A bright summer morning, the ruins of an old abbey and wild flowers everywhere. The air was full of the scent of flowers and I could hear birds, bees and sheep in the distance: it was a winning combination. This was Jervaulx Abbey, an atmospheric ruin in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
A Wealthy Heritage
The Yorkshire Dales seem to be full of ruined abbeys. In medieval times the monasteries were powerful landowners, made rich by the profits from sheep rearing. Jervaulx Abbey was endowed by the Cistercians in the 12th century, and became famous for breeding horses. The monks also created the original recipe for the local Wensleydale cheese.
But everything was to change in the 16th century, when the monks of the abbey took part in the Pilgrimage of Grace, a Yorkshire uprising against Henry VIII. The monastery was subsequently dissolved and the building was abandoned.
(You can read more about the abbey’s early history here.)
Jervaulx Abbey Today
After the dissolution the abbey was plundered for building materials. The remains of the buildings and the grounds passed into private ownership. It has long been regarded as a romantic ruin: famous visitors include J M W Turner, who made a number of sketches of the abbey.
Today Jervaulx is the largest privately owned Cistercian foundation in the country. It was threatened with closure in 1982 when it was declared unsafe. However the current owners have worked hard to excavate the ruins and to make the site safe for visitors. They have also pieced together the history of the abbey.
Exploring The Abbey Ruins
The Abbey and its grounds are open every day from dawn to dusk (there is an honesty box by the entrance for donations). The ruins include parts of the church and the monastery buildings, and a watermill. Walk around the cloister and through arched doorways, exploring the remains of rooms that were once inhabited by the monks.
Work has also been done to the gardens, a peaceful oasis with more than 200 varieties of wild flowers. When you have finished wandering around the abbey and the grounds don’t forget to take a look at the exhibition of the Abbey’s past.
Visiting Jervaulx Abbey And The Yorkshire Dales
Jervaulx Abbey is between Masham and Leyburn on the A6108. It is 23 km from Ripon and 67 km from York. Car parking is available. If you are tempted to stay a little longer there is also a camp and caravan site.
The Abbey Tearoom serves homemade lunches and teas using local produce. It is also possible to book a private tour of the Abbey – see the website for details.
Jervaulx is on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, a large scenic expanse of moorland, hills and valleys. Here you will find waterfalls, industrial heritage and hidden villages. While you are in the area you might be interested in some of the following: