A walk through the centuries
Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, Ripon, HG4 3DYRoute details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
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.
- Bus stop
Start: Fountains Abbey Visitor Centre
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
1870 Approach St.Mary's Church, commissioned by the Marquess and Marchioness of Ripon. The Church is open from April 1 to September 30.
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.
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.
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.
End: SE272687 Fountains Abbey Visitor Centre
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- Trail: Walking
- Grade: Easy
- Distance: 4.5 miles (7.2 km)
- Time: 3 hours
- OS Map: OS Explorer 299 Ripon and Boroughbridge
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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