Posted by: marymarthatours | July 18, 2011

Pilgrimage to Fountains Abbey and the Gardens of Studley Royal

This is the second part of a delightful Saturday in England last fall with my sister. The previous posting about the needlepoint cushions at Ripon Cathedral will fill you in on the morning of our adventure out from York.

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First view of Fountains Abbey

Mary had been to Fountains Abbey before and has posted a wonderful blog about her time there. I had never been there and even though Mary had, she had not experienced the gardens which cover 680 acres. One really does need an extended period of time to explore and soak in the magic of the ruins and the layout of the gardens. This is not a place to rush through; time for sitting and gazing at the views is a must.

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An inviting bench along the water

The abbey was founded in 1133 by monks from York. Within 100 years it became the wealthiest Cistercian foundation in England. With the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, its life was changed for ever. And yet the massive ruins of the multiple abbey buildings situated in a valley along the River Skell, remain breathtaking.

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Along came the father and son team of John and Robert Aislabie, who in the early 18th century built the immense water gardens incorporating the abbey into the plan as a focal point for distant views. WOW.

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Mary and I walked along one side of the valley past the abbey to the far lake. There we crossed to the other side of the valley for our return. We stopped for a picnic lunch on a bench at the still, statue adorned, crescent shaped pools. Our store-bought sandwiches became a delicious and tranquil repast.

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The views during our walk back to the abbey improved with each step. We wandered through the various abbey buildings, climbed stairs to nowhere and could feel the awe of monastic life here. I could almost hear the voices of chanting monks and smell the incense.

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We sisters shared many fun experiences and adventures on our trip to York and London last fall, but this Saturday was my high point. And dinner that evening at a 500 year old York pub, dining on my favorite fish pie and sticky toffee pudding with a pint of bitter, topped it off perfectly. Thank you, Mary, for sharing this treasured day with me.

(by Martha)

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