Weekend In Harrogate: Pt 2 – Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire

Our main trip out from Harrogate was to the the ancient Cathedral city of Ripon, only half an hour up the road. On the way, we took a slight detour to find the historic ruins of Fountains Abbey…


You can see the top of Fountains Abbey poking above the hill, and the base of it sits far below. To access the Abbey, which is owned by the National Trust, you have to park up in the car park at the top of the hill and go through their visitor centre. Because it is National Trust you do have to pay to access the Abbey (unless you are a member and you get it free) and as we were heading to Ripon we really on pulled up for a quick look so we decided not to pay to actually get through the main gates but I got his view from the visitor centre, which does have a good shop with lots of information and I found a nice little 3D magnet of the Abbey to take home with me.


On the wall inside the information centre was this picture, showing the Abbey in all it’s glory, so I have included it so that you can see what it looked like.

The Abbey itself is very old, and is also one of the largest preserved such buildings in England. Founded in 1132, it was an active building for around 400 years, but, as was the fate of all monasteries and most abbeys, Henry VIII ordered the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 and the Abbey was abandoned. The main tower at the end stands 160 feet tall, and was added not long before the dissolution.

In 1132, there was a riot at St Mary’s Abbey in York, which ended with 13 monks being expelled. They were subsequently given the land that they later founded the Abbey on. In 1146 a lot of the buildings surrounding the Abbey were burnt down by a mob angry at many of the events that lead to its foundation, but the main church survived.

There have been many abbots at Fountains Abbey during its 400 year main history, and it became increasingly important in Yorkshire, thanks to the John of York (1203 – 1211), John of Hessle (1211 – 1220) and John of Kent (1220 – 1247). I am sensing a pattern here with the names…

The final abbot was called Marmaduke Bradley, who reported the previous abbot, William Thirsk, for immorality and testified against him, and then paying to become abbot. Thanks to Henry VIII his tenure was cut short and he had no choice but to surrender the abbey in 1539.

It’s a very impressive building and if we had had more time we would have gone in to explore. You get a good view of it on the way up the hill, but that I am aware there is nowhere to stop to gain access without paying but there are probably some good vantage points to get better photo’s.

You will find the Abbey off the A61 (from Leeds, through Harrogate to Ripon and then on to the A1 (M)) main road, not far from Ripon. It is clearly signposted when you leave the main road and it is not far from there to the Abbey, which is sat on the banks of the River Skell, next to Studley Park (which includes some fantastic gardens, a mansion and a Victorian Church).

From here we moved on to the Cathedral city of Ripon…


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