Today we took a ride through the Yorkshire Dales from Wetherby to Fountains Abbey. It really is fantastic countryside, rolling hills, small country roads and of course the wheatfields almost ready to be harvested.
Arriving at the National Trust site of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, we were greeted with a lovely well laid out reception area and cafe.
The estate is organised really well with lovely walks through hedged fields to reach the abbey.
Fountains Abbey was founded in 1132 by 13 Benedictine monks who left St Mary’s Abbey in York, to follow the Cistercian order. The Cistercians believed in hard work and self sufficiency, so pretty soon Fountains Abbey became one of the richest in Europe. Using the river to supply water to power their mill the monks were able to mill their corn.Very soon the monks had built a massive complex surrounding the main church.
When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1539 the Abbey buildings and land was sold off. The abbey was quarried for its stone for houses, farm buildings and fences.
Nearby the old cistercian mill is still the oldest operational mill of its kind and apart from milling corn it has been used to provide power. Fountains Hall was built from quarried stone from the abbey in the 1600’s is also nearby and inside the hall display traces the lives of the families who owned the estate.
These days the mill has some great displays and also a cafe nearby. After checking out he Abbey ruins we followed along the river to check out the water garden.
In the 1700’s the land owner altered the other end of the valley known as Studley Royal to a spectacular sculptured water garden. On the wooded ridge overlooking the water are lookout spots to enjoy the views below. The lookout spots are of varied designs with the Temple of Fame overlooking a rustic bridge, and the octagonal tower in a Georgian style, overlooking the water garden below. From the top of the ridge the Serpentine Tunnel leads underground down the hill before emerging beside the water garden. Alongside the edge of the moon pond lies the Temple of Piety, a Greek style building.
At the end of the gardens past the banqueting room the stream empties into a lake where the old Lake-house has been converted into a cafe with grand views.
Around the edge of the lake stretches a deer park which is the home to Red, Fallow and Sika Deer.
Not far across the hill, on the estate lies St Mary’s Church which was started in 1871 and consecrated in 1878. It’s an interesting design where the shape of the spire gives the illusion that the church is bigger than what it really is. Inside it’s quite beautiful and when we visited the organist was playing some of the most soulful music.
After a day of walking around this huge estate we made our way back to the bike exhausted.