Wednesday 5 June 2019

How to Spend the Day at National Trust Fountains Abbey

A few weeks ago we set off in the car for a great adventure to the National Trust site at Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire. We left our home in Newcastle excited and ready for a full day of exploring - fast forward 5 hours and we were stuck in a never ending traffic jam on the A1 only a junction away from where we needed to be but with no way of getting there any quicker. By the time we eventually arrived it wasn't long until closing and getting that little glimpse at how amazing the place was we knew we had to return as soon as we could. Fountains Abbey isn't somewhere you can truly explore in an afternoon - you need an entire day there!

How to Spend the Day at National Trust Fountains Abbey

So we returned exactly a week later, leaving our home in Newcastle first thing to ensure we got to Fountains Abbey as soon as they opened at 10:00 am.  For first time visitors like us I highly recommend getting there as early as you can, the site is huge and to truly get the most out of it you need to dedicate a lot of time to explore.

We loved our visit so much I thought I would put together this little guide on how to get the most out of your day at National Trust Fountains Abbey.

Day at National Trust Fountains Abbey
National Trust Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden

Before we visited I honestly thought that Fountains Abbey was just a ruined Abbey that we'd be able to potter around for a few hours so we were blown away by all there was to see and do there. The site is split into three - Fountains Abbey, Studley Royal Water Gardens and Studley Royal Deer Park, each part of the site is completely different to the other and it really does feel like you're getting three National Trust sites for the price of one.

It's not the cheapest National Trust site for non-members to visit but I honestly feel that its worth every penny. The place is huge, it's easy to spend an entire day there and the facilities are some of the best I have ever found at National Trust.

There's a huge restaurant at the main Fountains Abbey entrance as well as a tea room in Studley Royal Water Garden and a little coffee shop near to the Abbey.

National Trust Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey

We began our great adventures at the Abbey, a short walk from the carpark and somewhere that you truly have to go and see for yourself because I will never be able to put into words just how beautiful it is. My husband isn't easily impressed, whilst I spend our days out adventuring going on and on about how amazing and pretty places are, Simon's usually counting down the minutes until cuppa tea time and wondering when he can convince me to head back to the car, for him to be stunned into a very loud "WOW" really is a rare thing.

National Trust Fountains Abbey Ripon
I don't often hear Simon describe anything as beautiful but as soon as he saw Fountains Abbey for the first time he was just as enthralled as I was, we agreed we'd never seen anything quite as magnificent. Impressive from a distance it's even more beautiful as you climb between the ruins to appreciate the stunning architecture from different angles.

Exploring National Trust Fountains Abbey Ripon

There's something so special about ruined buildings, I think they make you really notice the smaller details in the walls, appreciate the shadows that they cast on the floor and they always have a slightly eerie feeling that makes you want to creep around in silence!

We had been blessed with the most incredible hot and sunny day and the Abbey just looked stunning against the bright blue sky.  I could have happily spent our entire trip there, but we had more to explore!

National Trust Fountains Abbey Ruins
Surprise View

When you see a sign pointing you towards a "surprise view" you follow it - am I right? A short walk from the Abbey lead us to the start of the Water Garden and a slight detour off the beaten path into the cool shade of the woodland.

As a lover of great views I just couldn't wait to see what was at the top of the hill we had been guided up and practically raced up! The slightly red face at the top was completely worth it for what we found!  Anne Boelyn's Seat at the top of Surprise View has to be one of the most beautiful scenic views in England. It really made me wish that I could paint, just imagine setting up an easel with that view as your inspiration.

National Trust Fountains Abbey and Studley

Just when we thought it couldn't get any more beautiful a short stroll along the path brought us to the  Octagon Tower, a beautiful building that really did look like something out of a fairytale. I pretty much wanted to move in as soon as I saw it, I think I'd happily spend the rest of my days skipping about the tower with squirrels and birds for my friends (I've watched far too many Disney films I know!)

National Trust Fountains Abbey - Octagon Tower

As if that wasn't enough we then discovered the Temple of Fame - somewhere that just screamed "dream proposal" spot to me, something that I of course had to point out to my husband who, for probably the hundredth time, pointed out to me that we're already married.

National Trust Fountains Abbey - Temple

So, not going to happen for me, but if anyone is looking for a dream spot to pop the question this has to be it. The Temple looks so beautiful against the gorgeous landscape and those views are just dreamy.

National Trust Fountains Abbey - Temples
Studley Royal Water Garden

Leaving Surprise View we found ourselves in Studley Royal Water Garden. Completely different to Fountains Abbey, it's landscaped to perfection with stunning stone statues perfectly placed around the most beautiful water features.

National Trust Fountains Abbey - Surprise View

It's probably the best part of the site to sit down and enjoy your lunch, on a hot day it's lovely to plonk yourself down on a grassy patch to enjoy the scenery. We perched ourselves at the top of a  small grassy bank overlooking  the Moon Pond and I was so happy I almost forgot I was an adult and joined the kids next to us in a fun roll down the hill.

With sandwiches demolished we had a little potter round the Gardens, discussing the statues and trying to get the perfect photograph of the infinity pool. I have to say Studley Royal Water Garden is a photographers dream and every few steps we stumbled across someone else with a huge camera - bit of a kick in the teeth for us as we'd managed to break our camera prior to arrival. All our photos from the trip were taken on my iphone!

National Trust Studley Royal Water Garden

Seven Bridges Valley 

You'll discover The Seven Bridges Valley as you leave Studley Water Garden and walk round the huge stretch of water between the Garden and the Deer Park. Seven Bridges Valley offers a circular walking route that offers lovely views of Ripon Cathedral although foolishly we decided to do a straight "spot the seven bridges and return the way we came" route.

Being complete kids we enjoyed counting the bridges as we made our way over them, marvelling at the different stone structures of each bridge we came across and just about resisting the urge to take off our shoes and socks and go for a paddle. The gloriously hot day made walking over seven bridges hot and thirsty work!

National Trust Seven Bridges Valley

Studley Royal Deer Park 

We didn't really expect to see any deer when we ended our day at Studley Royal Deer Park but after seeing a large gaggle of people excitedly gathering on the top of the hill we decided to ask if they had seen any and were over the moon when they pointed us in the general direction of a herd of deer.

It didn't take us long to find them, gathered together under the shade of the trees, we crept as close as we dared and then enjoyed a lovely 20 minutes just silently watching them. With barely anyone else around and peaceful scenery for miles it was a truly perfect way to spend the afternoon and we were both so happy we got such a great end to our day.

National Trust Fountains Abbey

We absolutely loved our first visit to Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, being only a 90 minute drive from our home in Newcastle I can't believe it took us so long to visit and it's quickly jumped its way up to the very top of our favourite National Trust list. We can't wait to go back and explore some more when the different seasons come round, I can only imagine how beautiful it must be in the Autumn time.

Find Fountains Abbey at:



  1. Looks like you had a brilliant day - we love it there too. I might take the kids for a picnic again this summer x

    1. I can't believe it took us so long to go - what a beautiful place!

  2. Cannot wait to visit. Love picturing you in your fun roll down the hill. Must try that :-)

  3. This looks so lovely, if I'm in the area I will definitely be making my way to this National Trust as it looks so nice!

    Adell x

    1. It really is absolutely beautiful, I highly recommend a visit!


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