What To Do

Things to Do at Rievaulx Abbey

Rievaulx Abbey is beautiful, and it sits in the River Rye valley hidden away among the romantic landscape. One of the original Cistercian abbeys to exist, the Rievaulx Abbey has a lot to offer the entire family – or even the lone adventurer.

Things to see and do at the abbey are:

Visit the Ruins

The ruins are the main attraction. This abbey was founded in 1130, and it remained a little over 400 years until 1538 when it was dissolved under King Henry VIII. The ruins provide a sneak peek into the life of the monks that lived and prayed on the land.

Significant ruins remain, and there are even sheep remaining on the grounds. Sheep played an integral role in the monks’ existence. Their fur was sold to merchants due to its high-quality, and it provided an income to the secluded abbey, which allowed it to flourish and expand.

Visit the Museum

The museum is filled with artifacts that were found on the grounds. The museum just added new artifacts that have never been seen before in 2016. This is a fun and exciting space that helps you imagine how the abbey looked before it was made inhabitable by Henry VIII. Medieval stone carvings, gold coins, reliefs and intricate chess pieces are on display. Visitors to the abbey are able to visit the museum for free, and it’s open all year long while the abbey is open.

Audio Tour

The Rievaulx Abbey is filled with rich history, and an audio tour is available for free. Visitors can pick up their free audio tour at the visitor center, and it will walk you through 900 years of history, allowing you to discover the ruins around you. What’s interesting about the audio tour is that it’s spoken as a monk who would have lived on the abbey.

Highlights of the collection will be discussed in great detail, and it is highly recommended that every visitor goes through the audio tour just once. Many of the intricate details and history of the ruins will be opened up to visitors that aren’t well-versed in the abbey’s history.

Eat and Drink at the Tearoom

The visitor centre has a tearoom that every guest should visit on the way out. The tearoom provides grand views of the grounds, and there are tasty treats available, too. Tea is provided in the traditional style, and there are also biscuits and jams along with other delightful foods. A gift shop was recently opened in the visitor centre, too. The gift shop includes items that were inspired by the abbey and the hundreds of monks that lived on the land over the centuries.

Walk Along the Family Trail

Families that want to be able to take a relaxing stroll through the countryside and keep the kids entertained at the same time can walk along the family trail. The trail allows kids to be able to hunt for clues of how the monks may have lived some 800 years ago. Visitors can enjoy spectacular views along the family trail.

Take a Stroll from Helmsley to Rievaulx

Medieval pilgrims would take a walk from Helmsley Castle, which was a stronghold. The castle is a sight to see, and it was constructed around the same time in 1120. The castle is a 3km walk from the abbey, and the owner of Helmsley granted the monks the land to build their abbey. The two ruins provided help to each other throughout the centuries. When there would be instability at Rievaulx Abbey, the monks would often go to the stronghold for safety.


The walk comes to life with a free podcast, featuring Julian Humphreys. In the podcast, you’ll be able to learn all about the landmarks along the way, and the entire walk takes around one hour to complete. Visitors in wheelchairs or pushchairs may have a difficult time walking on certain parts of the path.

Other Facilities on the Grounds

The grounds of Rievaulx Abbey have a lot to enjoy:

  • Picnic Areas are available where visitors can sit down and enjoy a meal. Visitors can also place a blanket on the ground and eat, too.
  • Toilets are offered for men and women, and there are toilets available for the handicapped. A baby changing center is available, too.
  • Dogs are welcome on the ground, but not inside of the café unless they’re assistance dogs.
  • Gardens are spread throughout the grounds. Benches and gravel paths are available, and there are plenty of grassed areas to enjoy.

Family learning is offered, with events held on the ground all throughout the year. The abbey’s hour change from month-to-month, so call ahead of time to ensure the abbey is open.

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