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Rievaulx Abbey

RIEVAULX, Helmsley,

A short drive (or pleasant, well signposted stroll) from Helmsley is one of Yorkshire's finest treasures. Today the setting of Rievaulx Abbey is sheltered and inviting, but when Walter l'Espec dispatched a group of French monks to find a suitable site on which to build a new community it was reported to be fit only for 'wild beasts and robbers'. At that time there were no roads in the area; instead of neat copses and lush meadows there were only impenetrable thickets. To the devoutly ascetic Cistercian monks, this part of the Rye Valley represented the sort of challenge on which they thrived. In 1131, the monks began to build the mother church of the Cistercian order in England - and it's still one of the finest abbeys in the country. The nave is Norman, but the rest of the buildings reflect the Early English style. Enough remains of all the buildings on site to give you a very clear impression of what monastic life was like all those centuries ago. The monks may have started out with a strictly ascetic attitude towards wealth and lifestyle - indeed the establishment of the Cistercian order was partly due to what they considered to be the wicked corruption of the Benedictine orders. But the 140 monks and nearly 600 lay brothers of Rievaulx Abbey succeeded in creating wealth and influence. The monks farmed sheep, cultivated vegetables, ground corn and smelted iron - a process that required the felling of perhaps 40 trees to make a hundred-weight of metal. They even built canals to enable the iron to be transported. Stone for the buildings was brought to the site from local quarries by the same method. By 1538, when Henry VIII destroyed their way of life for ever at the Dissolution, the monks had become very wealthy indeed. The delightful little village of Rievaulx, with its thatched cottages of honey-coloured stone, grew up only after the Reformation. It's inevitable that many of the houses were built from stone salvaged from the ruins of the abbey.

Further information

Tel: 01439 798228

View the website

English Heritage

Prices

£8 (ch 5-15 £4.80, concessions £7.10). Family (2ad+3ch) £20.80. Members free. Prices valid until Mar 2017

Opening times

Open Apr-Sep, daily 10-6
Oct, daily 10-5
Nov-23 Dec & 2 Jan-19 Feb, Sat-Sun 10-4
27-31 Dec, Tue-Sat 10-4
20-26 Feb, daily 10-4
27 Feb-Mar, Wed-Sun 10-4. Closed 24-26 Dec, 1 Jan
Average visit 2hrs

Facilities

Parking.
Café.

Dogs

Dogs not allowed in cafe

Assist dogs allowed all areas.

Accessibility

Partly accessible. Some steps, site on slight slope
Wheelchair hire, disabled parking, sensory garden, hearing loop, lift
Toilets.

Rievaulx Abbey

Directions

Use the route planner for your trip

2.25m W of Helmsley on minor road off B1257

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