This easy walk showcases the lovely countryside in and around Studley Park and provides an elevated view across the beautiful valley of the River Skell and ruin of the great Cistercian monastery, Fountains Abbey.
The Abbey (admission charge) was active from 1132 until 1539 and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Studley Park was the estate surrounding a grand Palladian mansion, Studley Royal, destroyed by fire in 1946. The route crosses the deer park and passes one of the ornamental lakes to follow the Skell through the Valley of the Seven Bridges. A bridleway then runs west along the hillside, parallel to the Abbey’s old walls. Beware of a muddy section around Hill House Farm. Look out for Studley’s famous herd of red deer, and for treecreepers and nuthatches in woodland.
1. From the car park return to the junction with the access road and turn right to follow a bridleway, part of the Ripon Rowel Walk, alongside a wall. At the entrance to Studley Park go through a gate in the wall.
2. Join the narrow road through the park. On the left are an obelisk and St. Mary’s Church. Follow the road into the deer park and at a junction of paths turn right to walk downhill. When the route splits take the left fork to the east end of The Lake and cross the footbridge.
3. Fork left to stay with the Ripon Rowel, crossing footbridges as the River Skell runs through a narrow wooded valley known as the Valley of the Seven Bridges. Follow this route over a bridge and up into woodland below Hum Hill. But where the Ripon Rowell turns sharp left, keep ahead and then go sharp right uphill.
4. Follow this path around the woodland fringe and continue in a straight course to Hill House Farm. Be guided by waymark arrows left out of the farmyard, then go right to a gate and swing right to follow the field edge on a path to a gate in the far right corner. Enter National Trust land and bear left to follow the course of the old abbey wall. Fountains Abbey is in the valley below.
5. Emerging on Fountains Lane, turn right and walk downhill. Cross the river at Fountains Bridge and if not visiting the abbey turn left on the other side. Follow the lane uphill to turn right onto a track and continue back to the car park.
Difficulty Rating: 2 stars
Time: 2 hours
Distance: 4 1/2 miles
Maps: OS Explorer (1:25000) 298 Nidderdale, or OS Landranger (1:50000) 99 Northallerton & Ripon
Parking: National Trust visitor centre (free) signposted off B6265 Ripon to Pateley Bridge road. Postcode for satnav: HG4 3DY. Grid ref: SE 271 687
Public transport: Mondays, Thursdays, Saturdays service 139 from Ripon. Ripon served by 36 bus from Leeds & Harrogate; 56 from Knaresborough; 142/143 from York; 159 from Richmond; 70 from Northallerton. Details on 0871 2002233 or www.traveline.info
Refreshments & toilets: National Trust visitor centre