Ripon and Fountains Abbey walk

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, Ripon, HG4 3DY

Route details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Marvel at the view to Ripon Cathedral © Alexa Morton

Marvel at the view to Ripon Cathedral

The original bridges were Chinoiserie, not stone © Andrew Butler

The original bridges were Chinoiserie, not stone

Beautiful view across open countryside to Ripon Cathedral © Colin Clift

Beautiful view across open countryside to Ripon Cathedral

Route overview

This walk allows visitors to reach Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal Water Garden via footpaths, roadways, bridleways and Studley Royal Deer Park. Allow more time than recommended if you would like to enter the Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal Estate with its 12th-century abbey, Georgian Water Garden, Cistercian mill, and Jacobean mansion (admission charges apply).

Route details

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

Ripon to Fountains Abbey walk map
  • Directions
  • Route
  • Bus stop
  • Parking
  • Toilet
  • Viewpoint

Start: Ripon Market Place, grid ref: SE313713

  1. Leave Ripon bus station/car park heading west towards Queen Street, bearing left to the Market Place. Cross the square diagonally to the south-west corner and bear left via pedestrian crossings, past the end of Westgate down the hill along High Skellgate. Continue down to the traffic light-controlled junction.

  2. Go straight on at the junction, across the pedestrian crossing into Low Skellgate, taking care on the narrow footpath. Go past the service garage on the right, bear right and follow Borrage Lane. Look out for the blue plaque on White Cottage, commemorating the residence of poet Wilfred Owen during his stay for recuperation after injuries received in the First World War.

  3. Towards the end of Borrage Lane, take the footpath bearing left, crossing the River Skell by the footbridge. Turn right and follow the footpath at the side of the river, passing the junction with the River Laver, to climb concrete steps. The concrete steps are a surviving relic of a First World War army camp which extended up the River Skell to the Deer Park boundary. Most of the remains of the camp are hidden under open parkland/playing fields - though outlines of buildings, roads and an internal light railway may be seen.

  4. Follow the path through scrubland - mostly keeping the river in view on your right. Emerge onto a road at Hell Wath Cottage. There are many paths here - keep to the right as far as possible. Turn right at the junction and immediately cross over the stile adjacent to an information board. Cross over the River Skell via a footbridge. Follow this well-defined and hedged path, passing a large house on the left to a junction of a similar path at right angles to it.

  5. At the junction of the paths, turn left and continue to Studley Roger village, crossing the main street to follow the footpath opposite for Studley Royal. Pass into the deer park and follow the grass path ahead to join the main vehicle drive in the park. On a clear day, you'll see St Mary's church ahead. Turning around, you'll see Ripon Cathedral in the distance.

    Show/HideVista between Ripon Cathedral and St Mary's Church

    Vistas play an important role in Aislabie's designed landscape. Vistas are views arranged to draw the eye towards a specific point in the distance. In the 18th century, this vista aligned the lime trees either side of you with Ripon Cathedral. St Mary's church was completed later in 1871, further enhancing the vista.

    Marvel at the view to Ripon Cathedral © Alexa Morton
  6. Follow the drive up towards a junction and turn left towards Studley Lake. Why not take time to visit the tea-room overlooking the lake? Or enter the grounds of the estate to see the magnificent Georgian Water Garden and 12th-century abbey ruins? If you decide not to visit the tea-room or estate - as the drive bends right, take the track on your left, crossing the footbridge with the lake on your right.

  7. After crossing the footbridge, follow the well-defined footpath ahead, down the Valley of the Seven Bridges and the course of the River Skell. The river can disappear into swallow holes in the limestone rock during dry weather.

    Show/HideValley of the Seven Bridges

    William Aislabie created a Chinese garden in this valley in the mid-18th century, though sadly little of it remains. The original bridges were made of timber and built in a Chinese lattice style.

    The original bridges were Chinoiserie, not stone © Andrew Butler
  8. After you've crossed five bridges (there were originally seven), exit National Trust property via a metal gate, following the track beside the river.

  9. At the track junction, bear to the left and continue up the hill to open views over Ripon and past Plumpton Hall farm house, returning to Studley Roger Village, passing the entrance to the Estate on your left. In the village, turn right to retrace your earlier steps along the footpath to Ripon.

    Show/HideView to Ripon Cathedral

    You'll see a lovely view to the Cathedral across farmland.

    Beautiful view across open countryside to Ripon Cathedral © Colin Clift
  10. At the cross-paths, continue straight ahead to reach the B6265. Take care crossing the road. Turn right towards Ripon, crossing the River Laver. At the mini roundabout continue straight ahead, passing cricket and rugby grounds on the right, to the junction with Clotherholme Road.

  11. Continue past the Ripon Spa Hotel and Gardens on your right, crossing the end of Blossomgate via the pedestrian crossing. Take Westgate straight ahead to return to the Market Place and your starting point.

End: Ripon Market Place, grid ref: SE313713

  • Trail: Walking
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Distance: 8 miles (12.8km)
  • Time: 4 hours
  • OS Map: OS Explorer 299 Ripon and Boroughbridge
  • Terrain:

    This walk takes you along bridleways, footpaths, roadways and tracks from Ripon. The terrain is fairly easy walking although there are a few moderate hills. Walking boots are recommended as the ground can be muddy in poor weather. Dogs on short leads are welcome.

  • How to get here:

    By foot: This walk starts in Ripon, which you can get to by car or by bus.

    By bike: Follow the signed on road cycle byways.

    By bus: Harrogate and District Route 36 from Harrogate and Leeds, plus other local services. Please call Traveline for details on 0871 200 22 33.

    By car: Ripon is 4 miles west from the A1 and 10 miles north of Harrogate (A61).

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