The twin National Trust properties of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden near Ripon provide an outstanding walk for all seasons of the year.


Using the clear, well-surfaced paths, explore the steps, follies, bridges, grottos, arches, tunnel and striking ruins of the 12th-century Cistercian abbey and 17th-century water garden. There's also a restaurant and café at either end of this walk.

Use your imagination to give names to shapes in the trees and fallen trunks that dot the deer park, the third element of the estate. Allow a full day for your visit as there's masses to see and lots of places you'll want to linger.

Looking for more walking routes in the area? Check out our favourite walks in North Yorkshire.

Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire
Fountains Abbey sits on the banks of the River Skell in Yorkshire/Credit: Getty

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden walk

5 miles/8.1km | 158m accent | 3 hours | moderate

1. Early 17th-century hall

Follow signs from the visitor centre to the abbey. Fork right towards Fountains Hall, which includes a display about how the estate provided work for lads from Tyneside during the Great Depression.

Leave the hall, cross the track and continue ahead through a garden and over a footbridge. Turn left through an orchard.

Want to know more about Fountains Abbey?

Fountains Abbey is the largest and most complete Cistercian monastery left in England. Learn all about the abbey's history, how to get there and more usueful information with our visitor's guide.
Ruins in winter

2. Miller's tales

Your next stop, the mill, was too valuable to be demolished during Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries so remains essentially intact.

From the mill turn left over a bridge and bear right onto a path past the abbey, diverting to explore it. The ruins tell the story of 400 years of monastic life, years of riches, ruin and revival.

3. Folly parade

Turn right over a rustic bridge then fork right onto De Grey's Wharf and turn left. Follow the path as it bears sharp left. Pass the Ann Boleyn's Seat shelter with its surprise view followed by the Temple of Fame and Octagon Tower follies then drop back down to the lakeside via a tunnel.

Turn left to visit the Temple of Piety and Moon Pond then back to continue along lakeside. Turn left to cross canal by footbridge.

Studley Royal Water Garden reflections
Studley Royal Water Garden/Credit: Getty

4. Fine dining

Turn left onto a path signed to the Georgian Banqueting House. Fork right and steeply up to visit it then retrace your steps to the exit the deer park. Walk around the lake then cross a bridge.

5. Bridges extension

Follow the path into the Seven Bridges Valley. The last bridge is beyond a gate. Retrace your steps towards to the car park. Cross the road and continue ahead signed to the overflow car park, bearing slightly left.

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6. Finish in church

Soon spot and walk towards St Mary's Church and adjacent Choristers House, now a holiday cottage, on a grassy path. Turn left onto gravel path. Pass through a gate near an obelisk then turn immediately left to follow a path beside the road back to the visitors centre.


Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden map

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden walking route and map

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden walking route and map


Paul Kirkwood has been exploring, writing about and photographing every corner of Yorkshire since he relocated there in 1994.