The second day of my visit to Yorkshire was to Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden.
I remember visiting Fountain’s Abbey as a child, with friends of my parents who lived in Middlesbrough. That was some time ago, so you’d expect things to have changed, and they have. The last time I went, there was no visitor centre, and I didn’t even know the Royal Water Garden existed! That’s hardly a surprise though, the estate was bought by West Riding County Council in 1966 (probably after I used to visit, although I can’t swear to that) and was only acquired by the National Trust in 1983. It is now a UNESCO world heritage site. The National Trust has become very experienced in making its sites consumer friendly, and this is much more of an experience than just a place to visit. Nature trails and egg hunts for children, and play parks, it very family orientated.
The abbey was originally established in 1135 after some monks from the Benedictine (yes, it was that order that made the liqueur) St Mary’s Abbey in York were expelled and later joined the Cistercian order and, after many problems and troubles, Fountains Abbey was founded and built. There is a lot more detail to it than that, all related to religious/political fighting.
Although the Abbey is in ruins now, when you walk around it, you can see how stunning it must have been in its heyday. It is truly magnificent, even now. I could almost hear the chanting as I walked around. I am not particularly religious, but I appreciate the work that went into churches and abbeys. More than appreciate, I love it and I always feel at peace in places like this.
The way the National Trust has set the sight up means, if you stick to the paths (and we did) that you walk past one side of the Abbey, and along to the Water Gardens, and back again.
Back in the fifteenth century, Studley Royal, as the estate and mansion was known, was home to the Mallory’s – a well-known family, two of whom were MPs in the seventeenth century. The Manor House itself was destroyed by fire in 1946, although a stable block survived, and is now a private house.
We walked around almost all of the water gardens, which was a good walk, and wore out poor little Jess, Becky’s beautiful Bichon Frise. As you walk back towards the abbey itself, there are areas for children to play, and there is a dedicated playground near to the visitors’ centre. In true National Trust style, there are regular events for the children too. It’s a good half or full day out, depending on your age and stamina, and I fully recommend it.
© Susan Shirley 2016