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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

Every day, at 11am and 1pm

Join our volunteer tour guides and see the abbey as the Georgians did, incorporated into the dramatic designed landscape.

Discover more about the Georgian designed water gardens on a guided tour.

If you'd like to find out even more after your tour, you can meet your guide in the abbey cloister at 1pm where they'll be able to answer any of your questions and discuss the history of the ruins in more detail.

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.

See one of the oldest cherry tree in the country blossoming in Studley Royal deer park
See one of the oldest cherry tree in the country blossoming in Studley Royal deer park | © Chris Wood

The cherry tree

The cherry tree in Studley Royal deer park is one of oldest cherry trees in the UK, at least 325 years old.

In 2008 the crown of the tree was blown over during a violent storm, leaving the one stem we see today. Our ranger team regularly monitor and support its last remaining stem, hoping it will put out fresh shoots and live for many more years.

In 2022, 30 cuttings of the tree were taken and are being propagated by National Trust’s Plant Conservation Centre (PCC) in Devon. We'll receive these cloned stems in 2025 and will plant them around the Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal estate.

The cherry tree was visited by Poet Laureate Simon Armitage in April 2023 and has featured in the 2024 National Trust Blossom campaign.

St Mary's Church

Open every day, 1pm - 3:30pm

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.

Deer Walks

Walk with the wildlife volunteers to find out more about the Red, Sika and Fallow Deer that live in Studley Royal deer park. See the deer and hear about how we care for them.

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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