RIEVAULX, NORTH YORKSHIRE
A short drive or stroll from Helmsley is one of Yorkshire’s finest treasures. Today the setting of Rievaulx Abbey is sheltered and inviting, but when Walter l’Espec dispatched a group of French monks to find a suitable site on which to build a new community it was reported to be fit only for ‘wild beasts and robbers’. At that time there were no roads in the area; instead of neat copses and lush meadows there were only impenetrable thickets. To the devoutly ascetic Cistercian monks, this part of the Rye Valley represented the sort of challenge on which they thrived. In 1131, the monks began to build the mother church of the Cistercian order in England – and it’s still one of the finest abbeys in the country. The nave is Norman, but the rest of the buildings reflect the Early English style. The monks may have started out with a strictly ascetic attitude towards wealth and lifestyle – indeed the establishment of the Cistercian order was partly due to what they considered to be the wicked corruption of the Benedictine orders, but the monks and lay brothers of Rievaulx Abbey succeeded in creating wealth and influence. The monks farmed sheep, cultivated vegetables, ground corn and smelted iron – a process that required the felling of perhaps 40 trees to make a hundred-weight of metal. They even built canals to enable the iron to be transported. Stone for the buildings was brought to the site from local quarries by the same method. By 1538, when Henry VIII destroyed their way of life for ever at the Dissolution, the monks had become very wealthy indeed.
Facilities – at a glance
- Parking onsite
- Some steps, site on slight slope, assistance may be required for manual wheelchair users
- Facilities: Wheelchair hire, disabled parking, sensory garden, induction loops, lift, audio tours and transcripts
- Accessible toilets
- Open all year
- Opening Times: Open Apr-Sep, daily 10-6; Oct-3 Nov, daily 10-5; 4 Nov-23 Dec & Jan-11 Feb, Sat-Sun 10-4; 27-31 Dec, daily 10-4; 12-18 Feb, daily 10-4; 19 Feb-Mar, Wed-Sun 10-4. Closed 24-26 Dec, 1 Jan
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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