Walk: Boots, gaiters and vistas

A view along the River Skell in autumn towards Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire, a Cistercian community of monks from the twelfth century until the Dissolution in 1539. It is the largest monastic ruin in the country, and a World Heritage Site.
A view along the River Skell in autumn towards Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire, a Cistercian community of monks from the twelfth century until the Dissolution in 1539. It is the largest monastic ruin in the country, and a World Heritage Site.

In the first of a new series of walks, we explore a five-mile walk around the boundary of the Fountains Abbey estate.

Start at Fountains Abbey Visitor Centre, grid ref: SE272687. Leave the visitor centre on the main (right-hand) access path to the Abbey. Pass Swanley Grange, following signs to Fountains Hall. Pass the Hall on the right and go through the West Gate exit, turning left onto the road to Harrogate. Follow the road uphill for 437yd (400m), turning left at a gate by a bridleway sign.

View of The Cascade (first started 1716-1730) into the Lake, showing rusticated columns and pavilions on the dam, in the garden at Studley Royal, North Yorkshire.

View of The Cascade (first started 1716-1730) into the Lake, showing rusticated columns and pavilions on the dam, in the garden at Studley Royal, North Yorkshire.

Go through the gate and follow the clear path ahead - initially with a hedge on the right and then the Abbey wall. On reaching the end of the wall, go through a gate and cross a field, by a fenced path. Take the last gate on the right to follow a clear farm track to Hill House Farm.

Initially turn right past farm buildings - watch out for waymarkers taking you first left and then right past the final farm buildings and through a gate into a field. (TAKE CARE: farmyard and tracks can be muddy and slippery.) Continue ahead on clear track until the hedge on your right ends. Then veer slightly left and go through a gate into the corner of the wood ahead of you.

Follow the well-marked path ahead, along the left-hand edge of the wood, passing the impressive estate gate, ruined Mackershaw lodges and the Mackershaw deer park beyond. Continue along the woodland path with a wall to your left, eventually bearing right downhill to a junction of paths. Take the left-hand path, continuing downhill to reach the River Skell.

Ignore the ford and take the footbridge river crossing to your left. Turn right at the end of the footbridge and follow a clear track uphill to emerge from the woodland through a gate at the top. Continue to follow the clear track ahead, with a hedge on the left. Take in the glorious views to your right over Ripon and in the distance the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors, Sutton Bank and the White Horse.

An autumn view of the exterior of Fountains Hall built between 1598 and 1611 which was partly built with stones from the ruins of Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire.

An autumn view of the exterior of Fountains Hall built between 1598 and 1611 which was partly built with stones from the ruins of Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire.

Pass the medieval Plumpton Hall farmhouse on your left and continue until you reach the Studley Royal driveway. Walk up the driveway, through the impressive East gateway and lodges, towards St Mary’s church spire ahead of you. Just before you reach the church, turn round and take in the magnificent view down the tree lined driveway to Ripon Cathedral and the North Yorkshire Moors beyond.

From the church, turn left off the driveway and take the grass path downhill, past a rustic seat, to the lakeside car park. Continue downhill to the lake itself, the Victorian tea rooms and the impressive lakeside gateway to the formal water gardens and Fountains Abbey.

Go through the gate and take the first left turn, which takes you over the canal by the cascade waterfall. Follow the clear path, passing the Moon pond and the Temple of Piety. Continue along the path, turning left at the next junction to pass the half moon pond and along the left bank of the river Skell. Revel in the views of the Abbey ruins ahead.

Continue along the path to eventually reach the Abbey. Take time to explore the ruins and then return to the visitor centre via the clearly waymarked path uphill from the Abbey.

Visitors exploring the autumnal gardens at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, North Yorkshire

Visitors exploring the autumnal gardens at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, North Yorkshire

The walk ends at the Fountains Abbey Visitor Centre, grid ref: SE272687.

For more information and a map of the site, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk.

Fountains by Floodlight is running at the abbey on Saturday, September 30 and October 7, 14, 21, 27 and 28 from 5pm to 9pm (last entry 8pm).

The ruins of Fountains Abbey will be illuminated, while visitors can listen to a live performance from the choir as they enjoy the abbey aglow with light.

A herd of deer at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, North Yorkshire

A herd of deer at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, North Yorkshire

There will be evening guided tours to learn about its rich history, while visitors can warm up with hot sandwiches, or visit the tea-room for hot drinks.

National Trust members can attend for free, and non-members can get half price admission from 5pm.

Visitors walking near the Temple of Piety in the autumn at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, North Yorkshire.

Visitors walking near the Temple of Piety in the autumn at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, North Yorkshire.