5 things you must see at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal

PUBLISHED: 17:10 12 March 2015 | UPDATED: 15:36 08 December 2015

River Skell at Fountains Abbey by Karol Gajewski

River Skell at Fountains Abbey by Karol Gajewski


Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal is a World Heritage Site owned by the National Trust and treasured for its 12th-century abbey ruins as well as its landscaped Georgian water garden of Studley Royal, complete with Neo-classical statues, follies and vistas.

The Cellarium, Fountains Abbey by Karol GajewskiThe Cellarium, Fountains Abbey by Karol Gajewski


The 300ft long cellarium located on the west side of Fountains Abbey is a photographer’s dream. The seemingly endless corridor of vaults and arches was once the storage place of foodstuffs for the Abbey but you’re more likely to find several species of bats here when darkness falls.

Temple of Fame at Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal. Image Chris LaceyTemple of Fame at Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal. Image Chris Lacey

Temple of Fame

Experts at the National Trust describe the Temple of Fame as something of a mystery. The building is an Ionic rotunda on a stone plinth, though the columns are hollow, made of wood and plaster – which may be interpreted as a comment on the hollow and deceptive nature of fame. The building was rebuilt in the 1970s by the then West Riding County Council. The National Trust has since renovated it in 1987 and 2007.

The pinnacled Octagon Tower on the valley side at Studley Royal Water Gardens.  © Andrew ButlerThe pinnacled Octagon Tower on the valley side at Studley Royal Water Gardens. © Andrew Butler

Octagon Tower

John Aislable designed the Gothic style Octagon Tower to ‘catch the eye’ and as a focal point of many of his garden views. It was built in the mid 1730s and several stucco artists have worked on the interior including Giuseppe Cortese. By 1976 it was almost a ruin but saved by North Yorkshire County Council which had most of the stone work replaced, the inside re-plastered and the windows re-glazed.

Banquetiing House © Chris LaceyBanquetiing House © Chris Lacey

Banqueting House

This was one of the first buildings constructed in John Aislabie’s garden and was originally known as the Green House. The work of plasterer Giuseppe Corteste, influenced by a Roman tomb in the Villa Corsini in Rome, is in evidence on the ceiling and alcoves; the main room had a bronze statue of the Venus De Medici in one alcove, which stayed for about 200 years before being sold at auction in 1966.

Temple of Piety © Neil McAllister / AlamyTemple of Piety © Neil McAllister / Alamy

Temple of Piety

This building was first called the Temple of Hercules and is the focal point of John Aislable’s layout of canals and ponds and probably one of the best loved and instantly recognisable views at Studley. It’s believed its name was changed to the Temple of Piety when, in 1749, William Aislable employed Guiseppe Corteste to create a low relief sculpture of a Grecian daughter feeding her imprisoned father at her breast and is taken to represent William’s respect for his father John. Giuseppe Corteste, a Swiss-Italian stuccoist work on many of the estate buildings in the 1740s and 1750s including the Aislabies’ house, Studley Hall and its chapel, the Octagon Tower.

Bridge at Studley Royal by Harry FeatherBridge at Studley Royal by Harry Feather

The Aislabie family, the original designers of the Studley Royal Water Garden, created many follies on the estate to surprise and delight their guests. These then fashionable, whimsical buildings or structures were cleverly used by garden designers to catch the eye or draw attention to a carefully created vista.

There’s also St Mary’s Church, a fine example of Victorian gothic church, Elizabethan Fountains Hall with its hidden herb garden and medieval deer park – home to over 500 wild deer.

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