Britain’s best monasteries

Henry VIII's first Dissolution Act of 1536 left many monastic ruins that still look spectacular today, here is a selection of the most impressive former abbeys to visit in Britain.

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Rievaulx Abbey, North Yorkshire Moors

Deep within the North Yorkshire Moors, Rievaulx Abbey was the first Cistercian abbey built in the north of England, and one of the wealthiest. The now ravaged beauty of the ruin is in sympathy with its wild landscape. Several superb moors visit the abbey as part of the route.

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Battle Abbey, East Sussex

Built by William the Conqueror to commemorate the battle of Hastings, Battle Abbey stands testament to a crucial turning point in British history. Learn all about the bloody conflict, and stand among the grasses where King Harold’s life was taken by a Norman arrow.

Fountains Abbey, Ripon, North Yorkshire

On the banks of the Skell, this 12th-century abbey was home to Cistercian monks for more than 500 years. The largest monastic ruin in Britain, Fountains Abbey is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With the Studley Royal Water Gardens next door, a day out here is a history lesson for the whole family.

Glastonbury Abbey, Somerset

Steeped in Arthurian legend, the first stones are said to have laid here by Joseph of Arimathea in around 60AD. A thorn tree which flowers only at Christmas time is said to be Joseph’s staff, which burst into life when planted in the earth. The abbey remains a popular place of pilgrimage today.

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Whitby Abbey, North Yorkshire

Prior to its dissolution, Whitby Abbey was a fine example of ecclesiastical wealth. Today the real value of this brooding ruin is its dramatic setting upon a headland, facing out to sea. Further inspiration can be found in the winding streets of the maritime town below it.