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

Summer holidays exploring the Studley Water Garden
The perfect place to run jump and explore in the outdoors this spring | © J Shepherd

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 and bikes with stabilisers to help them get around. 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.

May half term

'Making faces' tree trail

25 May to 2 June, 10am - 4:30pm

Head on a walk around Fountains Abbey and see how many clay faces you can find hidden in the trees. Take inspiration from the clay faces you find and have a go at making your own.

Spring craft

25 May - 2 June, 11am-3pm

Join us for a free family craft to create your own spring flower. Cut, weave and colour your own flower, perfect for attracting lots of bees, butterflies and moths.

Wood Owl and the Box of Wonders with Ripon theatre Festival

26 May, 11am and 2pm

Join a magical half term journey with singing owls, fantasy worlds, friendship and love. Watch a puppet performance and join in with an optional puppet making activity. This event is £5 per person and you can book through the Ripon Theatre Festival website.

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.

You can join our wildlife volunteers on a walk around the deer park to learn more.

A young boy enjoys the swings 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.

Children exploring the columns of Fountains Abbey nave in the summertime
Explore the grand columns of the abbey ruin | © 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 explores the Studley Royal Water Garden in the summer time
Don't stop at the abbey - carry on your adventure in the World Heritage Site water gardens. It was a Georgian playground after all! | © 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.

Enjoy a quieter visit to Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal

If you're looking for a quieter visit to Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, come along later in the day. Last admission is 4:30pm but our car parks don’t close until 6:30pm which gives you plenty of time for a quiet evening stroll as the sun starts to set. Head through the quieter entrances at West Gate or Studley Royal. We have sensory bags available to borrow from any admissions point too.

'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 11

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