This year we have decided to make more of an effort with our National Trust membership and venture a little further afield. We have our favourite local places, but sometimes it is nice to try new places, so when we woke one Saturday to the sun shining, it was the perfect excuse to put our promise to the test.
For this particular trip we chose Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden which is located in Ripon, North Yorkshire. A quick scan of the NT website showed us that there was plenty to do, and with it being half term there were some planned activities for the kids to take part in as well.
I don’t think I had appreciated firstly, how vast the estate would be, and secondly, how beautiful. In my mind I was imagining a few crumbling ruins and yet we were met with so much more than that. There are literally acres and acres to explore so whether you want a sedate stroll through stunning surroundings, you want to wear the kids out or you simply want to take a step back into history, Fountains Abbey is a good place to visit.
Fountains Abbey is a World Heritage Site, which makes it pretty special…and if you need more convincing about why you might want to make Fountains Abbey your next National Trust adventure then read on for 5 reasons why we would recommend it:-
1. Wander the Ruins
I don’t think you can visit Fountains Abbey and not take some time to explore the monastic ruins which are located here. The abbey is over 900 years old which is incredibly impressive and plenty of it is still standing. In fact, the ruins at Fountains Abbey are the largest monastic ruins in the country, and it’s always intriguing for me to take a step back through time and imagine what life must have been like when the Abbey was first constructed. I find the history fascinating, especially when you see the sheer size of the ruins and realise that it was initially maintained by only 13 monks!
As you might expect, the National Trust does ask that visitors respect the ruins and not climb on them. Unfortunately we saw plenty of people doing this which is a real shame as it will mean they could fall further into disarray and perhaps won’t last for the future.
We particularly enjoyed winding our way through; following the corridors and tunnels and seeing where we came out. You could definitely indulge in an epic game of hide and seek in these ruins!
2. Enjoy the Scenic View
There are a number of different walks and routes you can take around the 800 acre estate, which will see you pass by the ruins, through the Royal Water Gardens and into the deer park, before returning back to the visitor centre and car park. There are various maps on offer at the main entrance to the estate depending on what you want to see and how far you want to walk.
We followed one particular route and took a small detour to experience one of the scenic views on offer of the Abbey. I think we must have timed our detour perfectly as the sun was just setting, which gave everything a rather magical glow.
It took us just over three hours to follow the circuitous route around the whole of the estate and I believe we only missed out a small section. By that point we were pretty done in but had we had more time, I think we would have tried to see and experience everything. We stopped for a hot drink and some cake at the cafe near to the deer park which worked out well for us time-wise. As we have generally found with National Trust cafes and coffee shops, they aren’t cheap but they are usually worth it.
It’s worth noting that there is a minibus which goes between the West Gate (by the deer park), Studley Royal and the visitor centre so if you found little legs were too tired, or you simply wanted a shorter walk then this free service is available.
3. Meet the Deer
Well, not really, but it is possible to walk through the deer park and if you are lucky you might stumble across one of the herds of wild Red, Fallow and Sika deer. There are over 500 deer here so spotting them shouldn’t be too tricky. Just remember to keep your distance.
We managed to see a herd, on the other side of a wire fence, much to Eli’s chagrin but probably the safest for everyone!
4. Burn Off Energy in the Playground
Fountains Abbey has one of the best National Trust playgrounds we’ve come across yet and if we were local to the area, it would be somewhere we would visit for this alone. There are plenty of wooden structures for kids to climb and enjoy so even on a busy day there is enough space to keep everyone occupied.
Lots of picnic benches dotted around mean places for parents to sit and I can imagine this is a very popular location in the warmer weather.
5. Engage with the Activities
As with most National Trust properties, there are lots of planned activities which take place throughout the year, especially during the school holidays. As we visited during half term the kids were able to take part in a craft activity and made their own bows and arrows using wool and sticks. We found the activities to be well planned and well staffed, and the kids were encouraged to use their imaginations to be creative with what was on offer.
Overall we had a wonderful day exploring Fountains Abbey and it is somewhere I would definitely like to return to, perhaps in the summer when we could take a picnic and find a quiet spot (which I’m sure is possible in the hundreds of acres) to while away the afternoon.
If you aren’t National Trust members then prices (inc Gift Aid) to visit are as follows:-
Adult – £17.60
Child – £8.80
Family Ticket – £44.00