The first time we went to Fountains Abbey was when Big Bear was four months old. It was a glorious summer’s day and J and I had a lovely walk around its 800 acres of beautiful countryside.
“We’ll definitely have to come back here when he’s older”, we said. It’s taken five years – I’m not sure why – but a couple of weeks ago we returned, in the depths of winter.
The World Heritage Site, owned by the National Trust, is a great place for kids to burn off energy and there’s lots to keep them entertained.
Here’s my SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) family guide to Fountains Abbey:
What is Fountains Abbey?
One of the largest and best preserved ruined Cistercian monasteries in England, which also has a stunning water garden. It is located about three miles south-west of Ripon in North Yorkshire.
Why we like it
- Families with a Max card (£3 per year) can get in free! (up to two adults and two children)
- Carers get in free. If you don’t have a Max card, one or two carers can get in free with a disabled visitor. To make entry easier, you can obtain a National Trust essential companion card and show it when you arrive.
- The National Trust also offers a Links Pass, which gives half-price entry to groups affiliated with disability charities, day centres, or registered care homes. Carers or companions with the group are welcome free of charge. To order your pass or card, call 0344 800 1895 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- It’s great for little adventurers. Big Bear loved exploring the ruins.
- There are some great nature trails for kids. Big Bear discovered snowdrops this year at Fountains Abbey and has been spotting them in other places ever since.
- There is a play area, which includes a mini abbey to scramble over, tall towers to climb and a zip wire to whizz along. For little ones, there are chimes, a speak tube, skittles and a ball roll too. There are things to wobble along, jump over and climb on. There’s also a woodland house, scramble nets and posts, swings, fireman’s poles, a slide, a roundabout, a gigantic rope bridge and a huge zip wire.
- Fountains Abbey organises lots of craft activities and events for children, particularly during school holidays.
- Or if it’s raining and you want to just stand in a puddle for half an hour, like Big Bear did, then there are plenty to be found.
- Great for picnics on a sunny (or even not-so-sunny) day.
- There is a restaurant and a tea room at the abbey.
- I also highly recommend the Sawley Arms in the nearby village of Sawley where we had a lovely meal by an open fire. Luckily both Bears were well behaved in the pub but even when they became restless towards the end of the meal, the staff were very lovely about it.
- For those in wheelchairs, there are accessible routes around the site. Wheelchairs and electric scooters are available. To book these facilities, call 01765 608888 at least 24 hours in advance.
Set in over 800 acres of beautiful countryside, it can be tiring for little legs. We took a buggy for Little Bear but even Big Bear’s legs were flagging halfway round. Luckily there are lots of benches to rest weary legs and, if it’s a sunny day, you can stop for a picnic. It was cold when we went so a flask of hot chocolate kept us all going.
- Address: Fountains, Ripon, North Yorkshire, HG4 3DY. SatNav: free at visitor centre. Pay and display at Studley Royal deer-park. Tel: 01765 608888. Parking:
- Fountains Abbey is open 10am-5pm in the winter and 10am-6pm in the summer.
- Prices for adults are £16.50 (gift aid) and £15 (standard)
- Prices for children over 5 years old are: £8.25 (gift aid) and £7.50 (standard)
- There are two car parks, one at the bottom of the valley and another at the top, both of which have parking spaces for disabled visitors. From the bottom car park you can access the main grounds of the abbey, whilst from the top you can call into the visitors centre, café and shop.
- From the visitors centre you can use the abbey’s free accessible minibus to get to the main grounds.