Fountains Abbey is a ruined Cistercian Abbey in the wooded River Skell Valley near Ripon, North Yorkshire, England.
It was founded in 1132 by 13 monks who had been expelled from St Marys Abbey at York following riots and disturbances. Thurston, Abbot of York later offered them protection and gave them land in the valley of the Rover Skell. They were guided in the construction of a wooden buildings on the site by Geoffrey of Ainai, a french Clairvaulx monk, and the abbey was established.
We visited on a warm Sunday in August. The site was well sign posted and easy to locate. Car parking was well laid out in several wooded areas managed by parking staff. We parked up and took a short walk to the Visitor Centre, which was well equipped with a good cafe/restaurant, toilets and a National trust shop selling National Trust items.
We ate in the restaurant and were impressed at the quality of the locally sourced food. We then made our way from the Visitor Centre onto the trail path that leads to the Abbey and through to the Studley Gardens water park.
The abbey is sited in a valley, so the first sight of it is the main tower peeping above the hillside. A gentle walk then takes you down to the valley floor where the full site can be viewed. The Abbey buildings, although now ruins, are very well maintained and surrounded by grassed areas where old and young alike can play or relax, with or without a picnic!
The River Skell still flows through the grounds, and the trail path leads around the Abbey, into woodland and then onto a lake and water gardens. the views from the trail are impressive.
We ended our visit at the water gardens and did not visit the Studley Royal Deer park (included in the admission), but in total walked about 4 miles over varying terrain that would require a reasonable level of fitness, with moderate inclines.
The abbey and grounds are certainly worthy of a one day visit to take advantage of all that the site has to offer. Historians, photographers, artists, walkers or just those looking for an interesting day out would would enjoy this venue - however, all of the trail is uncovered, so the ideal visit would be made in dry, warm weather !
The site is owned by the National Trust and managed by English Heritage.