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Markenfield Hall/photo by Arnold Underwood/Aug 2016

Fountains Abbey/from a photo by Arnold Underwood/Aug 2016

NORTH YORKSHIRE - Fountains Abbey

As featured in the Oct 2017 issue of Country Walking Magazine

Fountains Abbey and Studley Park

A walk of great variety; secluded dales, farmland and forest bordering the site of Fountains Abbey, with plenty of history and natural history to hold your attention all day. The walk passes the historic Markenfield Hall, and through Studley Royal Park, a World Heritage Site which also includes the ruins of Fountains Abbey. National Trust members can divert through the Water Gardens and visit the impressive ruins of the Abbey itself.

Fact File

Distance 9 miles/ 14.5km
Time 4 hours
Grade *** Moderate
Map OS Explorer 298 Nidderdale
Parking Fountains Abbey Visitor Centre (National Trust) - Free parking
Start Fountains Abbey Visitor Centre
Terrain Paths, tracks, and country lanes across rolling countryside. Be aware of cattle near Foal Cote and Markenfield Hall. Sections of this route follow parts of the 'Ripon Rowel Walk' - a long distance footpath of some fifty miles around the lovely countryside in the vicinity of the ancient City of Ripon. Not the distinctive waymarks showing a 'rowel' - the spiked wheel on a riding boot spur.
nearest Town Ripon
Refreshments Tearoom at Visitor Centre
Public Toilets At Visitor Centre
Public Transport Infrequent buses (Dales & District No. 139) between Ripon and Fountains Abbey
Suitable for all
Stiles 6

Route created using TrackLogs Digital Mapping

Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

  1. (Start) From the Visitor Centre walk back to the access road. Cross over and follow an enclosed bridle path alongside access road. Where this access road bears right, cross over and continue straight ahead along bridleway to meet the Aldfield road. Turn L downhill and at a bend in the road find a gate and stile on R. Cross stile and walk down into secluded wooded valley of the River Skell. Follow track upstream for nearly ½ mile and then cross a stone bridge over the river. Bear right to climb up through trees to a stile and a minor road. Turn left along this quiet lane (ignore FP right) to a T-junction. Here turn R along road for ½ mile passing woods. Leave road for bridleway on L that crosses rough grassland down to woodland. In the woods, the path descends steeply through trees towards a lake – the Fishpond.

  2. (2miles, 3.5km). Follow path by lake turning right to cross narrow causeway. Climb up through trees and into field (cattle). Cross diagonally right towards farm, down bank. Walk through Foal Cote farmyard and leave by access road. Bridleway is not where shown on map but further along lane at corner of field on R. Enter field by footpath/bridleway gate (no sign/waymark). Walk along edge of large field (cattle) to find waymarked gate at far end. Continue ahead towards Haddockstones coming to gates and junction of paths before a small hill. Go through L gate and past pile of rocks to follow footpath along a broad grass ‘drove road’. At the end of this join a track that once served a quarry and follow this to a road. Cross road to join a field path and walk along edge of field to a rickety stile onto another road. Go right along this road about Ό mile as far as driveway on left.

  3. (4 miles, 6.4km). This looks like a private road but there is a right-of-way. Walk up here towards Ingerthorpe Grange and branch left down to gate into an Equestrian Centre. There is no obvious waymarking but continue straight through onto track initially through parkland and after about ½ mile reach a minor road. Turn sharp left onto tractor track (now following part of the Ripon Rowel Walk). Follow this until just past small wood take path R into field. Path then heads straight across fields towards Markenfield Hall (note signs suggesting alternative route for walkers with dogs, avoiding cattle) Otherwise head straight towards a gate by farm buildings. Through this gate turn R down track and at end of building go L into field. Walk past barns and alongside wall with Markenfield Hall across the moat on your left. Steps in the wall allow access to the area in front of the Hall. Look out for the pair of black swans on the moat. Remember the Hall is a home so respect the owners' privacy – it is open to the public on selected days. Information leaflets are usually available by the gatehouse.

  4. (5½ miles, 9.0km). Back in field, the walk continues past the Hall and into next field, keeping initially to the side then straight across to opposite corner to a footbridge and gate. Over bridge turn L follow field sides passing farm. Join farm road and walk to junction bear L along lane towards Whitcliffe Hall. Just before Hall turn L to follow bridleway across field into woods. Downhill turn sharp R on track down to River Skell - cross by ford or footbridge. Turn L following river towards Studley Royal Park which accessed by gate in tall deer fence. Follow path over a series of delightful little stone bridges across the meandering river - in fact most of the time the bridges are superfluous as the river will have disappeared into the underlying limestone. The final wooden bridge must be used as it crosses the weir at the outfall from the lake in Studley Park.

  5. (8 miles,12.8km). After seeing very few people all day, you must now mingle with the crowds of visitors to this very popular location! From the lake head straight up across the park to St Mary's Church, from where you have a view down the avenue to Ripon Cathedral. After visiting the church, exit the park near the obelisk and follow the roadside path back to the Visitor Centre. Alternatively, from the lake you could go into the Water Gardens (National Trust - Admission Charge) and follow paths past the landscaped lakes and river. Bear R once past the impressive ruins of Fountains Abbey and join a path that leads back up to the Visitor Centre.

    Studley Park/photo by Arnold Underwood/Aug 2016

    Along the Way

    • Markenfield Hall - a moated, fortified medieval Manor House - 'the most unspoiled surviving early fourteenth century house in all England'. Although still a private house - the home of Lady Deirdre Curteis - the Hall is open to the public on selected days through the year. (For details visit www.markenfieldhall.com)
    • The magnificent St Mary's Church in Studley Royal Park is one of the finest examples of High Victorian Gothic Revival architecture in England (Open April - October)
    • Fountains Abbey and Water Gardens - Standard admission is currently £13.60 per person, but free to National Trust Members. There is much to see and so to get value for money you really need to spend a whole day here.

    Arnold Underwood (August 2016)

This page was created by
Arnold Underwood

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