We’ve visited a fair few different national trust properties since we became members last Easter. We’ve loved each one we’ve visited. We have favourites that we return to regularly but when we visited Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Gardens, recently it quickly became our new favourite. It is truly spectacular and not hard to see why it is a world heritage site. We stopped for a picnic and to stretch our legs on the way to Studfold campsite for the weekend. We only had a few hours to spare but as we were blown away by this place we decided to return on our way home and explore the other end of the property too.
Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Gardens
On our first visit, we arrived at fountains abbey at the same time as a thunderstorm but it did not take away from the stunning sight of the top of the abbey visible as you enter Fountains Abbey visitor centre courtyard. The visitor centre has been purposefully built to frame this spectacular view. We took shelter in the cafe and shop whilst the storm past over. Once it was just drizzling we set off down the hill to the Abbey ruins.
Fountains Abbey play area
Our first stop was the children’s play area. Obviously, it was quite wet but that didn’t stop my two adventurers who were soon climbing over abbey shaped climbing frames. There were some things suitable for little ones like bridges and places to hide under climbing frames. The ball track was a lovely area too where my girls liked working out where to start the ball off so it ended in the basket. For my 5 year old there are lots to climb and to be honest she surprised us both by how confident a climber she has become. This has to be one of our favourite national trust play areas. There is so much to entertain kids and because it is in a woodland area it slowly reveals all the equipment to you.
We eventually managed to tear the kids away from the play area and continued walking down the hill. The top of the Abbey was coming more in to view and but there are also other things to discover like medieval agriculture at Swaley Grange. There are lots for families to do at this former medieval monastic farm. The girls enjoyed the rocking sheep, colouring and adding wool to the weaving loom. We also explored a cute little medieval vegetable garden.
Fountains Abbey ruins
By this point, you are halfway down the valley and almost into the woodland. A short walk through the woods and the Abbey starts to come in to view and slowly its beauty is revealed. There is a small porters lodge that has been sensitively turned in to an information room, packed full of information on Fountains Abbey history. In the centre is a large model of what the Abbey would have looked like.
To the left is Fountains Abbey ruins and they are spectacular. Some areas still have stone ceilings but most areas do not. You really get a feeling for the grandeur and beauty that this impressive abbey would have had. Our 5 year old loved climbing staircases that lead to nowhere and walking through archways. This window was my favourite part. Can you imagine it full of glass?
We also wandered through the restored water mill and learnt more about it’s past. Then, unfortunately, we didn’t have time to explore further into the grounds and the water gardens. However, as we were camping near Fountains Abbey and the site had such an impression on us, we decided to return.
On our second visit, we planned to park in the Studley royal car park but our sat nav took us to the visitor centre car park again. It didn’t matter as the kids enjoyed some more time on the playground before walking past the abbey again. It’s about half a mile from the ruins to Studley Royal water gardens. It’s mostly flat too so a great walk for little legs.
Studley Royal Water Gardens
We explored the water gardens which are beautiful and currently have some large art installations there for a few more months. We did enjoy this end of the property but the Abbey was definitely our favourite bit so if you are short on time I’d recommend leaving the water gardens for another visit.
Dotted around the Abbey are lots of lights and we wondered why. I discovered from reading the website later that there are a number of holiday rentals around the estate and if you stay there you get a key to the grounds and you can visit after dark. How amazing would it be to wander around these ruins in the dark and see Fountains Abbey floodlit? Definitely, one to add to the bucket list.
If you are ever anywhere near North Yorkshire I urge you to visit Fountains Abbey and make a day of exploring this stunning and historical site which is also fantastic for families. If you are looking for campsites near fountains abbey then I would recommend looking at Studfold.
Our top tips for visiting Fountains Abbey, Rippon
- For up to date prices and Fountains Abbey opening times, as well as to check what extra events are on, visit the National Trust website.
- Allow plenty of time to see the full site. The visitor centre had options for what to do if you have a couple of hours, half a day or a full day. Make the Abbey ruins a priority, no matter how short your visit.
- Fountains Abbey walks are perfect for all the family. We had no problem with a pushchair in any of these areas we explored.
- There are baby changing facilities in both the ladies and men’s toilets at the visitor centre.
- Check the visitor centre or website for details of different family events, especially in the school holidays.
I’d definitely recommend fountains abbey as a family-friendly day out.
Other National Trust family days out you might enjoy:
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