the Victorian-built St Mary’s Church, but also a selection of ornate follies ranging from the Temple of Fame to the iconic Octagon Tower and the obelisk which stands close to the church. Continue walking through the gardens for long enough, and visitors will reach the deer park, where Red, Fallow and Sika deer can be seen all year round.
Aside from the Cistercian ruins of Fountains Abbey, the most spectacular attraction in Studley Royal Park is certainly the Georgian water park. Designed in the 18th Century by John Aislabie, the water park features various cascades, canals, and ornamental ponds, and is recognised as the best surviving example of a Georgian water park. There is a daily free tour available to all visitors which lasts for an hour and a half and includes information on both the abbey and the water park. Constructed centuries apart, the abbey and the water park complement each other to provide insights into the long history of the park and surrounding area.
Christmas at Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal
Choirs and bands will be performing in the cellarium 2-3pm. The estate will close at 5:00pm as usual. You don’t need to book a ticket to visit as Music and Lights is part of normal admission.
See the National Trust website for more information about opening times and tickets.
Adventure playground, shop and cafe
An adventure playground offers entertainment for younger visitors, and there is a shop and café serving seated meals and takeaway options. Parking in the visitor centre car park is free all day. Visitors requiring level access should head to the West Gate, as there is no wheelchair access from the visitor centre. Dogs are allowed in all areas of the Studley Royal Park, but must be kept on leads.