Fountains Abbey

Ancient abbey ruins, an unbelievable water garden and a whole day of exploring await at Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal. The designated World Heritage Site is a must-visit. Find out more...

Never been to Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden? There’s no time like the present.

As a Designated World Heritage site, a title it shares with the likes of Stonehenge, the Taj Mahal and the Great Barrier Reef, Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden should be high on your list of places to visit in Yorkshire. It’s just one hour from Leeds, a quick whizz down the A1, and makes for a great day out, with loads to see and even more to do. So what are you waiting for? Put a date in the diary and check it out!

Delve into the history of this incredible attraction

Studley Royal Water Garden

The ruins of Fountains Abbey are stunning to behold. Not only are they almost 900 years old, but they’re the biggest monastic ruins in the country, which means you’ve got some serious exploring to do. Time-worn steps lead to a vast cellarium with vaulted ceilings that will take your breath away, while riverside picnic spots reveal the imposing scale of the building before you.

But the abbey is just one of the attractions that awaits here. From Fountains Mill, where they once ground grain, to Swanley Grange, where you can try your hand at weaving and knitting, there’s so much more to be discovered – including a stately home! Built in the early 17th century, using stones from the abbey itself, Fountains Hall is a sight to behold.

And then there’s Studley Royal. This natural playground brings together landscaped gardens, manmade follies and an 300-acre deer park, where a mob of red, fallow and Manchurian sika graze to this day. No visit would be complete without a trip to the water garden. Believe it or not, it was this landscaped masterpiece, not the abbey, that won Studley Royal its UNESCO status.

Get your walking boots on for a scenic ramble

Deer Park Studley Royal

The great thing about Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden is that, even when you’re done immersing yourself in history, there’s still loads to do. Bring your walking boots because the great outdoors is calling! You can wander aimlessly, enjoying the serenity of the country surrounds, or follow one of five trails, which range from 2.5 miles to a calf-flexing eight.

For an easy going jaunt, try the Ancient Trees Walk. It’s their shortest trail and promises a leisurely stroll around the deer park, passing sweet chestnuts, sycamore pollards and champion oaks along the way. For something a little more challenging, go for the Deer Park Walk. It’s a circular route, carefully constructed by their deer ranger to give you the best view of the herd.

The Seven Bridges Valley Walk is a nice, easy riverside ramble that will take you past lakes, monuments and the remains of an old Chinese Pavilion. Got more miles in you? Get the best views of the estate on the Fountains Abbey Estate Boundary Walk, or go all out with the Ripon to Fountains Abbey Walk – it’s eight miles each way, with the added benefit of seeing the cathedral.

Eat, shop and play to your heart’s content

Children playing with autumn leaves with Fountains Abbey in the background

Credit: J Shepherd

After a day of exploring Fountains Abbey, where history meets the modern day, and wandering around Studley Royal Water Garden, where the River Skell is channelled into canals, cascades and tranquil moon ponds, why not treat yourself? You could stop for a picnic in the great outdoors, grab a cuppa at the Mill Kiosk or nip into their tearoom for a slice of cake.

And if you want a lasting reminder of a fabulous day out, the National Trust shop and plant centre has everything you need. You can pick up everything from silk scarves to den-making kits and bug-tracking tools, as well as a tantalising selection of artisan produce that includes British-made jams, preserves and chutneys. Green fingered? Seasonal blooms and tools await!

And for those of you who will be bringing little explorers, there’s one more attraction you won’t want to miss – the adventure playground! Sit back and relax as the kids clamber over a wooden abbey, scramble over nets and slide down the fireman’s pole. And if that doesn’t wear them out, start ticking off the National Trust’s list of ‘50 things to do at before you’re 11¾’!

Cover image credit: Chris Lacey.