Find out about this World Heritage Site

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal from Surprise View

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal is a special place for many people for lots of different reasons.

A special place...

For some we're a place of peace and tranquillity, somewhere spiritual and a world away from the hustle and bustle of modern life. To others we're a fun place to come with the family and have adventures. It’s a place of work, a place to volunteer and for some a place of learning, whether that be dressing up as a monk or conducting painstaking research for a PHD thesis.

It’s also a business, attracting on average 350,000 visitors each year who all contribute towards raising the necessary funds for essential conservation work.

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal is a source of pride for the local community and an icon in Yorkshire and further afield. The place we all commonly call ‘Fountains’ is a World Heritage Site, recognised as such by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

The 18th-century water garden, incorporating some of the largest Cistercian abbey ruins in Europe, shares the landscape with a deer park, Jacobean mansion and a magnificent Victorian church designed by William Burges.

What is a WHS?

World Heritage Sites are special places considered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to be of outstanding universal value.

World Heritage Sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of where they are located. By identifying these special places of great cultural and/or natural value UNESCO aims to safeguard these places so that they can be passed to future generations.

Why are we a WHS?

To be designated a World Heritage Site (WHS), a place must not only demonstrate ‘outstanding universal value’, it must also meet at least one of 10 criteria established by UNESCO.

The name of the estate on our World Heritage Site inscription is ‘Studley Royal Park, including the ruins of Fountains Abbey’, rather than the name we’re usually known by, ‘Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal’.

Looking after a WHS

Together with our partners, it’s our role to ensure this exceptional landscape is looked after, so that future generations can experience this inspirational place.

Every World Heritage Site must have a management plan for every six years. This is an important document, which needs to be approved by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. Our plan is going through this approval process now. The 2015-2021 Management Plan can be viewed below.

Read about our progress so far

Including conservation work in the water gardens and large art programme folly! it’s been a busy couple of years here at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal since the launch of our World Heritage Site Management Plan in 2016. Two years on and we’ve made good progress, with more big plans to come. Click through to have a read and find out more about what has been going on at this special World Heritage Site. 

Our 2018 progress update on the World Heritage Site Management Plan (PDF / 2.6MB) download

Find out more

Some key documents relating to our World Heritage Site can be downloaded at the links below.

If you're having trouble viewing our World Heritage Site plan, you can view it on Issuu instead.

Other WHS Sites

There are currently 911 World Heritage Sites on the UNESCO list. In the north of England they include Saltaire, Durham and Hadrian's Wall.

The National Trust looks after over 9 places on the World Heritage List in the United Kingdom, including the Stonehenge landscape.

See the full World Heritage Site list or find out more about National Trust World Heritage Sites below.