Tuesday, 8 September 2015

A Day at Fountains Abbey

Back in June when my sister Jodi and niece Taylor were visiting, we decided to head north for the weekend to Yorkshire to visit a place called Fountains Abbey.  

I hate to make "I liked this place better than that one" sort of comparisons, but I cannot deny that Fountains Abbey may be my favorite place we’ve visited in England so far.  This magnificent shell of a monastery set in a serene, lush valley with a gurgling creek running through it is just hard to beat.

Fountain’s Abbey is one of the largest and best-preserved monasteries in England.   The monastery was founded in 1132 by 13 monks who had been expelled from a monastery in York.  The Archbishop of York gave this amazing valley of the River Skell to them and Fountains Abbey was born.  The Abbey operated for over 400 years, during which time various stages of construction and sometimes destruction (attacks, fires, etc.) took place that made the structure and its surroundings what it is today.  Well, actually Henry VIII had a hand it making it what it is today as well, in ruins that is.  In 1539, the monastery was disbanded under Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries decree.

Over the next several hundred years, the property was owned by various families, some of whom used resources from the great Abbey to make money or to build other structures.  In 1983 the site was bought by The National Trust and shortly thereafter this beautiful Abbey and its surrounds were designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO (I know I've said this before, but do not miss these World Heritage Sites when you get a chance to see one because we have seen several now and they are IMPRESSIVE!).  

The sheer size of Fountains Abbey cannot be understated.

It is simply enormous!  Do you see those teeny tiny people walking among the ruins in the photo above?  

While not much remains under roof... 

what does remain is simply stunning.

As if the beauty of the Abbey isn't enough, the grounds on which it sits are spectacular as well.    Fountains Abbey is surrounded by a lush, green, tree lined valley called Studley Royal Park.   

The Park encompasses 800 acres which you can explore on one of the many walking trails crisscrossing the property and where you may be lucky enough to catch a view like that above.

The Park also contains Studley Royal Water Garden, a Georgian style water garden created by John Aislabie back in the early 1700s (he was the owner of the property at the time).  

It's a dramatic collection of ornamental lakes which flow from one to another via canals and cascades.

When you put this all together, these elegant lakes and water structures, this peaceful green valley and the imposing remains of Fountains Abbey...  

it creates a place where I would have seriously considered disguising myself as a man and becoming a monk if it meant I could spend my days here wrapped in its magical atmosphere.

We had fun exploring the ruins, so many nooks and crannies that made for photo opportunities.

All the missing window panes made perfect picture frames.

And the foundations where great arches once stood but are long since gone...

they make perfect statue pedestals.

This place was like a big playground for the kids. 

Maybe the most interesting thing of all though are the local residents in the area that get to enjoy glimpses of this majestic place on a daily basis.   I'm not speaking about people here because as far as I could tell, there are no houses within seeing distance of the park and Abbey.  If you are human, the only way to see this site is to make the trek from the visitor center through the forest and down the steep valley walls.  But if you are a cow...

you get the pleasure of munching your afternoon grass while taking in the amazing vistas of Fountains Abbey.  That is one lucky cow!

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