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Studley Royal and Fountains Abbey.

Wed 19th October 2011

This was another sunny day out with Sal, the weather was almost summerlike. We had another disaster with the Sat Nav;just getting us out of Bingley was a major task in itself. On the moors above Ilkley it was assigned to the glove compartment, I knew where Fountains Abbey was anyway but wasn't sure on the easiest route there. The drive down Nidderdale was simply beautiful with the trees just starting to change colour.

Tat shop and Visitor Centre

When we arrived, Sal made straight for the tat shop.....nuff said.

Fountains Hall

Our next point of call was Fountains Hall which was built between 1598 and 1604, partly with stone from the Abbey ruins. It played host to the young prince destined to become the ill fated Charles I, during his first royal progress from London to Edinburgh in 1604 and during the Second World War, the Hall and other estate buildings were used to house evacuees. However, after the war, the Hall again fell into a state of serious dilapidation but has been one of the National Trust's major restoration projects since acquiring the estate in 1983.

Fountains Hall

  It was a bit disappointing inside as only the 2 downstairs rooms were open. There wasn't much in either to be honest but the outside gardens are very well laid out and the frontage is very interesting with various Coats of Arms and figures of past owners adorning it.

Sal getting genned up

The Abbey Ruins

A dispute and riot at St Mary's Abbey in York led to the founding of Fountains Abbey in 1132. After pleading unsuccessfully to return to the early 6th century Rule of St Benedict, 13 monks were exiled and taken into the protection of Thurstan, Archbishop of York. He provided them with a site in the valley of the little River Skell in which they could found a new, more devout monastery and as a result, Fountains Abbey was built.

Fountains Mill

Fountains Mill (above) is perhaps the best preserved watermill in England and is the only 12th Centuty Cistercian corn mill in Britain. A working mill was too valuable to demolish at the Dissolution in 1539 and it was spared because it was able to generate an income for the estate of £3 a year. In its time the mill has also been a sawmill, a dairy operation, a stone masons’ workshop, a generating station for electricity and during the Second World War it housed refugees.

Today there is a nice little cafe in the buildings so we treated ourselves to a couple of cappuccinos and I had some flapjack whilst Sal has a shortbread man which I foolishly ordered as a shortbread ginger man much to her amusement.

Abbey Ruins

We then spend a good hour just wandering around the ruins with our cameras. The ruins have to be the most impressive of any  Abbey ruins. The main Abbey itself was built down in the valley so only the top of the main tower can be seen as you approach it from the Visitor Centre so the first view of the vastness and complexity of the site comes as somewhat of a surprise

Abbey ruins


Amazingly the cellarium roof has remained intact and the lay brothers ate, slept and socialised here, beneath the incredible vaulted ceiling which escaped Henry VIII’s brutal sixteenth century dissolution of the abbeys. 


Today the inhabitants are protected species of bat who live in the ceiling nooks and only come out after dusk. It is estimated there are over eight species of bats living in the cellarium.

The south aisle of the church

View down the Nave looking towards the Great East Window

When you are stood in the Nave, you really do start to appreciate what a spectacular structure this must have been when built. The North and South Aisles adjoin it with the Great East Window in front.

Rooks on Abbey walls

One thing I did notice was the number of rooks which have made the ruins their own. There were hundreds of them which resulted in a continual cawing noise most of the afternoon.

Abbey wall detail.

Abbey ruins.

The main tower and ruins.

The Abbot's House, The Chapter house, Cloisters, infirmaty, refectory and kitchen were all situated around this area of the ruins (see below).

Plan of Abbey

Archway, warming house.



At one point in the afternoon I completely lost Sal. When she starts clicking away with that camera she is completely lost in a world of her own. She was at the far end of the nave one minute then just vanished into thin air the next and I couldn't find her anywhere. She reappearred about 10 minutes later totally unconcerned and carried on clicking away bless her.

West Green, Fountains Abbey

The Porter’s Lodge part of the Abbey ruins is located on the edge of the West Green overlooking the Abbey and was the gatehouse and main entrance to the Abbey precinct. Today the ruins house a new contemporary building, opened in May 2008, providing exhibition space for the interpretation of the history of the Abbey and monks’ lives.  The most impressive exhibit is a model of the Abbey (below) and there is also an interactive area where you can don Monk's habits. I had one embarrassing photo taken on me but unfortunately Sal neshed out which is unusual for her. The walls are covered with artifacts and displays relating to the history of the Abbey.

Fountains Abbey model, Porter's Lodge

Abbey Museum, Porter's Lodge

Abbey Museum, Porter's Lodge

Unfoirtunately we had spent too much time in the Abbey so a trip into Ripon was called off for another day but we did agree to go to Studley Royal to see if we could see any of the deer in the grounds.

Scooby Doo


The water garden at Studley Royal is supposedly one of the best surviving examples of a Georgian water garden in England. It was created by John Aislabie in 1718 and was expanded by his son, William after Aislabie's death. William expanded the property, purchasing the adjacent Fountains Estate. The garden's elegant ornamental lakes, canals, temples and cascades provide a succession of eye-catching vistas. The garden is also studded with a number of follies including a neo-Gothic castle and a paladin style banqueting house.

We had hoped to go and see the gardens but it was nearing half past four and it was closing. There is plenty of scope for another visit though and next time we intend to see the gardens and then go into Ripon and research its connections with Lewis Carrol which interests Sal.

Studley Royal

Studley Royal.

On our drive back through Studley Roya park we got to see the famous deer and stags. With it being rutting season, there was plenty of "activity" and one stag in particular seemed to be the head of the herd. Other smalled stags crept nearer to challenge him but soon beat a hasty retreat when he turned on them. Sal got a very good photo of him (below).

Stag, Studley Royal.

Panic set upon the both of us as we realised that we'd had nothing to eat all day and more importantly, we had not been to a pub! We decided that a drive back through the Dales would be too tiring so we stopped off in Otley and had a pint in the Black Bull in the Market Square which is reputed to be the oldest pub in the town followed by a pint and one of Spoon's specials for my tea.

All in all another thoroughly enjoyable day out.

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