Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal

The most impressive green water gardens surround one of Europe’s best-preserved monastic ruins.

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site sit alongside The Yorkshire Dales National Park, The North Yorkshire Moors National Park, The Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty a short hop from the World Famous Lake District National Park. This region of England is famous for the beauty of the rolling bright green hills, mountains and sparkling rivers. 

Include Fountains Abbey in your itinerary. We are the logistics experts and will create an itinerary that provides a guided tour of Fountains Abbey. To see the best of Northern England you will need at least six nights. This time frame will allow you to enjoy The Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, the historic City of York and North York Moors. You will have a private Driver Guide and have opportunities to hike, climb, kayak and tour various places of interest and areas of natural beauty.  

The Classic Tour of England suggested itinerary features the Abbey and our England Adventure Tour. We can tailor a tour of Northern England, including the best and most beautiful landscapes, typically the National Parks and off-the-beaten-path historical villages. Let us help you make your tour of Britain special.

UNESCO World Heritage Site
Situated near Ripon in North Yorkshire the Fountains Abbey is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the grandest and best-preserved Cistercian monasteries in England. It provides one of the best examples and insights into the great medieval religious houses' thriving world. The site is on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park

A struggling community of monks
They were founded in 1132 by 13 dissident monks after being expelled following a riot, by St Mary's Abbey in nearby York. Given the circumstances of their expulsion, it must have been a shaky start. Still, the thirteen scratched a living in this sheltered Yorkshire valley. They went on to create a Cistercian Abbey which was to become one of Europe's most affluent.

They chose a site by the side of the River Skell that provided them with essential water for themselves and their animals. Forbidden underwear, they wore sandals and habits made of coarse, undyed sheep's wool. They ate very little. Their Cistercian order was silent with communication by signs and much time given over to worship and prayer. 

The golden fleece
They grew into a large business that farmed sheep with the wool sold to Italian merchants. Also, they grew vegetables, bred horses and milled corn. They were also involved in mining metals. Essentially, it became a working village as much as a place of worship. The buildings included a large dormitory with vaulted cellars, kitchens, a refractory and even a prison. Baked bread came from the nearby Abbey mill.

The site grew large and became effectively two monasteries in one. One set of buildings was for the monks with another for the lay brothers. While the monks devoted themselves to prayer, the actual business of running the farm and growing crops fell to the lay brothers who were in effect an unpaid labour force. Unsurprisingly, in these circumstances, the Abbey prospered and became rich. The monastery's activities were severely disrupted by an outbreak of the black death, which decimated the lay workforce and left the monks with more land than they could manage. They started to let out parcels of land and lived off the rents.

The dissolution of the monasteries
The dissolution of the monasteries during King Henry VIII's reign brought about the closure of the Abbey in 1539 and its partial demolition with stones used for other buildings. The Abbey evolved into a romantic ruin. By the 17th Century romantic ruins were all the rage and the owner John Aislabie added a 'green' water garden. Experience the calm of this extraordinary place of moon-shaped pools, temples, and cascades. Please don't miss this excellent spot – it is a piece of heaven. 

Touring and accommodation
We would suggest that Fountains Abbey should feature high on your list of places to visit in England. It is a fabulous place, a serene, relaxing place and great for a picnic. Our tour designers will customise the Classic tour of England itinerary to your requirements. Another option would be to stay in the City of York for a few days and take a day tour there.

We provide driver-guided tours. However, the train journey from London to York is fast and reliable. You can stay at The Grand York, and we can provide a driver-guide each day to tour the region. Such as day trips to Fountains Abbey, the Yorkshire Dales and Castle Howard – the Duke of Hastings' fictional home in the hit Netflix drama 'Bridgerton'.

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Gardens a worthy UNESCO Site

Fountains is a true Jewel - not to be missed during any season

  • UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Accommodation Available on-site
  • (AONB) Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • Private Guided Tour
  • Day tour from York