- Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden - a National Trust World Heritage Site is located in the beautiful North Yorkshire countryside.
- It is home to the breathtaking ruins of one of the largest monastic abbeys in Yorkshire as well as a stunning Royal Water Garden dating back to the 18th century.
- The 674-acre estate also features a charming deer park, large children's adventure playground, and plenty of ancient trees, reflective ponds and elegant statues dotted throughout the magnificent grounds.
- There are various National Trust Fountains Abbey events on offer throughout the year including the after-dark Fountains by Floodlight experience, carol concerts, seasonal walks and even Father Christmas visits at Christmas.
Built all the way back in 1132, Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal remain an iconic symbol and fascinating window into medieval life. Its rolling green lawns, splendid Royal Water Garden and atmospheric ruins now provide an oasis for families to visit and explore in North Yorkshire.
This remarkable World Heritage Site has its humble roots in the 1100s when a group of devout monks founded the abbey so that they would have a peaceful place to live out their simple lifestyle. Following this, the Fountains Abbey history was a somewhat turbulent one with years of bad harvests, economic collapses and the Black Death of the 14th century, and it was finally closed down and inevitably destroyed due to the Dissolution of the Monasteries by King Henry VIII in 1539. The abbey remained a private land for many years, and in the 1700s amateur gardeners, William and John Aislabie began the Studley Royal Water Garden designs which encompassed Fountains Abbey. Since 1983, the abbey and Studley Royal water gardens have been owned by the National Trust and have become one of the most acclaimed and popular sites in England. In 1986, it became recognised as a World Heritage Site of cultural significance.
Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden offers an impressive 674 acres of preserved land for families to explore and there is a whole host of things to see and do at this renowned World Heritage Site. The abbey ruins themselves, which are the largest of their kind in the United Kingdom, provide a seriously dramatic landscape and let visitors step back in time to England's rich medieval history. The National Trust has brought the ruins alive with a range of immersive activities on offer in the abbey; the Porter's Lodge exhibition uncovers the site's fascinating history; Swanley Grange transports guests back into a medieval vegetable garden with heritage crafts and an array of animals to meet on-site; and the Studley Royal educational programmes let kids become a monk for the day through dress-up, pond dipping, team crafts and den building. Make the most of your visit and get to know this stunning site in all its historic glory, you can book onto one of the captivating Fountains Abbey walks or guided tours, so that you don't miss a thing at the expansive Studley Royal Water Garden.
Surrounding the gothic abbey, the Studley Royal Water Gardens themselves provide a wondrous escape and delightful slice of English heritage countryside. This huge expanse of greenery features trickling streams, serene ponds, intriguing woodlands and cultivated lawns that you could easily whittle away the hours in as a family. Designed by John Aislabie and his son William Aislabie, this 18th-century landscape surrounding Fountains Abbey is home to tons of white marble statues and ancient trees, including oak trees, lime trees and sweet chestnut trees, that families can get up close to. You'll feel like you've stepped out of a regal period drama or Jane Austen novel as you explore the pillared follies nestled throughout the Studley Royal Water Garden such as the Temple of Fame, which offers panoramic views of the greenery and canals. For gorgeous views of the Fountains Abbey, make sure you climb up the High Ride path through the atmospheric Serpentine Tunnel - a firm favourite with kids and adults alike. The gardens' most renowned feature is known as 'The Surprise View' or 'Anne Boleyn's Seat', which offers a breathtaking view of the abbey intended to astonish visitors when they came across it. Children will also love a magical visit to the deer park along the Water Gardens' riverside pathways, where lovely fallow, sika and red deer peacefully roam the grounds. Every season brings a different element of beauty to Studley Royal Water Garden, from tawny Autumnal trees to luscious wildflowers in the spring and summer months. If it's a dry and warm day, these World Heritage water gardens make the most picturesque spot for a family picnic during your visit to Fountains Abbey.
This perfectly tailored family destination in North Yorkshire also features an amazing adventure play area on its grounds, so that kids can blow off some steam after a day of tranquillity. The Fountains Abbey 'playscape' is made entirely of sustainable timber in a natural wooden design that blends in perfectly with its forest surroundings. Amongst ancient trees and crisp fallen leaves, kids can climb, swing and jump around the rope nets, giant walkways and imaginative climbing frames in this genius playground. There's something for all ages to enjoy here with a huge zip wire for budding daredevils, an immersive How Hill tower play building, a designated den building area for little ones to get creative in, and an accessible play zone featuring a five-point harness swing and wheelchair-adapted roundabout. Make your day even more memorable, by stopping at one of the delightful Fountains Abbey refreshment points. The Visitor Centre restaurant has a huge range of breakfast and lunch options made using locally sourced and sustainable ingredients. The Studley Royal tea-room is the perfect place for an afternoon tea stop with delicious cakes and lakeside seating, and The Mill Cafe offers the best abbey views alongside an ice cream in Summer or warming hot chocolate come Winter. For seasonal delights, historical souvenirs, charming trinkets and much more head to the Visitor Centre gift shop on-site and bring home a piece of this one of a kind World Heritage site.
Beyond the beloved grounds of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, there are plenty more family things to do in Ripon and North Yorkshire. The local city of Ripon is home to many traditional pubs and some fascinating small museums, such as the Victorian Workhouse Museum and hands-on Prison & Police Museum, featuring 19th-century reenactments and memorabilia. To discover even more impressive monastery architecture further afield in this historical region of England, you can head to the famous York Minster Cathedral in York city centre. Alternatively, if the kids are ready for some adrenaline after a serene heritage day out, then why not visit Lightwater Valley Theme Park just north of Ripon? No matter what you're visiting this area of North Yorkshire for or what time of year it may be, a trip to Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden makes for an unforgettable and must-see day out for all the family.
What to know before you go
- Fountains Abbey opening times range between 10am to 5pm, and 11am to 9pm. Please check ahead for your specific visit date and note that different areas of the Studley Royal Estate will have varying opening and closing times, such as the abbey, Water Garden, Visitor Centre, eateries and gift shop.
- National Trust and English Heritage Yorkshire members do not have to pay for Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal. For all other visitors, prices range between adult and child entrance fees as well as family tickets.
- Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal has a restaurant at the Visitor Centre serving breakfast, seasonal lunches, baked goods and a variety of hot and cold drinks. For a slice of cake and cup of tea with a view, head to the Studley Royal tea-room which overlooks the Water Garden lake. The Mill Cafe also serves light bites, ice cream and takeaway drinks with great views of the Fountains Abbey.
- You are also welcome to bring a picnic to enjoy on the expansive Abbey and Royal Water Garden grounds, but unfortunately, no barbecues are permitted on-site.
- There are also multiple family-friendly eateries nearby in Ripon, such as The Royal Oak pub and four-star hotel, The Water Rat pub, Mario's Italian restaurant and Manchega tapas restaurant.
- Stop off at the Visitor Centre shop for Royal Water Garden souvenirs, gifts and locally sourced seasonal treats.
- There is a wooded play area on-site at Fountains Abbey featuring a giant rope walkway, tire swings, zip wire, climbing frames and a miniature How Hill tower play zone. There is also a den building area for younger children and an adapted play area with a wheelchair-accessible roundabout and a five-point harness swing.
- There are many events and workshops that children can get involved with at the abbey such as heritage crafts, dressing up sessions, pond dipping and den building.
- You can also take guided tours of the grounds and take part in seasonal events throughout the year, including Santa Claus meet and greets, Christmas shopping opportunities, music concerts and light shows.
- Please note that you should not climb on the Fountain Abbey ruins and children should be kept under supervision due to some steep slopes, height drops and areas of deep running water.
- Children under five years old are welcome to bring bikes and scooter on-site, but please refrain from bringing these for older children.
- There are baby changing facilities on-site and breastfeeding is welcomed anywhere on the Fountains Abbey estate, as are baby back-carriers.
- Fountains Abbey is accessible for buggies and wheelchair users in most areas; there is level access into the Fountains Abbey, all main areas are on level ground, and there is an accessible route map available for visitors. Please note that some areas have steep slopes, uneven surfaces and cobbles so may not be accessible.
- Some wheelchairs and mobility scooters are available for visitors to hire for the day.
- There are two accessible toilets located at the Visitor Centre.
- Dogs are welcome at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden as long as they are kept on short leads and cleaned up after.
- Please be aware that cattle graze in the on-site Mackershaw deer park, located amongst the water gardens.
- We recommend wearing practical walking shoes for your visit due to some uneven ground, wooded areas, sloping hills and the natural waterways running throughout the site.
- If you would like to support the National Trust foundation and mark a significant memory of your time at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, you can dedicate a donation on their interactive map so for other visitors to enjoy and to support the Trust's continuing conservation work.
- Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Park is located in the cathedral city of Ripon in North Yorkshire.
- The Studley Royal estate is situated 12 miles from Harrogate and 28 miles from York, which is a 55-minute drive via the A1, A59 or A64.
- If you are driving to the National Trust site, Fountains Abbey Yorkshire is just off of the B6265 from Ripon. You can follow the brown tourist signs from the A1 to the site.
- There is parking on-site at the Fountains Abbey visitor centre with designated accessible parking spaces.
- There are regular bus connections to Ripon from Leeds and Harrogate via the 36 route, as well as the 139 Dales and District bus service.
- The nearest train stations can be found at Knaresborough and Harrogate. These provide connections to most major cities in the North region via the Northern Railway services.
- Fountains Abbey National Trust encourages visitors on foot or by bicycle, and Studley Royal is signposted for on the coast-to-coast Way of the Roses cycle route as well as the rambling trails throughout the North Yorkshire countryside.