Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal were designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986. The estate is well known for its iconic abbey ruins, in fact is one of the most extensive monastic ruins in Europe. Yet to refer to Fountains as a ruin does it a disservice, and even the term ‘remains’ does not prepare you for the awesome and graceful sight of the best-preserved Cistercian abbey in Britain. The abbey was founded in 1132 by a group of monks who broke away from a Benedictine abbey in York because the order was not strict enough for them. The buildings you see today were mostly constructed in the years from 1150 to 1250, though the north tower, which looms up into the sky, is a 16th-century addition. In medieval times Fountains Abbey was the richest abbey in Britain – it owned a great deal of the land in the Yorkshire Dales, and used it for grazing large herds of cattle and sheep. A visitor centre was added in 1992 and is hidden well away. It incorporates an auditorium, a restaurant, and the largest National Trust shop in the region. You can also see the beautifully restored monastic mill, and a handful of rooms in Fountains Hall, the 17th-century home of the subsequent owners of the abbey. The adjoining water garden of Studley Royal was created in the 18th century and then merged with Fountains Abbey in 1768. It was the lifetime’s work of John Aislabie, and then his son, William. St Mary’s Church, built by William Burges in the 19th century, is the focal point of the 400-acre deer park, home to a good-sized herd of about 350 red, fallow and Manchurian sika deer. Photo credits: NTPL/Andrew Butler
Facilities – at a glance
- Suitable for children of all ages
- Parking onsite
- Facilities: Pre-book wheelchairs & mobility scooters, Braille/large print guides
- Accessible toilets
- Open all year
- Opening Times: Open all year, daily, Oct-Mar 10-4; Apr-Sep 10-5. Closed Fri Nov-Jan & 24-25 Dec. Deer park 6am-6pm
Also in the area
About the area
Discover North Yorkshire
North Yorkshire, with its two National Parks and two designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is England’s largest county and one of the most rural. This is prime walking country, from the heather-clad heights of the North York Moors to the limestone country that is so typical of the Yorkshire Dales – a place of contrasts and discoveries, of history and legend.
The coastline offers its own treasures, from the fishing villages of Staithes and Robin Hood Bay to Scarborough, one time Regency spa and Victorian bathing resort. In the 1890s, the quaint but bustling town of Whitby provided inspiration for Bram Stoker, who set much of his novel, Dracula, in the town. Wizarding enthusiasts head to the village of Goathland, which is the setting for the Hogwarts Express stop at Hogsmeade station in the Harry Potter films.
York is a city of immense historical significance. It was capital of the British province under the Romans in AD 71, a Viking settlement in the 10th century, and in the Middle Ages its prosperity depended on the wool trade. Its city walls date from the 14th century and are among the finest in Europe. However, the gothic Minster, built between 1220 and 1470, is York’s crowning glory.
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