When you venture out to visit Fountains Abbey, there is bound to be something for everyone! The entire property consists of 800 acres, and in that space, the National Trust cares for Studley Royal (an 18th century water garden), Fountains Abbey (The largest Cistercian ruins in Europe), a Jacobean mansion, and a church built in the Victorian era and designed by William Burges. Viewing this is a good deal of walking, but definitely worth the time spent at the end of the day–and I would set aside a day to take in everything. It definitely earns its place as a World Heritage Site in my opinion.
We set out on a misty/rainy England morning to Fountains Abbey and managed to get down to the ruins before the rain began in earnest. I have to say that the abbey must have been absolutely incredible when it was whole. It’s enormous with an arched doorway on the inside dwarfing anyone who stands beneath it. My daughter and son are standing inside because I couldn’t resist taking the shot to show the scale of the opening.
Not only are the ruins beautiful, but the location is so picturesque. It’s easy to find a multitude of camera angles to take some amazing shots if you love to play at photography like I do.
From Fountains Abbey, we followed the paths to Studley Royal Water Garden, which was built by John Aislibie in the 18th century. It was his son William who purchased the property containing Fountains Abbey. Unfortunately, the Studley Royal Hall was destroyed by a fire in 1946, but at least the gardens remain for us to enjoy.
The gardens consist of several paths which circle a series of man-made lakes. The lakes are sourced from a river that flows up the hill from the property and are embellished with statuary and temples common in the Georgian Era.
As we walked, we crossed paths with pheasants and a few other birds, and my children enjoyed the temples/follies. There is also a scenic point where you can look down over the valley and see Fountains Abbey in the distance. It is an amazing view!
We spent several hours between touring Fountains Abbey and walking the water garden, but as the day wore on, the rain increased. Even with our raincoats, we were cold and our legs were about soaked through, so we decided to call it a day without viewing the house or the church. I do want to return in better weather and see everything again as well as finish touring the site!
Next… Middleham Castle!