In the Autumn of 2013 I spent a day at Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire. Large historic ruins are not something that I usually enjoy however I really did love the time at Fountains Abbey. So many old buildings tend to just have relatively small amounts of the foundations of walls however, as can be seen, there really is quite a lot left of this ruin.
The effect of these large remaining windows really appealed to me. I felt a sense in which I preferred them without the glass – the view of clouds etc through them was lovely. The height of the remaining walls meant that there was still a feeling of a large sacred space.
The structure was impressively both in the large scale and the smaller scale. The colour and texture of some of the remaining stone was stunning and made for a very real sense of history. The site was in use from around 1130 until it was destroyed by Henry VIII some 400 years later. The fact that the site has not been unduly degraded since then makes the experience far more enjoyable.
The site is not simply the Abbey but also includes a medieval deer park, Fountains Mill and Hall and a church. In addition there is also The Studley Royal Water Gardens dating from the early 18th century. Walking around these even on a rather dull day was a real treat.
The landscaping is of a very high standard and being well maintained by the National Trust. The vistas of water catch and lead the eye. The trees were getting a nice level of Autumn colouring at the time adding another dimension to the walk.
There is enough space over the site as a whole for it not to feel too busy though I think that in peak season it would feel a little more crowded. We were not the only people there that day but there was a sense of space enjoyed by all I imagine!
Walking back and arriving the other side of the Abbey to the one we left from gave other views of the impressive amount of the structure remaining. The combination of all the different attractions here as well as a well designed visitors centre made it a very worthwhile day out to me. I would certainly suggest that anyone in the area with an interest in such things should make the most of it and go – on a good day weatherwise it would be very pleasant to pass a whole day there. I’d like to return myself in another season maybe.