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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.