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Things to do at Studley Royal

View of the 18th-century water garden at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal on a sunny day
The 18th-century water garden at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, Yorkshire | © National Trust Images / James Dobson

Discover Studley Royal, a landscaped 18th-century deer park in the Skell Valley near Ripon. Stroll alongside tranquil canals and ponds, visit the statues on the lawn and take to the High Ride path for views through the trees. Then see which species of deer you can spot at Studley Royal deer park.

Exploring Safely

Studley Royal is a water garden and has pools, canals and cascades fed from the river Skell. This is made up of deep running water, please don't paddle here. There are some gentle and steep slopes around the estate as well as uneven ground and height drops. We recommend wearing sturdy shoes when you visit.

Guided tours

Join our volunteer tour guides every Saturday and Sunday from 11am-12:30pm and see the abbey as the Georgians did, incorporated into the dramatic designed landscape.

You can find out more about our upcoming garden and abbey tour here

Studley Royal Water Garden

Nestled within the Skell Valley near Ripon, this landscaped masterpiece was designed by John and William Aislabie in the 18th century.

While it's often thought that the magnificent abbey ruin is the reason for the World Heritage Site designation here, it's actually the water garden at Studley Royal.

Listed by UNESCO as 'one of the most magnificent Georgian water gardens ever created', Studley Royal is a landscape which has been artificially manipulated to such a standard as to be considered a 'feat of human creative genius'.

Fountains Abbey became part of this contemporary design as an ornament or ‘folly’ within the garden in 1767 when the two neighbouring estates were united. The official World Heritage Site designation is Studley Royal Park including the Ruins of Fountains Abbey.

Explore the garden

Follow the gentle banks of the River Skell down from the abbey to the garden which has been channelled into canals, cascades and tranquil moon ponds. The monks changed the course of the river up by the abbey, with the Aislabies continuing this work by crafting the reservoirs and channels to create a scenic landscape garden.

You walk out onto a sprawling green lawn, decorated with statues dotted around tranquil moon ponds. Stroll around the ponds and down the canal to see the statues up close.

Make the climb up to the High Ride path through the dark Serpentine Tunnel. There are more follies to explore and far-reaching views. Don't worry – once you're up, it's worth the climb. Find three more follies along the winding woodland path and discover the views through the trees, ever changing with the seasons.

Studley Royal deer park

Studley Royal deer park was declared Yorkshire’s first World Heritage Site in 1986, and is set beside the ruins of the Cistercian abbey. It once contained the Tudor manor house known as Studley Royal House, but this was largely destroyed by fire in 1716. Although rebuilt about 50 years later, this too was damaged by fire in 1946 and demolished shortly afterwards. Today all that remains is the impressive stable block, built between 1728 and 1732, which is now a private residence.

Within the deer park you'll find St Mary's Church. A richly decorated Victorian Gothic revival church, it was commissioned in 1870 by the first Marquess and Marchioness of Ripon to commemorate the Marchioness’s brother who had been allegedly murdered in Greece. St Mary's Church is closed for the winter and will reopen in April 2024.

On the Hoof

Trot along, on Saturdays in December, to St Mary's Church to watch the wild deer munching through their winter feed. See some antlers up close and chat to the wildlife team. Find out more here

Types of deer at Studley Royal

Three red deer under a tree in the woodland at Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire
Red deer sheltering in the woodlands at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal | © National Trust Images/Paul Harris

Red deer

These are the largest in Studley Royal park. They’re indigenous to the UK and are usually a dark reddish brown. The male is called a stag and have large antlers shaped like tree branches. The female is called a hind and the young are referred to as calves.

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Children exploring the columns of Fountains Abbey nave in the summertime

Discover more at Fountains Abbey

Find out when Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

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