In 2014 we moved from the old Yorkshire rag trade town of Dewsbury to the border of the North York Moors. Suddenly we were surrounded by what used to be day trip destinations for us. So why we have waited five years to visit this beautiful place is quite beyond me. Spoiler alert: Rievaulx Abbey is stunning.
Why Rievaulx Abbey now?
I remember when I was a kid. I had 3 older sisters that had all moved out so it was just me and my parents. My Dad signed us up to the English Heritage and we would visit all sorts of places on a weekend. Some of my fondest memories are those days.
It was the Easter holidays and money was tight. I checked out a few local English Heritage sites and realised it would be a costly few hours out. Due to the older girls having jobs we didn’t have whole days to spare as Dad’s Taxi was on duty.
Then I check out how much becoming a member of English Heritage would cost. I was amazed to discover that for £8.76 per month both Helen, myself and all four girls could enter any site for free. I signed up online immediately.
With our temporary printed memberships to hand, we set off for Rievaulx.
Although we’ve never visited Rievaulx Abbey as a family I have passed it a few times while out running or riding my bike. It sits beautifully in a valley a couple of miles north of Helmsley in the North York Moors national park.
If you were to take the Cleveland Way from Helmsley you would pass Rievaulx. This is something I did a few days prior to our visit when out for an evening run. It was probably this that prompted my interest in finally paying a proper visit to the abbey.
Rievaulx Abbey isn’t hidden from view. You don’t have to pay to enter the site to get a great view of the abbey at all as you can see it in all its glory from the roadside. However, going in and getting up close to this stunning ruin is a must.
Henry VIII has a lot to answer for
Rievaulx Abbey was one of England’s most powerful Cistercian monasteries. It was founded by just 12 monks in 1132 and at its height housed 140 and 500 lay brothers. This growth came under the Abbey’s second abbot – Aelred who was elected in 1147.
I’m not a religious person but you don’t have to be to appreciate what the monks built here. Aside from being stunningly beautiful, they introduced some ingenious engineering too. Maybe this makes what Henry VIII even more frustrating when the abbey was seized in 1538 during the dissolution of the monasteries.
Something so beautiful as Rievaulx Abbey, crafted by hand but destroyed in the name of religion is a reminder that religion seems to be the excuse for many outrageous acts.
Something for the kids
History isn’t for everyone. Personally, I couldn’t wait to ditch the subject when I was at school and selecting my GCSEs. But maybe that came down tot he style of teaching I was subjected to.
In contrast, Verity loves history. That probably comes from having a teacher, even at primary school, that is so passionate about the subject. She imprints this passion on the kids and they soak it up.
Maybe some of the history here goes a little over their heads but they definitely learned some things. Maybe they don’t appreciate the significance of these ruins right now, but they will. Teaching kids about the past of this country will help guide their future.
Great for photos
Of course, a place like this is rife with photo opportunities. I have seen so many wonderful photos of Rievaul Abbey that I did wonder if I could produce anything worthy of sharing. But, my eyes see differently to the next person, and the next, and the next.
I found the site so interesting with various angles for photography using both my Canon EOS M50 and my GoPro HERO 4. Sometimes you have to look at all angles and experiment. That’s how I got this great shot of what is left of a spiral staircase.
Worth the visit?
With our new English Heritage membership, we didn’t have to pay to enter the site at Rievaul Abbey. I know that with just a few visits, our annual membership will be value for money.
On the door prices are:
- Adult £9.40
- Child (5-17 years) £5.60
- Concession £8.50
- Family (2 adults, up to 3 children) £24.40
I would recommend spending a good few hours here to really explore the site and see the museum too. We spent about 2 hours exploring before moving on the Helmsley Castle. As members and being local we will be able to go back another day and see more.
All-in-all, this place is well worth a visit. Even if you’re not into history it’s a fascinating place.
Thanks for reading.