Rievaulx Abbey

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I think the dramatic ruins of Rievaulx Abbey make it one of our favourite abbeys. We always enjoy visiting. Hidden in a secret valley on the North York Moors, it nestles under the steep wooded hillside. The houses of the attractive small village have been built from stones taken from the abbey ruins.

The ruins are dominated by the church at the top of the site looking down over the rest of the abbey. The chancel of the abbey is awe inspiring with its pointed arches and tall lancet windows with the remains of carving round them. The lower parts of the transepts are Norman with round topped windows. Looking at the west wall, the join between the Norman and Early English periods is particularly noticeable. The north transept was built later as the top windows are more elaborate.

Only the chancel arch survives. Nothing is now left of the central tower.

Only the foundations of walls of the nave and the square pillar bases remain. The stones were robbed to build houses in the village. There are some medieval tiles at the west end.

The cloisters are off the south wall of the nave. Not a lot is left of them, apart from the central grassy square and a small section of arcading with double pillars with carved capitals and low round arches. The blind arcading on the south wall can be seen outside the refectory.

To the west of the refectory were the kitchens and the base of the ovens can still be seen. The refectory is now an empty shell but was originally a very tall building with tall lancet windows with blind arcading round them. Beneath it was the undercroft with the remains of the vaults.

Next to the refectory was the warming house still with the brick base and back of the fireplace. On the far side, steps lead down into the day room with a big fireplace and the remains of a central pillar supporting the roof. The monks dormitory was above it.

Beyond it is the smaller infirmary cloister with a bit of reconstructed arcading. All that remains of the infirmary is an outer Norman wall. Steps lead up to a doorway with the remains of a carving above.

The apsidal chapter house was on the east wall of the Cloisters. Now just the foundations remain, with grave slabs in the floor. By the entrance is the remains of the shrine of Abbot William 11331-45.

Beyond the infirmary buildings is a rabbit warren of rooms with low walls and steps. These include the Abbot’s kitchens, complete with drains, cistern and fireplaces.

The massive main drain still runs under the infirmary and day room.

There is an audio guide to the site and information boards round the site are for use with the audio guide. They identify the different buildings but there is no information about them. We felt this was a major omission and would have welcomed more information around the site for those not wanting the audio guide.

This is a lovely place to wander. It is especially atmospheric on a misty winter morning and there is an excellent tea room to keep the cold at bay.

Visitors need to be aware there is a £4 parking fee, which is refunded when you visit the abbey. Alternatively collect a free ticket from the ticket office when buying your entry ticket.

There are more pictures here.

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