Studley Park, Water Gardens and Abbey
Fountains Abbey is a World Heritage Site offering the visitor a unique opportunity to experience a wide range of England's heritage.
On this circular walk you'll learn more about the 18th-century landscape of the Deer Park and the Seven Bridges Valley.
Fountains Abbey Visitor Centre, grid ref: SE272687
Leave the visitor centre and follow the signs towards St Mary's Church. Follow the well-defined bridlepath 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; the Obelisk and St Mary's Church will be on your left.
This stone obelisk was erected in 1815 replacing an earlier wooden version and stone pyramid. It was intended to be a monument to John Aislabie, the designer of the 18th-century water gardens.
Pause a moment to admire St Mary's Church on your left.
St Mary's Church
The church of St Mary's was commissioned in 1870 by the first Marquess and Marchioness of Ripon to commemorate the Marchioness brother who had been murdered in Greece. It has a sister church, 'Christ the Consoler' at Skelton-On-Ure, Newby, both William Burges masterpieces.
You are now in the deer park. Studley Royal was developed as a hunting ground for deer in the late Middle Ages. Today, the park covers around 300 acres and supports about 550 deer of three different species.
Deer at Studley
There are three different species of deer in the park; fallow, sika and red deer.
Continue down the roadway and be sure to look ahead and see how the driveway aligns St Mary's Church with the Cathedral in Ripon, a clever piece of landscaping. As you walk down the road Chorister's House (which is available for holiday lets) is on your left.
Further down the roadway there is a small crossroads, take the left turn. Continue along the road and pass the large converted stable block on your left. Continue for about 55yd (50m) then take the grass track that veers off to the right passing by a large beech tree on your left.
Studley Royal Stable Block
Studley Royal House was completely gutted by fire in 1946 and was pulled down. All that remains is the stable block which is now a privately owned house.
Follow the path down a slight slope and cross the stone bridge at the bottom known as 'Rough Bridge'. The track splits into two, take the right-hand path going up a slight incline and follow it as it bends to the left and continues East between two lines of trees. As the path rises look to your left to see what was Home Farm, the old Head Gardener's House in the 18th century. At the top of the rise the path bends sharply to the right, follow it to the right.
About 330yd (300m) down the path there is a gate in the wall on the left, go thorugh the gate and follow the path to Studley Roger Village. This path brings you out in the middle of the village onto the road. Turn right onto the road and follow it past the entrance to Fountains Abbey. Continue straight forward and take the road and track that leads up an incline keeping the entrance gates on your right.
Continue up the rise and you pass a farm and Plumpton hall on your right. Take the opportunity to look at the views to your left which include Ripon Cathedral in the distance.
Continue along the path and pass through the Green Man gate. Follow the path as it bears right through a wood. You will see the River Skell on your right.
Follow the path as it comes out of the woods and ends in front of a large metal gate that leads to the Valley of the Seven Bridges. Go through the gate heading West and follow the path as it crosses and re-crosses the river over a number of small stone bridges.
Valley of the Seven Bridges
William Aislabie created this area of the 18th century landscape in a picturesque style, in contrast to his father John's more formal landscape in the Water Garden. He also created one of the first Chinese landscape gardens here though sadly little remains of it.
Look up to your right for the feature marked on the map 'Devil's Chimney'. This curious building originally had four pinnacles, and was a scaled down copy of a classical Roman Monument the 'Tomb of the Horatii'. Its dimensions are deliberately small, creating the impression that it was viewed from a far greater distance than was actually the case. Continue to follow the path until you reach the Lake and on the far side the Victorian tea rooms - why not enjoy tea and cakes by the Lakeside?
Leaving the tea-room, take the roadway up to the lower car park. Cross the car park and head for a small path at the rear signposted 'St Mary's Church 500yds Visitor Centre 1 mile'. The path rises and goes through trees bending to the right.
The path climbs steadily and you will soon see St Mary's Church in front of you. A little further and the path splits into two, take the left-hand path heading west to the main gates of the Deer Park.
Go through the pedestrian gate and turn sharp left to follow the footpath back to the visitor centre and main car park.
Fountains Abbey Visitor Centre, grid ref: SE272687
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