Rievaulx Abbey has long been a magical place for me. Its setting is beautiful, nestled in a valley by the river Rye. It’s a very spiritual place and easy to see why the monks chose it for their home. Today the abbey is run by English Heritage and is a popular place to visit both for its stillness and the beauty of the building – such as still remains.
Today was an adventure around the abbey and not a visit to it although we come here often with students who are always impressed with the area and the history of the abbey itself – the information available is very thorough.
Our walk would take us away from the abbey and up into the woods above it – a route, I am certain, the monks took very often. Spring is a good time to walk in woods as there are lots of spring flowers appearing as well as that lovely, early fresh green colour on all the trees as they break into leaf. Today’s walk is a gentle one so there will be lots of time just to enjoy nature and the views across to Rievaulx.
We start the walk across fields opposite Rievaulx which had once contained a canal delivering water from the river to the monastery. After the dissolution of the monasteries, the monks dispersed and the land was given away by King Henry VIII. Often these landowners would build large houses and incorporate the abbeys into the gardens. Much of the stone was taken by local people to build houses and barns.
Beyond the fields is a wood which rises above the village and this is where we headed next. We crossed an old bridge with the river running very gently below and began to climb the gentle slope into the woods themselves.
Above the Abbey through the trees we can just glimpse a small temple. This was once a part of a large house and grounds – a landscape garden – which looked down over Rievaulx. There is very little left of this grand house now except for the temple and terraces but it is still possible to go there and get a remarkable view of the old Abbey.
Other great Abbeys of Yorkshire (some of the most beautiful in England) including Fountains, Bolton and Whitby experienced a similar history and are great places to visit and discover more about this turbulent time in English history.
After meandering a little more through the woods, we finally emerged at the other end of the village and worked our way back to the Abbey. The river babbled alongside the road and we crossed another couple of stone bridges before reaching the car. It is so peaceful here and with the dominance of the beautiful stone remains of what must have been a truly magnificent structure ever in sight, it’s easy to step back into history and feel that this place must have always been like it is today.
Of all the walks in the series, this setting is the most romantic and also the most spiritual – I’d really love you to experience it too.