The Seven Bridges Valley walk
Take this circular walk to see a more rustic and beautiful side of the estate.
Starting at the Lake outfall, this walk follows the meandering Skell river along the steep-sided valley via a series of delightful arched bridges, of which only five remain.
Fountains Abbey Visitor Centre, grid ref: SE272687
Leave the visitor centre and follow signs towards St Mary's Church. Follow the signs for 'Footpath to St Mary's Church, Deer Park and Water Garden’.
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. Carry on down this avenue until you reach a crossroads. At this junction, take a right-hand turn and follow this road down to the lake.
Cross the footbridge over the lake flanked by Sphinx statues either side, and you have arrived in the seven bridges valley.
Follow the path around to the left, heading for the first of five stone arched bridges. On your left you might notice a red brick wall on the far side of the river, where it takes the first sharp right-hand bend. Here lay the remnants of a Hydro-electric generator installed by the Marquis of Ripon in 1891. Follow the path over the bridge, and onwards.
Hydro Electric Generator
This hydro-electric generator transmitted electricity to storage batteries and then to Studley Royal House by copper strips set in a buried concrete and stone duct. The generator was designed by Colonel Crompton, who went on to design the first electrical transmission system in London.
Walk over the second and third bridges. At the third bridge, look up the left side of the valley. At the top of a clearly defined scramble you’ll see The Roman Monument, supposedly named after a tomb near Rome. Continue following the path. Observe the bridges that you cross. The original bridges were not made of stone, but of timber and in Chinese Lattice style. One can imagine the fords being used as a means of transport for the Aislabies’ esteemed guests to ride through their pleasure grounds.to the left of the bridge. Built around 1740, the fords would have originally been used for transport access. Once over the fourth bridge, continue along the path. As you come within sight of the fifth and last bridge in the valley, you will notice on the far side of the river a brilliant white section of limestone cliff. On top of this are the remains of the Chinese Pavilion, which was once visible from Octagon Tower. The Chinese Pavilion, or Pagoda as it is sometimes called, was built around 1745. Acting in theme with the John’s Chinese Garden, the pavilion was decorated in gold leaf. All that remains today is the circular plinth on which it was built.
It is possible that the monument was built for John Aislabie around 1740. Thought to have been based on the tomb of Horatii and Curiatii at Aricca above Rome, the monument may have originally had four pinnacles on the corners of its roof, as suggested in a 1760 painting of the building by Balthazar Nebot.
Advance over the final bridge, and come to the gates which lead out of the estate. You are now entering into what were formerly The Chinese Gardens. Carry on following the path until you come to a long and narrow green footbridge on your right. Cross this bridge and follow the path up a very steep hill. You may notice the smell of wild garlic; the plant grows prolifically in this area. At the top of the hill, (after catching your breath!) turn right. Follow the bridlepath through the woods, keeping to the stone wall on the right-hand side at all times. After about ten minutes you will arrive at a stone building with an archway on your right. This is Mackershaw Lodge. This is one of the estate’s most enigmatic buildings, and although gate-like in appearance, the building’s purpose served more likely as a distant focal point.
Built in about 1740 by John Aislabie, there is not much known about Mackershaw Lodge. The building was abandoned in the 1940s and has since been maintained as a boundary to the Deer Park.
Proceed through Mackershaw Lodge, via two sets of pedestrian gates on the left-hand side of the building. You are now in Mackershaw Deer Park. Follow this path straight ahead through the park, joining onto some vehicle tracks on the last sloping descent. At the end of this descent you will come to a gate. Go through the gate and carry on forwards. At the bottom of the hill you will find yourself next to the footbridge at the lake, where you began. Cross the bridge over the lake and proceed on the path until you come off of the track and onto the road.
To get back to the main visitor centre, turn right and follow the road until you reach the crossroads that you passed earlier on in the Deer Park. Turn left and follow the avenue up towards St Mary’s church. Advance further until you come to a gate. Go through the gate, and turn left onto the bridlepath. Proceed further down this path until you reach a roundabout. Follow the signs that take you back to the main visitor centre and car parks.
Fountains Abbey Visitor Centre, grid ref: SE272687
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