Aislabie's lost garden walk
Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, Ripon, HG4 3DYRoute details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Take this circular walk to see a more rustic and beautiful side of the estate. Starting at the Lake outfall, this walk follows the meandering Skell river along the steep-sided valley via a series of delightful arched bridges, of which only five remain.
- Bus stop
Start: Fountains Abbey Visitor Centre SE272687
Leave the visitor centre and follow signs towards St Mary's Church. Follow the signs for 'Footpath to St Mary's Church, Deer Park and Water Garden’.
Follow the well-defined bridle path that runs parallel to the main drive, until you reach the large gates on your right that give access to St Mary's Church and the Deer Park. Go through the pedestrian gate, and proceed down the roadway. Carry on down this avenue until you reach a cross roads. At this junction, take a right hand turn and follow this road down to the lake.
If you have parked at the Studley Royal lakeside car park, this is the point where you can pick up the 7 bridges walk. From this point, take the left hand fork in the road, which follows the bank round towards the back of the lake. Cross the footbridge flanked by Sphynx statues either side, and you have arrived in the 7 bridges valley.
Follow the path around to the left, heading for the first of five stone arched bridges. On your left you might notice a red brick wall on the far side of the river, where it takes the first sharp right-hand bend. Here lay the remnants of a Hydro-electric generator installed by the Marquis of Ripon in 1891. Follow the path over the bridge, and onwards. Just before you reach the second bridge, you’ll notice a tree on the right hand bank surrounded by fencing. Below this tree there is a part of the bank that has been bricked up. The bricks have blocked a By-pass tunnel which was installed in the late 18th century to redirect the water from its usual course. During the summer months the river’s water disappeared into a swallow hole buried deep in the side of the river bank. To avoid this happening and potentially damaging the aesthetic of the valley, a 75 metre long by-pass tunnel was built in the neck of the meander to divert the water and maintain its flow downstream.
Hydro-electric generator. This hydro-electric generator transmitted electricity to storage batteries and then to Studley Royal House by copper strips set in a buried concrete and stone duct. The generator was designed by Colonel Crompton, who went on to design the first electrical transmission system in London.
Walk over the second and third bridges. At the third bridge, look up the left side of the valley. At the top of a clearly defined scramble you’ll see The Roman Monument, supposedly named after a tomb near Rome. Continue following the path. Observe the bridges that you cross. The original bridges were not made of stone, but of timber and in Chinese Lattice style. One can imagine the fords being used as a means of transport for the Aislabies’ esteemed guests to ride through their pleasure grounds.to the left of the bridge. Built around 1740, the fords would have originally been used for transport access. Once over the fourth bridge, continue along the path. As you come within sight of the fifth and last bridge in the valley, you will notice on the far side of the river a brilliant white section of limestone cliff. On top of this are the remains of the Chinese Pavilion, which was once visible from Octagon Tower. The Chinese Pavilion, or Pagoda as it is sometimes called, was built around 1745. Acting in theme with the John’s Chinese Garden, the pavilion was decorated in gold leaf. All that remains today is the circular plinth on which it was built.
The Roman Monument. It is possible that the monument was built for John Aislabie around 1740. Thought to have been based on the tomb of Horatii and Curiatii at Aricca above Rome, the monument may have originally had four pinnacles on the corners of its roof, as suggested in a 1760 painting of the building by Balthazar Nebot.
Advance over the final bridge, and come to the gates which lead out of the estate. You are now entering into what were formerly The Chinese Gardens. Carry on following the path until you come to a long and narrow green footbridge on your right. Cross this bridge and follow the path up a very steep hill. You may notice the smell of wild garlic; the plant grows prolifically in this area. At the top of the hill, (after catching your breath!) turn right. Follow the bridle path through the woods, keeping to the stone wall on the right hand side at all times. After about ten minutes you will arrive at a stone building with an archway on your right. This is Mackershaw Lodge. This is one of the estate’s most enigmatic buildings, and although gate like in appearance, the building’s purpose served more likely as a distant focal point.
Mackershaw Lodge. Built in about 1740 by John Aislabie, there is not much known about Mackershaw Lodge. The building was abandoned in the 1940s and has since been maintained as a boundary to the deer park.
Proceed through Mackershaw Lodge, via two sets of pedestrian gates on the left hand side of the building. You are now in Mackershaw Deer Park. Carry on forward, following the path through the park. You will follow this path through the entirety of the park, joining onto some vehicle tracks on the last sloping descent. At the end of this descent you will come to a gate. Go through the gate and carry on forwards. At the bottom of the hill you will find yourself next to the footbridge at the lake, where you began. Cross the bridge over the lake and proceed on the path until you come off of the track and onto the road. At this point, if you have parked at the Studley car park, you can finish the walk.
To get back to the main visitor centre, turn right and follow the road until you reach the crossroads that you passed earlier on in the deer park. Turn left and follow the avenue up towards St. Mary’s church. Advance further until you come to a gate. Go through the gate, and turn left onto the bridle path. Proceed further down this path until you reach a roundabout. Follow the signs that take you back to the main visitor centre and car parks.
End: Fountains Abbey Visitor Centre SE272687
- Trail: Walking
- Grade: Easy
- Distance: 3.8 miles (6.2 km)
- Time: 1 1/2 to 2 hours
- OS Map: Explorer 299, 298, Landranger 99
Follow the bridleways, footpaths and roadways through this delightful estate. The terrain is fairly easy walking, although there are a few moderate hills. Sensible shoes are recommended as the ground can be muddy in inclement weather. Although dogs are welcome, they must be kept on a lead at all times. A short lead is required when walking dogs in the deer park as there is livestock nearby.
- How to get here:
By foot: 4 miles (6.4km) from Ripon via public footpaths and bridleways
By bike: Signed on-road cycle loop
By bus: Harrogate District Community Transport (Ripon Roweller 139), Ripon to Markington (connections with Harrogate and District 36 from Harrogate)
By train: Harrogate 12 miles (19.3km)
By car: 4 miles (6.4km) west of Ripon off B6265 to Pateley Bridge, signposted from A1, 12 miles (19.3km) north of Harrogate (A61)
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