A walk through the centuries

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, Ripon, HG4 3DY

Route details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Explore the majestic Fountains Abbey © Andrew Butler

Explore the majestic Fountains Abbey

We've just completed a conservation project to repair the roof © Andrew Butler

We've just completed a conservation project to repair the roof

One of the beautiful follies you can see in the Water Garden © Kippa Matthews

One of the beautiful follies you can see in the Water Garden

Join the seven bridges walk © Andrew Butler

Join the seven bridges walk

Spot the coloured birds and parrots inside the church © Andrew Butler

Spot the coloured birds and parrots inside the church

Tuck into a tasty treat © National Trust

Tuck into a tasty treat

Route overview

You'll experience time travel as you walk through the Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal Estate, exploring the significant stages in the estate's history from 1132 to 1987. This is not a circular walk; to discover all the significant landscape additions you may need to double back on yourself a couple of times. The walk takes you around the grounds therefore you will need to pay admission or be a National Trust or English Heritage member.

Route details

See this step-by-step route marked on a map

Walk through the centuries trail map
  • Directions
  • Route
  • Bus stop
  • Parking
  • Toilet
  • Viewpoint

Start: Fountains Abbey Visitor Centre

  1. 1132-1539 From the visitor centre walk along the path towards the Abbey. At the metal gate, take the left path and walk down onto the West Green of the Abbey. Spend time exploring the impressive remains of this large Abbey. Exit the Abbey west and follow the main drive, passing the Porter's Lodge interpretation centre on your right.

    Show/HideFountains Abbey

    The Abbey was founded in 1132 by a group of thirteen monks seeking a more austere and devout way of life. The Abbey grew to be the richest in England, though this all came to an end with the Dissolution. To find out more visit the exhibition in the Porter's Lodge.

    Explore the majestic Fountains Abbey © Andrew Butler
  2. 1604 Continue along the main drive and you will see Fountains Hall, a Jacobean manor house. Fountains Hall was built by Stephen Proctor, partly using stone from the Abbey. When leaving Fountains Hall retrace your steps. Continue down the path, with the Abbey on your right.

    Show/HideFountains Hall

    Sir Stephen Proctor was a Protestant and as Justice of the Peace for the West Riding he was unpopular with his Catholic neighbours, including the Ingleby family from Ripley.

    We've just completed a conservation project to repair the roof © Andrew Butler
  3. 1718 At the first junction in the road, fork right to see aspects of John Aislabie's water garden. On your left is the canal, emerging from the rustic bridge and further, on the right, the half moon reservoir. Return to the junction and turn right.

    Show/HideThe Water Garden

    The part of the garden you are now standing in was created by John Aislabie, and work began in 1718. John was Chancellor of the Exchequer but was expelled from Parliament in 1720 for his role in the 'South Sea Bubble' which caused financial ruin for many. After two years in the Tower of London he returned to Yorkshire to channel his energies into creating his water garden.

  4. 1740s Continue down the main path looking to your right to catch glimpses of the Temple of Piety. At the next junction take the left fork up the hill. At the top is the Banqueting House, where John Aislabie entertained his guests. Continue down the path and exit the gardens via the gate to the deer park.

    Show/HideThe Banqueting House

    If you look closely at the Banqueting House you will see three gruesome faces above the doorway. Traditionally these represented Malice, Hatred and Envy, qualities guests were invited to leave at the front door before entering.

    One of the beautiful follies you can see in the Water Garden © Kippa Matthews
  5. 1740s Walk around the Lake until opposite the cascade. Enjoy the view across the Lake into the Water Garden. Walk across the footbridge and down the Valley of the Seven Bridges. Walk as far along the Valley as you like, before retracing your steps, cross over the footbridge again and when you reach the road turn right and then left, heading up the hill.

    Show/HideValley of the Seven Bridges

    This part of the garden was created by John's son, William. Notice the difference between John's earlier garden and this more naturalistic style. The gardens are a rare surviving example of two styles of garden fashion in the eighteenth century; formal and picturesque.

    Join the seven bridges walk © Andrew Butler
  6. 1870 Approach St.Mary's Church, commissioned by the Marquess and Marchioness of Ripon. The Church is open from April 1 to September 30.

    Show/HideSt.Mary's Church

    The architect of the Church was William Burges, and is considered to be one of his finest works. If the church is open, it is well worth a look inside. If not, there is a panel inside the South Porch which can give you an insight.

    Spot the coloured birds and parrots inside the church © Andrew Butler
  7. Once you have left the Church, turn right up through the gate and deer park boundary wall, and then turn left walking along the bridleway with the deer park wall on your left. Arrive at the Visitor Centre where you finish your walk. If you have enjoyed learning about the estate on this walk, there are guidebooks available in the shop.

    Show/HideVisitor Centre

    1987 The Visitor Centre was designed by prominent architect Ted Cullinan. As you have seen, each of the estate's architectural additions over the years have been of the highest quality and are each important in their own right. Such a contemporary building in a historic setting was considered very daring at the time with The Independent newspaper describing it as, ' A bold addition to a fine inheritance. It is now considered one of Cullinan's finest works and a significant addition to the landscape.

    Tuck into a tasty treat © National Trust

End: SE272687 Fountains Abbey Visitor Centre

  • Trail: Walking
  • Grade: Easy
  • Distance: 4.5 miles (7.2 km)
  • Time: 3 hours
  • OS Map: OS Explorer 299 Ripon and Boroughbridge
  • Terrain:

    This walk takes you along bridleways, footpaths, roadways and gravel tracks through this delightful estate. The terrain is fairly easy walking though there are a few moderate hills. Sensible shoes are recommended as the ground can be muddy in poor weather. Dogs are welcome on short leads.

  • How to get here:

    By foot: 4 miles from Ripon via public footpaths and bridleways

    By bicycle: Signed on road cycle loop

    By bus: Harrogate District Community Transport (Ripon Roweller 139) connecting with the Leeds to Ripon 36. Please call Traveline for details (0871 200 2233)

    By train: Nearest main railway station is Harrogate, 12 miles from Fountains Abbey

    By car: 4 miles west of Pateley Bridge on B6265 to Pateley Bridge, signposted from A1, 12 miles north of Harrogate

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