Founded in 1132, Rievaulx Abbey (Pronounced ree-VOH) was a Cistercian abbey in Rievaulx, in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park. The grounds provided fertile farmland and a site for smelting iron. The hard work of the monks transformed the Abbey into a busy hub of commerce and industry. It was one of England’s greatest abbeys until Henry VIII seized it in 1538 during the dissolution of the monasteries.
Rievaulx Abbey’s impressive ruins are the perfect choice if you want a day out immersed in history. The peaceful atmosphere and beautiful surroundings provide the perfect stimulus for an imagined trip back in time. The extensive site is home to some of the most complete of England’s abbey ruins. Walking around it’s easy to imagine what the Abbey must have looked like hundreds of years ago. The ruins include extensive remains of the church, which was one of the finest in the North as well as claustral buildings and five arches from the original cloister.
As well as the ruins, there is an indoor museum that houses archaeological finds from around the site. The museum tells the story of the rise and fall of the Cistercian Abbey. As you walk around the site you’ll find plenty of seats and picnic tables. Also, there is also a small shop and a tea room selling generous portions of soup, sandwiches and cakes as well as a range of hot and cold drinks. Plus the cafe has lots of seating both inside and outside, overlooking the ruins.
The remote location and setting make it a very atmospheric place. The site is large enough to accommodate a lot of people. However, it never feels crowded or busy, with plenty of quiet corners.
It’s OK to take your dog as long as it’s on a lead (even in the cafe area).
Rievaulx Abbey is located in Ryedale in an area that overlooks the River Rye. The ruins are overlooked by an elegant terrace of lawns, complete with Grecian temples. These were built in 1758 (Rievaulx Terrace). Finally, framing the Terrace and Abbey is a huge area of wooded hillside.
Rievaulx Abbey is easy to find, on a minor road, half a mile west of the B1257, two and a half miles north-west of Helmsley (Post Code: YO62 5LB). Alternatively, drive to Rievaulx after visiting the charming hamlet of Old Byland, two and a half miles away. If you are driving to Rievaulx, the car park gets very busy on weekends and sunny days, so be sure to arrive early.
Walk from Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey
If you want to add a walk to your day out, it’s possible to walk to the Abbey from Helmsley. Follow in the footsteps of Saint Aelred, a famous abbot, and take the well-signposted walk from the medieval fortress of Helmsley Castle. The walk is about 4 miles long (8 miles if you walk back – about 3 hours walking in total).
The walk from Helmsley to Rievaulx follows the first part of the Cleveland Way, Helmsley to Sutton Bank section. Signposts are easy to spot and marked with an acorn. The route takes in some very nice woodland scenery in the Blackdale Howl valley. The walk is described in my post, follow the Helmsley to Rievaulx bridge section. From the bridge, it’s then a short walk to the Abbey.
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