Jo’s Monday walk : Rievaulx Abbey

Gazing heavenwards at Rievaulx Abbey

Gazing heavenward at Rievaulx Abbey, North Yorkshire

It was quite hard to decide which walk to take you on this week.  The weather’s been so unseasonably kind and I’ve been out and about a lot.  I will be missing next Monday and I wanted to leave you with some beautiful images.  It’s probably hard to find anywhere more beautiful than Rievaulx Abbey in North Yorkshire.

Spring was just beginning to tap on my door, and the Abbey was newly opened for the season when I made my visit- the first in many years!  I had quite forgotten the majesty of the place.  In the silence, I could almost hear the monks at prayer.

Approaching the abbey

Approaching the Abbey

I hate to mention it, but that's a nice-looking bench

I hate to mention it, but that’s a well-situated bench

I just know you want a close up!

I just know you want a close up!

Founded in 1132, Rievaulx Abbey was the first Cistercian abbey to be built in the north of England.  Situated just 3 miles from the village of Helmsley, in the North York Moors National Park, still it feels remarkably remote.  The location, sheltered by hills in the valley of the River Rye, was ideal for the Cistercians, who valued a strict life of prayer and self sufficiency with little contact with the outside world.

Looking through into the Infirmary Cloister

Looking through into the Infirmary Cloister

An exquisitely shaped doorway

An exquisitely shaped doorway

The Cloister Green, seen through the Arcade

The Cloister Green, seen through the Arcade

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In order to have enough flat land to build on, the monks diverted part of the river several metres west of its original channel.  It astounded me to find that during the 12th century, they diverted the course of the river three times.  Such was the ingenuity of the monks, who over time built up a profitable business mining lead and iron ore.  They reared sheep and sold the wool throughout Europe.  Rievaulx grew to be one of the wealthiest abbeys in England.  With 140 monks and many more lay brothers, it was a far cry from its devout beginnings.  By the 15th century the strict observance of Cistercian practises had been abandoned in favour of a more comfortable lifestyle.

The South Trancept

The South Transept

Henry VIII was, of course, delighted to take advantage of this prosperity when he dissolved the abbey in 1538.  The 72 buildings alleged to have been in existence at that time were stripped of their assets and rendered uninhabitable. Today the still substantial abbey ruins are in the care of English Heritage.  High on the hillside overlooking them sit two Grecian-style temples.  These were added in the 1750s by Thomas Duncombe, and are now in the care of the National Trust. Just a glimpse is visible on my walk.

You might well want to linger in the Visitor Centre, which has a pleasant cafe (with good cake!) looking out on the ruins.  Picnic tables will make this a popular spot in Summer.  It’s much too early to return to the car so I’d like you to accompany me on a circular walk, along the river to Bow Bridge.  A website I have used before Where 2 walk will provide you with a little map, but the 2 and a half mile route is quite straightforward.  We can eat when we get back- I promise!

Walk towards Rievaulx village to a signpost on your left

Walk towards Rievaulx village to a signpost on your left

Here it is!

Here it is!

The river is down to your left

The river is down to your left

And Bow Bridge is not too far ahead

And Bow Bridge is not too far ahead

Follow the tidy hedge and here we are

Follow the tidy hedge and here we are

Cross over the bridge and take the footpath to your left and you will initially be following the opposite bank of the River Rye.  A signpost saying ‘Ashberry’ points the way across a field, and the path begins on a gentle incline.

A handsome bare branched tree

Past a handsome bare-branched tree

The path climbs a little steeply for a short stretch and, through the trees, you can just make out the outline of the Abbey down below.  As we start to descend, a bench catches my eye.

Looking back, above the trees, you can just make out a Rievaulx Temple

Looking back, above the trees, you can just make out one of the Rievaulx Temples

One more bridge, a pretty riverside garden and, around a bend in the road, the Abbey.  The cafe’s in sight.  I feel a need for Yorkshire curd tart.  I did promise, didn’t I?

The English Heritage website will give you full details of opening times for the Abbey and how to get there.  Rievaulx is a charming village too, but very steep!

You might already have guessed that I’m linking this walk to Jude’s Bench challenge. This month’s theme is ‘a bench with a view’ and I think that I found a few.  Sorry, Jude, but I don’t have time for a separate post because on Wednesday I’m off to the Algarve.

walking logo

I won’t have a Monday walk for you next week, but please feel free to share your walks.  I will include them on 20th April, when I hope to be posting about the wild daffodils in Farndale, planted originally by monks.  Details of how to join in are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.

After that, I’m off to Poland again, with Dad, but that’ll be another story (and a whole lot more photos!)  Surely time to get that kettle on and enjoy these posts!  Many thanks to all my wonderful contributors.


I didn’t manage to do this on my Paris trip so many thanks, Debbie :

A stroll around Montparnasse

A little bit of Spring magic with Gilly next :

The Chalice Well Garden in Glastonbury

Amy takes us to a perfectly manicured park (and there’s Easter eggs!)

Monday Walk

Drake tickled my fancy with boats.  Knows the way to my heart, that one!

Idyllic Harbor Blues

Back to old Holborn haunts, with Geoff :

My kinda town

I have a new word for Spring.  Frivolicious!  🙂  Thanks, Jesh!

April Frivolicious

Urban planning seems to be an issue at Violet Sky’s :

Street Signs- Old 

But beauty abounds at Paula’s place!

A scene from Hyde Park

I refuse to take a walk with an alligator for anybody- even Yvette!

Windows and Doors in RVA

We’ll end with Tobias’ interesting outlook on Hamburg  :

2/3 Faces of Hamburg

Don’t forget- I won’t be here next Monday!  Hope to see you on 20th April.  Meantime, lots and lots of happy walking! (and please take some bench shots for Jude)



  1. And I was too busy to join you on this breathtaking tour. I looked at all these captures carefully and I have to say – you have outdone yourself. How far is it from your place?

    1. Hi Paula 🙂 After my early morning hours on the blogs I’ve been busy with household catching up. James is home before starting a new job next week, and I’m meeting up with my ‘girl’ friends tonight. Rievaulx is about 45 minutes to an hour south of here, deep into the Moors. Lovely, isn’t it? Thank you for your kind words. 🙂

  2. It’s been quite a few years since I went to Rievaulx Jo – I just love all these beautiful old abbeys. I find it amazing how the monks managed to build them all – such as pity they were destroyed but still magnificent even in ruins. Thanks for sharing your lovely photos! 🙂

  3. questi grandi ruderi che ci lascia la storia sul suo cammino ci fanno capire, oltre che la bravura artistica dell’uomo anche la sua fragilità e come il tempo possa corrompere ogni bellezza.Come sempre ho ammirato l’eleganza e la limpidezza delle foto

    1. Sounds like fun but I’ll seriously struggle this week. I’m on a quick turnaround and off to Poland early Thursday, but I’ll catch up with you as soon as I can. Many thanks for your visit. 🙂

  4. This is spectacular. I love old churches and castles and abbeys. How fantastic. It makes me want to sit down in the middle of it and just write for days! And how about that thatched roof! So much inspiration here. Thank you for all of your fine pictures which get the wheels in my head turning.

    1. Hi Renee 🙂 Thank you for all the kind remarks and I’m sorry to be so late replying to you. I travel without IT (can you believe!!!) So glad this left a good impression. 🙂

  5. Jo, the abbey seems to be the perfect place to savor that “unseasonably kind weather.” Seeing these glimpses of Yorkshire really make me yearn to return to England so I can explore my family roots. So pretty.

  6. Thank you for this guided visit to the historic Abbey. The structure reminds me of Tintern Abbey that seems to share the majesty you capture so brilliantly. The splendour of the original construction must have been breath taking, as it stands the ruins are awesome. Thank you for all the wonderful detail!

  7. Thank you for the tour of Rievaulx Abbey. As you know I love a wander around an historic place. I have been here, but it was closed so we only saw it from the road. I had no idea it was so BIG! And I saw it on a very cold (snowy) November day so the light was poor. Your photos are so beautiful and so informative too.

    I know you are in the Algarve now, but I do have a surprise walk for you that I know you’ll love when you get back home 😀

    Enjoy Portugal, I shall look forward to the photos and tales on your return.

    1. Hello my old pal! (I know- not so much of the old 🙂 🙂 ) I hoped you’d like this walk and was pretty sure you wouldn’t mind your benches keeping my walk company. A match made in heaven, some might say 🙂 I’m just back Jude, and will be struggling big time to get a couple of posts up and running before I’m gone again, but I do appreciate your company.
      Did you have a good time (and was the elusive house right where you wanted it to be? )

  8. A remarkable one, Jo. I’d go there in a heartbeat just to see it. Getting there sounds like an exciting anticipation as well.
    And great find on that handsome tree.

  9. Not just prayers and illuminating scripts then Jo … diverting streams and rivers …. these monks must have set their hearts on this place 🙂
    A great set of pictures Jo .. I feel I’ve no need to visit myself now, except of course Yorkshire Lemon Curd Tart has to be in person !
    Enjoy your visit to the Algarve the sun will most definitely have his hat on I’m sure 🙂

  10. okay for starters – I love the memory bench – and boy did this fit in with the april theme perfectly – “for mac to take int he view” – and also a special tribute bench for whoever mac is/was.

    second, in almost every single photo there is a bit of green – mostly grass – but then the green doors – and lots of foliage – and that green flow just made this whole walk feel more lively –
    lastly – enjoyed the min history lesson – esp. tidbits like this – “The 72 buildings alleged to have been in existence at that time were stripped of their assets and rendered uninhabitable”

    and now I am off to scroll the post again….

    1. Bless you, Yvette! Thank you for all your time this morning 🙂 I’m checking out or I’ll never get any work done. Haven’t even managed breakfast yet and it’s 10 am! Hugs!

    1. Bless you, Suzanne! When I saw the link arrive in my Inbox I had to look twice to be sure it was you 🙂 Thank you so much and I’m very happy that you’ve conquered the computer! 🙂

  11. You’re a walk wizard, Jo. You conjure up a beauty every time. Each week I want to say “This is your best.” This week I love the arches particularly, but not only. I’ve got some mud-flats to share, when I have leisure to blog again. I’m writing this beside my new home for a week, a campervan I’m falling in love with, despite its lack of saucepans. There’s a swimming pool behind me, strange birds tweeting, and lush treeage in front of me.

    1. Sounds like hell, Meg! 🙂 Just a teeny bit green (so appropriate 🙂 )on this back to grey again north east morning. Even worse, I’m on cleaning duty today, first here and later at Dad’s, so I needed your kind words to buck me up. Off to sunnier spots (I hope 🙂 ) late tomorrow. Take care of yourself 🙂

    1. And I’m finally almost ready to read it 🙂 🙂 I’m glad they come in at different times because I struggle to keep up sometimes. Many thanks for joining me 🙂

  12. Your photos brought this walk alive for me/ Especially the shapes made by the branching trees.
    They a what I would see if on a walk like that, that makes me think we have similar ideas of beauty.

  13. What a magical post Jo! You hit it out of the park with the first photo and then kept going. The images were so vivid I truly felt like I was right there beside you! Truly wonderful. Always a treat to check into your walks.

    1. I always look for a photo that captures the feel of the post to open with, Lisa, and I felt that one did it. Many thanks for your kind words. 🙂 (and the much appreciated RT)

  14. So much of England that I’ve never seen, Jo. What a beautiful setting for the abbey. I’m glad those Cistercian monks eventually abandoned their austere ways and learned to enjoy some of the comforts of life. 🙂 The inscription on the bench seems to be an order to relax for a while. How lovely the view must be. Have an enjoyable trip to the Algarve, and then on the Poland. You never seem to stop for a moment, between walking, travelling and Zumba. You must be as fit as a fiddle. 🙂 xx

    1. Those benches seem to keep calling out to me these days, Ad! 😦 Don’t want to swap places with Mac just yet though! Too much to see 🙂 Thanks, honey. Look after yourself! You must be on the move soon?

  15. oh you captured the majesty and reverence of the monastery, Jo! awesome pictures and beautiful history! thank you for sharing; i thoroughly enjoyed it! 🙂

  16. Wonderful archways! Oh the history across the pond. I loved that you could almost hear the monks singing. Lovely imagery Jo. Have a good trip with your Dad. Sounds like a special time together.

    1. I will be nodding, smiling and hugging a lot, Sue, but not necessarily in that order 🙂 Some day I’ll get a grip on Polish but it won’t be this month 😦 Thanks for your kind words, hon.

  17. It’s a stunning building Jo, I wonder how many of today’s will last that long. Beautifully captured as well, I can hear echoes. Hope its nice and hot in Portugal and in Poland too – I wanted to go to Poland for next weeks trip but Barcelona won, it was the only place that all three of us school friends could agree on!

    1. Barcelona is a fabulous city, Gilly! It exceeded my expectations and you can’t go wrong with Gaudi. Have a fantastic time and I’ll look forward to hearing all about it. Hugs to take with you, darlin’ 🙂

  18. Quite a sight through your lens, you capture the Abbey magnificently – I can hear the sounds as I’m in awe of the structure. Wonderful walk Jo – so enjoyed it as my day gets started here. Will miss you next week.

  19. You are a very busy lady Jo! What a beautiful Abbey and Rievaulx Village looks delightful. It’s been glorious hasn’t it? Hubby and I have got some lovely walks in, about time I posted one of them for you again methinks (and I need to do a bench post too) 😉 Happy Monday Hugs 🙂

    1. Thanks, darlin 🙂 I almost envied Mac with a view like that (but not quite! a bench NOW for the old bones would be good 🙂 ) Exhausting life! I’ve just been to the beach again this morning, taking cave and pebble shots. Much love, Sherri! 🙂

      1. Haha…yes, thank God for those benches! I was very grateful for some yesterday doing a bit of a coastal walk, uphill for quite a way 😉 You amaze me Jo! I take all these photos on all my walks and then get so caught up with other ‘stuff’ that another day/week goes by and then it’s old news!!! Let’s see what I can cobble up this week!! Much love to you too 😀

  20. Hi Jo,
    Thanks for taking me on that walk. Ever so wonderful. 🙂 Rievaulx Abbey is still on my bucket list for our next visit to Yorkshire. Our last one was way too short. We enjoyed it a lot, though.
    Have a great week,

    1. Hi PIt 🙂 How goes the fitness drive?
      It’s a beautiful part of the world. The village is chocolate box pretty but it’s on a steep slope. Good for the thighs 😦

      1. Hi Jo,
        The fitness drive goes well, especially with all that garden work here. 😉 But also with cardiac rehab and my bicycling. The latter gets better and better.
        There are so many villages in the UK that are “chocolate box pretty”. 🙂 So, the village is good for fitness, too?! 😉
        Take care, and have a great week,

  21. What a stunning abbey, Jo. I’m a big fan of these ruined abbeys in England and remember fondly visiting some myself when we went to England. That now seems like ages ago! What a lovely walk, beautiful blue skies and I hope comfortable weather. And the curd tart, now that’s what we’re talking about. 🙂

      1. It’s a beauty, isn’t it, Cathy? 🙂 It’s only an hour and a half from home but we haven’t been there since James was small! We tend to stay on the Moors more, but I want to go back and do the Rievaulx Temples walk later this year, and nearby Helmsley is such a pretty spot, with a ruined castle too. So little time …. 🙂 🙂
        Yes- busy spell coming up. I’m only back 6 days and then it’s Poland. Thanks, hon!

    1. I hoped no-one would ask 🙂 🙂 It looks very picturesque, Ann, but it’s a rubbish bin 🙂 Not ideal putting it beside a bench, but then you don’t have far to go to dispose of your picnic rubbish. Some of us are good and take it home with us but not everyone thinks that way.

      1. Well, it is indeed a well-disguised rubbish bin. Our council has removed a lot of rubbish bins in an attempt to persuade people to take their rubbish home with them.

    1. I’m so sorry, Jill! I wish I could take you walking with me 🙂 I was on another beach this morning. Further north, with more caves! Such excitement 🙂 Thank you and enjoy your week too!

    1. While lining the pockets of his favourites. In politics, does anything change, Viv?
      Glad to bring back some happy memories. I hadn’t been to Rievaulx since James was small. 🙂

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Francine. 🙂 It felt like the first day of Spring and in that setting it was truly wonderful. Thank you! Blessings to you too 🙂

    1. It’s a stunner 🙂 I hadn’t been since our son was small and I’d forgotten how lovely. Sunny again here today after a ‘dodgy’ weekend. Yippee!!! 🙂

    1. Many thanks, Colibrist 🙂 I just saw your link in my Inbox and was on my way over to you 🙂 I will tweet it today and put it on my Facebook page tomorrow. It’s a long time till 20th April.

  22. Have a good time with your dad in Poland! Does that mean you are part Polish? Looong time ago while Poland was ruled by communism, we once camped with a tent in Warsaw. The only thing I can remember from that trip was fields and fields of beautiful sunflowers!

    1. Yes, I’m half Polish, Jesh, but I struggle mightily with the language because I wasn’t brought up speaking it. Dad was estranged from Poland for 64 years before being reunited with his family. Thank you! 🙂

      1. Love stories like yours (your dad’s actually)! I think it’s very special when people try to connect relationships that were severed.

    1. Thank you very much, Anabel. Life takes a hectic turn for a few weeks but the Algarve will be blissful. We will be meeting up with lots of friends over there, and walking too, of course. 🙂

    1. Gallivant? I don’t think so 🙂 🙂 The husband has some fond notion of lazing on a beach or two. Foolish man! Many thanks, Debbie, for your kind words and all your support.

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