Jo’s Monday walk : Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal

The lovely ruins of Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire

The lovely ruins of Fountains Abbey

Classic English beauty combines with a watery world for this week’s walk at Studley Royal, in Yorkshire.  I’ve been there several times and always been cursed with dismal weather.  The balmy Autumn that we’ve been experiencing was just perfect for this visit.  A Cistercian Abbey, water gardens and a deer park- irresistible?  I think so!  But don’t forget to take your purse.  Being a National Trust property, it doesn’t come cheap. (currently £10.50- no concessions, unless you are a National Trust member)

Some things don’t change.  The monks who came here in 1132 were pretty good at amassing money too.  Thirteen Benedictine monks left St. Mary’s Abbey in York to found a Cistercian Abbey in this valley.  It became one of the richest in Europe.  Something that has changed, since my last visit, is the approach to the park.  You used to be able to drive into the estate through the deer park, but traffic now is all routed via the Visitor Centre.  Pick up a map at reception, and let’s go.

It's not long before you catch your first sight of the Abbey

It’s not long before you catch your first sight of the Abbey

The ruins are extensive and Fountains Abbey Mill is the only 12th century Cistercian cornmill left in the UK.  It was in continuous use until 1927, and today houses an interactive exhibition and the water wheel, which can still grind corn.

If you’ve never been here before, you will almost certainly be impressed with what comes next. After the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539, the Abbey buildings and over 500 acres of land were sold by the Crown.  The property was passed down through several generations until it was inherited by John Aislabie, in 1693.  He was a socially and politically ambitious man and became Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1718, but his involvement in the South Sea Bubble financial scandal had him expelled from Parliament.  On his return to Yorkshire, he turned the wooded valley of the River Skell into one of England’s most spectacular Georgian water gardens.

A basin of water opens up before you

A basin of water opens up before you

The reflections in the lily pond are lovely

Reflections sparkle in the lily pond

With more sculptures

Yet more sculptures rough and tumble

A group of volunteer gardeners are raking pond weed from the canals- a pleasant enough occupation on such a sunny afternoon.  The curve of the Moon Pond stretches ahead, the pillars of the Temple of Piety a focal point on the far side.  Originally the Temple of Hercules, it is believed to have been renamed when John Aislabie’s son, William, commissioned a bas relief wall sculpture inside the temple, after his father’s death.

The Temple of Piety beyond the Moon Pond

The Temple of Piety, beyond the Moon Pond

You need to walk along the canal and cross over a narrow bridge to reach the Temple of Piety. From the bridge there’s a good view across the lake to the deer park.  I didn’t spot any deer at that distance, but was diverted by one of the park’s follies, the Octagon Tower.  A neo-Gothic castle, it looked to me very inviting, but sadly I couldn’t climb it.  Beneath it lies a Serpentine Tunnel, originally designed to give people a bit of a fright at garden parties.

The lake and deer park in the distance

The lake, with the deer park in the distance

The Octagon Tower, nestling in the trees

The Octagon Tower, nestling in the trees

I'm not sure what she was holding?

I’m not sure what she was holding?

It's a beautiful watery world

In her beautiful watery world

I couldn’t climb the tower, but I did find somewhere to look down onto the park.  A sign directing me to Anne Boleyn’s Seat and Surprise View could not be ignored.  I’ll spare you the climb because it was pretty steep, but I think you’d like the view.  You will have an advantage over Anne Boleyn, who never actually saw it.  That’s not because she didn’t have a head, but the name does come from a headless statue.

Back on the path, you can return along the opposite side of the canal, steadily approaching the Abbey.  There you will have a number of diversions.  You can visit the Mill or the tea rooms, and Fountains Hall is a stately exhibition space. (with holiday flats to let!)  Any children with you will love the interpretation centre at the Porter’s Lodge. (I did too!)  And if you have time and energy to spare, there’s the Gothic extravagance of St. Mary’s Church and a stroll round the deer park.

Don’t take my word for all this.  The National Trust website will tell you the whole story and provide instructions on how to get there.  I think that you would enjoy this World Heritage Site.  I know I did.  And now it really must be time to put the kettle on, don’t you think?

walking logo

Click on the logo to visit my Jo’s Monday walk page for details on how to join in.  As always we have a wonderful variety of walks to share.

How about a sample of Finnish nature with Vasilis?  I hope you’ve met before?  And the lingonberry tart looks so good! :

Finnish nature

Yvette’s taking street portraits and searching for a missing lady. Please share this one :

Street photos from Charlottesville, VA

Join Drake, very thoughtfully making war on waste  :

Escape from the Cityscape

Making people happy in Jerusalem- that’s Cardinal this week  :

Street Portrait : The Photographer

Amy has been having some more fun with her bird friends  :

Yoga on Water

And Jude has the most delicious selection of Michaelmas Daisies you ever saw!  :

Celebrating Saint Michael

Welcome a Blogspotter please!  Violet Sky has a very fun post to add to the collection.  Do go and say ‘hello’.  :

Lost and found

Pauline is in transit again, but has been kind enough to share a trip ‘over the border’ to New South Wales.  Safe travels, Pauline and Jack!  :

Lingering look at Heritage windows

That’s it for this week.  It just remains to wish you all ‘happy walking!’




    1. My eyesight has been called into question already, Paula. The conclusion is I need a white stick as well as a new brain. 🙂 🙂 I’ll try to find time for my lesson after tea/supper. 🙂


  1. Hey Jo – enjoyed your lovely walk – and I felt such a balance of the greens with sculpture/architecture – and glad you did not get rained out (which I see from some of the comments that rainy days are common there) and well, that blue sky makes the lake and canal just that much nicer – peace – and thanks for this walk today! ❤


  2. Seems we were of similar minds this week Jo:
    though yours is more impressive! I don’t believe that I have visited Fountains, at least not since childhood! A visit to Yorkshire is definitely a ‘must do’. No wifi all week in Dorset, so I have a LOT of catching up to do this weekend, but I thought I’d make a start with you 🙂


    1. Thank you very much! 🙂 Was your weather kind? It makes a nice change to be without WP for a bit doesn’t it? Till it comes to catch up! 🙂
      Just off to cook tea so will read yours shortly.


      1. Weather pretty decent – had a couple of rainy nights with thunder and lightning and yesterday was very windy. Lunch at the beach in a rainstorm was fun (we were indoors), and hit a couple of thunderstorms driving home today, but otherwise good.


  3. What a fabulous stroll that was Jo!! And the perfect weather too. Love those views and reflections. Seems to me that the sculpture pondering the broken thing in its hand is a ‘He’! 😉


    1. I’m worried now about what he’s broken! Pauline came to the same conclusion! Did I ever mention that I’m not very observant? 🙂 🙂
      Welcome back, Madhu! Did you have a fantastic time? Funny, I thought just this morning- I wonder when Madhu’s back? I bet it went quickly for you!


      1. It is a statue of Galen and HE (yes it is a he – look at your first image) is probably holding arteries in his hands as his most important discovery was that arteries carry blood although he did not discover circulation.


  4. I have never been to England, but this is exactly how imagine English countryside to be.
    Your beautiful photos reminded me of a movie I saw many years ago: “Sense and sensibility” with Emma Thompson. The scenery in the movie looked almost the same as the landscape in your post.
    Thank you Jo for taking us to this wonderful place. Big thanks also for featuring my walk in the Finnish nature. It is very kind of you. Looking forward to your next Monday’s walk.


    1. You’re very welcome, Vasilis. 🙂 It’s fascinating to amass posts from around the world and see the differences in where people ‘walk’. I’d love a Greek one from you.
      Yes, Studley Royal is most definitely Jane Austen territory. She lived not too far away from there.
      Thanks a lot for your comment.


  5. Wow, Jo, what a wonderful walk for an autumn day. I was confused for a bit as I visited a Fountains Abbey, but I didn’t go to Yorkshire. This was down in the Cotswolds. So I guess there must be two or more?? I know I would have enjoyed this walk with you! Your photos of the ruins, the blue sky with its dramatic white clouds, and the ponds, are wonderfully enticing. 🙂


    1. I can just imagine striding around that park with you, snapping away, Cathy! That would be such fun. 🙂 I don’t know the other but I’m not very familiar with the Cotswolds. Happy days!


      1. It’s so weird, I wish I could remember where that Fountains Abbey was. I wonder if it’s the same, because that castle sounds familiar too. And some of your photos look familiar but I don’t remember the ponds. I don’t know how it could be the same though, because I didn’t think we were in Yorkshire. Sadly my trip to England was before my blogging days; I’d have to be home looking at my photo album to figure out where it was. 🙂


      1. I don’t think so, Jude. I really do think it was Fountains Abbey. How I wish I had blogged back then so I could have the facts before me! My photo album is in Virginia, so I can’t look at it now, sadly. 🙂


  6. Lovely Jo I vaguely remember Fountains Abbey from a school trip when I was knee high to a grasshopper (about 60+ years ago) so it was lovely to see it in your photos. BTW I think that lady sculpture may be a man!!!??? He/she appears to have a lower appendage. 😉


    1. Oh, dear me, you have me worried now, Pauline. I dare not look too closely. A sculpture values their privacy, you know 🙂 Are you home again? Back to the trusted and familiar. It was a good jaunt, wasn’t it? 🙂


      1. We were briefly home for a whirlwind 5 days then hopped on the Greyhound bus for a 7 hour trip south to Nambucca on the NSW coast for a 12 day house sit…

        Will be blogging about it soon, when I find the time. Already have 100’s of photos!!!!!


  7. Fabulous photos, Jo. The reflections are so beautiful. That sculpture look as though it’s holding something which has been broken in two. Now I really want to know what it is. 😕 The Octagon Tower looks so beautiful through the trees. 🙂


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