Rievaulx Abbey, Yorkshire
Everywhere peace, everywhere serenity and a marvellous freedom from the tumult of the world – Abbot St. Aelred, Rievaulx Abbey
Words as true today as they were in 1132. Rievaulx Abbey is a tranquil place. Silent stones, hidden away in a North Yorkshire valley, stand sentry over 900 years of history.
The Abbey was one of the first Cistercian Abbeys in England and served an important financial and religious role in the North of England and Scotland. At its zenith of wealth and power, 140 White Monks and 500 lay brothers ran the agricultural and industrial interests of the Abbey.
The Abbey died a slow and painful death during successive centuries…financial difficulties, war, famine and the Black Death reduced its influence and population. By the end of the 14th century, only 14 monks, 3 lay brothers and an Abbot remained at Riveaulx.
King Henry VIII dealt a final blow to the Abbey during the Dissolution. He sold the Abbey and its land to the Earl of Rutland with the caveat that the Abbey be dismantled and the roof lead and chapel bells set aside for the His Majesty.
Stone by stone, what wasn’t destroyed was carried off. What was left slowly crumbled until the Office of Works intervened in 1917.
English Heritage manages Rievaulx Abbey and encourages visitors to come walk in the footsteps of monks, abbots, pilgrims and kings and hear the stories hidden among the ruins.
Things to know when visiting Rievaulx Abbey
Check opening hours and costs here. If you live or travel in the UK frequently, consider an English Heritage pass. It will pay for itself in very short order. If you are visiting for a limited time, consider the overseas visitor pass.
Rievaulx Abbey lies one hour north of York, 30 minutes from Castle Howard and 10 minutes from Helmsley Castle (map). It is possible to do all three in a day, but you won’t have time to linger.
The easiest way to get to the Abbey is by car, but you can also take the 31x bus from York to Helmsley and walk to the Abbey. You can visit Helmsley Castle, eat lunch at the Black Swan Hotel in town and walk from the Castle to the Abbey (2.5 miles?). After a relaxing afternoon at the ruins and a pot of tea at the tea rooms, walk back to Helmsley. If you have a car, you can do the walk in reverse by parking at the Abbey and walking to Helmsley.
Have you been to the Abbey? Do you have any tips or comments? Tell me in the comments below!
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