Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden Things To Do

We LOVE Fountains Abbey, there is so much to do there, I often wish we lived a bit closer. Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden are located near Ripon in North Yorkshire. It is free to visit for members of the National Trust and also members of English Heritage. This is great because it is one of the more expensive things to do in Yorkshire, although I think it’s totally worth the entrance fee.

Fountains Abbey is the largest monastic ruin in the UK. It was originally founded in 1132 by some Benedictine monks. They later became Cistercian monks who became very successful and prospered for some time with the thousands of sheep that they kept. Their numbers increased to around 200 monks and they even sold their sheep’s wool overseas. The abbey was mostly ruined during the dissolution of the monasteries. Luckily the main structure still has its grand walls and there are lots of ruins waiting to be explored.

Fountains Abbey Things To Do Review

The attraction has two sections, the abbey and its surrounding buildings and then quite a walk away from the abbey is the Studley Royal Water garden. Both are included in your visit. When we visited we were there for 7 hours and we still didn’t manage to do everything. You will walk a LOT so make sure you wear some decent footwear.

There is a car park at both locations so you could always park at one and then the other but there will still be a lot of walking. The abbey car park is free and there is a charge to park at the royal water gardens.

We started our visit at the main car park for Fountains Abbey. This has a large visitor centre with a cafe, toilets and a shop. Make sure you pick up a map although there are plenty of signposts around the grounds we found the map to still be very useful.

The adventure playground is close to the visitor centre. It is an excellent adventure play area which a big selection of wooden play equipment. One section is even shaped a bit like the abbey. There is plenty for kids to climb and play on with something for all ages.

There is an assault course, zip wire, swings and an activity area with swing skittles, bean bag toss, ball rolling and more. It was lovely and quiet at 10 am but it soon started to get busy.

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden Things To Do
Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden Things To Do

Heading on down to the abbey from here we followed the map to an old farm where some of the monks worked. From here we paid a quick visit to Fountains Hall. In here there are a few things that kids are encouraged to touch and discover. Although there is a lot of walking to be done most of the paths were buggy friendly which was good to see.

After visiting the hall we headed on down to the mill. This is one of the oldest buildings on-site and is intact. You can even ring the old bell that the monks would have used (it’s been deadened somewhat though). Inside there are a few interactive things to do and some videos to watch. It was all very interesting.

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden Things To Do

We still had one last building to visit before we headed over to the abbey. Porter’s Lodge has some dress-up where adults and children can dress up as monks. There is also an exhibition in here showing life back when the monks lived at the abbey.

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden Things To Do

Now for the real treat the abbey itself. Even though it is a ruin it is incredibly impressive. The large and mostly intact tower towers over the ruins. You are allowed to walk on the walls and explore as much as you want to explore.

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden Things To Do

The water that the monks used still runs under parts of the abbey and you can access the water if you so wish. A few kids had taken their shoes off and were paddling about in the water.

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden Things To Do

My son was in his element exploring and climbing on various sections. It was a shame that it was now after lunchtime for us as we could have spent much longer here. But with the Royal water garden still to visit we had to press on.

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden Things To Do

Make sure you visit the Cellarium part of the abbey. The arched roof in here is stunning and mind-boggling how they ever managed to build this. A few streams run under the floor in here and it was certainly my favourite part of our visit.

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden Things To Do
Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden Things To Do

We reluctantly headed on the path to the Royal Water garden. This gives you different views and glimpses of the abbey. This seemed to be the longer path and I did start wishing we’d gone the shorter way. Although it was longer it was pretty impressive though as otherwise we would have missed the lake with the swans and we even saw a hedgehog swimming in the water. He was completely happy, apparently, this is a common thing for hedgehogs to do.

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden Review
Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden Review

Our legs were really tiring by now but we were determined to push on and find the follies. We first had to walk over to the cafe area here as my son was in need of the toilet. It can be an awfully long walk to toilets at Fountains Abbey so make sure you plan well and insist your kids go no matter what.

There are a number of follies to be found including a Banqueting hall set on a hill which was once clearly very lavish and a fabulous spot to enjoy some food. There was some Georgian dress up inside here.

We both loved the wooden platform over the water. It provides you with some stunning views while being a tad scary as there are literally no sides to the bridge.

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden Review
Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden Review

Other follies included a serpentine tunnel, a tower and a lakeside house with magnificent pillars and more.

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden Review
Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden Review

My son had a great time rolling down the grass embankments and it was a great opportunity to have a rest. We still had the church to visit although by the time we got there it had shut (when it’s open it shuts at 4 pm). There are also a series of mini waterfalls that we wanted to find but never got the chance. We had a really lovely day out and if we are ever in the area again we would love to return.

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden Review
Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden Review

Fountains Abbey FAQ & Further Information

Address: Fountains, Ripon HG4 3DY, North Yorkshire. Phone: 01765 608888

Category – Historic Attraction – Mostly Outdoors – Suitable for all ages.

What are the ticket prices?

FREE for members of English Heritage and National Trust. Non members adult standard ticket costs £17, children £9.40. Under 5s are free. Other pricing options including family tickets are available.

What are the main facilities and things to do?

Historic attraction with a series of buildings, a large ruined abbey and gardens with follies plus there is an excellent adventure playground. There are toilets and 2 cafes.

When are they open?

Fountains Abbey is open almost all year round. They close on Fridays in the winter. For up-to-date opening times please visit their website.

Is there food available?

There are two cafes serving food and drinks. You are welcome to bring a picnic.

Is there parking?

There is free parking at the larger abbey car park. There is a charge to park at the royal water garden car park.

Are they dog friendly?

Dogs are allowed outdoors, they are not permitted in any of the buildings such as Fountains Hall.

Are they accessible?


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