Skip to content

Family-friendly things to do at Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal

Wrap up warm and make special memories here this Christmas | © Annapurna Mellor

There are acres of space where little legs can explore and imaginations run riot here at Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal. Find out more about what to expect if you’re planning a visit with babies and children.

Planning your family visit

Fountains Abbey is open 7 days a week and there’s no need to book in advance - just come along and spend a full day exploring, running and playing.

  • There are accessible toilets and a dedicated baby change at the visitor centre, by Fountains Hall and at the Studley end of the estate.
  • There are accessible concrete paths on a circular walk around the estate. Paths inside the abbey ruins and deer park vary from gravel to grass and hard standing.
  • Children under five are welcome to bring balance bikes to help them get around. Foot-propelled scooters, larger bikes and e-scooters are only allowed on the long drive through the deer park.
  • There is a ball games area next to playground at the visitor centre, ball games are not permitted beyond this point.
  • We are aware the estate is very large and little legs can get tired on their adventures. Complimentary visitor transport operates from each entrance (visitor centre, West Gate and Studley). Just ask a member of the team at the ticket office to call it for you and we’ll be happy to run down and collect you.

Exploring safely

The abbey ruin is nearly 900 years old and while it looks tempting to climb on, it's much safer to have fun discovering all the secret doorways and staircases instead. The river Skell runs through the site and it a great place for spotting wildlife. Please do keep those wellies out of the water though as it is deep and fast running in places.

Christmas Holidays

As the daylight draws in, grab a warming mug of hot chocolate and explore the sparkling abbey ruins this Christmas.

Music and Lights

Every Saturday and Sunday between 25 November - 31 December (excluding 3 and 10 December), 2-5pm

As twilight falls see the abbey aglow with all the colours of the rainbow. Walk beneath the abbey cellarium's vaulted ceilings, under the grand columns of the nave and stop to watch the live choirs and bands fill the ruins with festive music. Join in if you know the tune!

On the Hoof

Trot along 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 too.

You can find out more about our On the Hoof event here

Winter craft

Every day between 23 December - 7 January, excluding (24, 25 December and 5 January), 11am-2pm

Stop by Swanley Grange workshop to join in with this free family-friendly winter caft. Learn about hibernating creatures and have a go at making a woodland animal badge to take home.

Winter trail

Every day between 23 December - 7 January, excluding (24, 25 December and 5 January), 10am-4pm

Follow our winter trail and discover historic traditions through the essence of the Twelve Days of Christmas. See if you can find two turtle doves in Fountains Hall; ring four calling bells in Fountains Mill; spot ten Christmas deer at Studley, and fill in the gaps as you explore.

A 1930s Christmas at Fountains Hall

Open every day 10am - 4pm (excluding 24 and 25 December and 5 January)

Visit Fountains Hall this festive season to experience an essence of a 1930s Christmas. Marvel at the vintage style decorations while you sit by the grand fireplace in the stone hall. Challenge your opponent to a board game or dress up in vintage costumes and strike a pose. Learn about how the Vyner’s celebrated, while listening to popular 1930s Christmas music.

Spot the deer

Nature is all around you in the deer park. Watch as little faces light up in awe as they spot the deer in the distance. Can you tell the difference between the red, sika and fallow deer? If you’re really quiet, you may even spot a newborn fawn but remember to keep your distance as the deer herds are particularly vulnerable during summer.

A young boy in an adapted pram enjoys the accessible roundabout in the play area at Fountains Abbey
Little ones will be full of beans and out of puff by the time they've whizzed round the play area | © Chris Lacey

Discover the play area

Less than two minutes from the visitor centre there's a huge play area where inquisitive little minds can be let loose to play. There are things to wobble along, jump over and climb'll find a wooden abbey, a woodland lookout, scramble nets and posts, swings, fireman's poles, a slide and a gigantic rope bridge for the most daring adventurers of all.

There’s also a five-point harness swing for our younger visitors with additional access needs.

Parents can keep an eye out from picnic tables dotted around or come and join in with building a den.

a mum and children look at details in the Fountains Abbey stonework
Come in and look up! There are faces and figures hidden all around the high points in the abbey ruins | © J Shepherd

Become an abbey adventurer

Don your adventure cap and set out to discover all the hidden corners of the abbey. See if you can find the last of the white marble and all the ruined alters in the nave. Can you hear an echo in the cellarium and how many staircases can you find throughout the ruins? Be sure to look up to find carved figures and faces.

A family walking through an old brick tunnel with a view of a garden behind them
A family explores the tunnels at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden in North Yorkshire | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Be a water garden explorer

Don't stop at the abbey. The water garden is full of straight lines and symmetrical curves but there are many corners to discover, too. Climb up to the Banqueting House lawn and have fun, can you spot Octagon Tower in the distance?

Explore woodland on the High Ride path - but you'll need to walk through the dark Serpentine Tunnel to get there! Once you're up, you're up and there are three follies to find. One has an underground kitchen, one is made out wood and one has a wide view down to the abbey. See if you can find them all.

'50 things to do before you’re 11¾'

What better way to spend your day than trying new activities from the list of '50 things to do before you’re 11¾'? Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal is a great place to become an explorer and you can do lots of the '50 things' activities here throughout the year.

Here's just a few ideas to get you started:

  • No. 1 Get to know a tree: With so many to choose from, which will you get up close and personal to? Look out for leaf shapes, textures on the bark and tiny creatures that might live on the tree.
  • No. 12 Have fun with sticks: Let your imagination run wild. Build a den, make a trail or create your own game...they make perfect wands.
  • No. 44 Watch a bird: To be a successful bird watcher, you'll need to be as quiet as a mouse while you keep a look out for our feathered friends. What will you spot?

Approximate distances to help you plan your visit

  • Main car parks to main entrance: between 50 and 350 metres
  • Visitor centre to the abbey ruins: 400 metres with a steep incline
  • Visitor centre to the water garden: 1,500 metres, or 1.5km
  • Visitor centre to Studley entrance: 1,800 metres, or 1.8km
  • Circular walk around the abbey and water garden (most popular route): 4,500 metres, or 4.5km
  • Visitor Centre circular walk around the abbey and one side of the water garden and up through the deer park via St Mary’s Church: 3,000 metres, or 3km

'I love coming to Fountains Abbey with my family. My favourite bits are the zip line in the playground and the secret upstairs room in the abbey. I like to chase my big sister through the tunnel in the garden too. We always race through the middle bit where it’s really dark.'

– Daisy, age 8

You might also be interested in

Winter image of a dog in front of Founatins Abbey

Visiting Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal with your dog 

Fountains Abbey is a three pawprint rated place. Discover why it's such a great place to bring your dog and take a look at our top tips to help you make the most of your visit.

The Temple of Piety seen across the Moon and Half Crescent ponds at Studley Royal Water Garden, North Yorkshire

Things to do at Studley Royal 

The evocative ruins of the abbey are set beside the grounds of Studley Royal, a medieval deer park in Yorkshire. It was declared Yorkshire’s first World Heritage Site in 1986.

Fountains Abbey in the snow

Things to do at Fountains Abbey 

The ruins of Fountains Abbey are truly something to behold. Discover what to see when you come face to face with some of the oldest abbey ruins in the country.