This is our second visit to Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Gardens, and yet, there’s still so much we haven’t seen.
On our first visit we had a picnic on the green near the children’s park, before walking down to the ruins passed the bird hide. A short walk through the trees brings you to large field with a gated fence. The gate must be kept closed because there are usually sheep from the on site farm roaming the field, you must also keep your dog on the lead because of roaming animals.
The path continues through the field to the opposite end where there is another gate, again keep it closed because of the sheep. The whole time you can see the impressive tower ruins looming over the trees. Once through the second gate the path will curve to your right and you’ll walk along side the trees catching glimpses of the stunning ruins below. Not far along and the path forks, doubling back on itself to go left down the hill towards the ruins, or you can take the fork to the right and go to Fountains Hall (toilets are in the small building nest to the hall if you need it). The hill down to the abbey ruins is quite steep, and the drop at the side can be a bit much so I strongly suggest keeping small children on your left on the way down. Luckily the walk between Fountains Hall and the abbey ruins is flat.
The abbey itself it HUGE! We spent 4 hours just exploring the ruins and enjoying the views. From the guest house, through the infirmary, the cellarium and the warming house, there’s even a stair case with a room at the top that is remarkably well preserved and intact. The main abbey boasts impressive columns and symmetry with its tower standing tall on the left, in the middle, and the 9 alters to the rear of the building.
Various passages ways and connecting building make the abbey a bit of a maze but ends up making perfect sense.
Fountains Abbey has wonderful natural waterways running around and under the building that are just right for a little paddle. Our two were a little nervous about actually getting in the water but enjoyed being at the side of the water listening to it trickle by for a while. Even the dog wanted to get in.
On our second visit, we did similar to the first visit. We enjoyed a picnic by the children’s park, and followed the same path down to the abbey as we did the previous visit. This time we walked around the outside of the abbey along the path towards the water gardens.
We walked along the path, through a tunnel of trees to the beginning of the water gardens. The water gardens at Studley Royal were created by manipulating the natural waterways to form picturesque watery landscapes. Along the path from the abbey to the cafe at Studley Royal are numerous follies and features to take in. The kids’ favourite folly was the view finder atop the hill between the abbey and the gardens. The path forks as you come round to the gardens to take you around either side. We kept to the left, but chose to walk along the grass from the stone bridge to the small waterfall flanked by sphinxes, where we enjoyed watching pheasants fly over and around the water gardens. We then passed an echo pyramid and a man made cloud before coming to the cafe at the gates to Studley Deer Park (only to find a car park that could have saved some little legs, we’ll park here at our next visit). The cafe serves some very nice bites to eat and has a quaint seating area outside overlooking the lake.
It was at this point that our little ones were getting quite tired so we walked over the wooden bridge back to the stone bridge around the other side of the gardens, missing out the turn off to go up the hill to the hidden temples, but rather back along the path we took from the abbey. This path back to the abbey wasn’t lacking in views or pictures ops, oh no, we discovered beautiful statues, a temple overlooking the water gardens and a trio of swans floating gracefully before walking back along the grass embankment to the stone bridge where we stopped to take in the scenery.
Fountains Abbey is one of my favourite places, and now to have discovered Studley Royal too, I’m glad I invested in a National Trust membership. It costs around £10 per month for a family pass (2 adults and up to six children) and the savings can be huge; for example for us to gain entry to Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal would have cost us around £40 each time, we’ve been twice in one month saving about £70! Roman still goes free till he turns 3.
We plan to visit again soon, remembering to park at Studley Royal, rather than the abbey, so that we can explore the hidden temples along the woodland path, the deer park and the church. There’s so much to see it’s impossible to do it all in one go (unless you go without little legs in tow).