Fountains Abbey

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Opening Times:

October-March 10am-4pm;
April-September 10am-5pm.
Grounds closed 24/25 December and Fridays in November, December & January


Adult: £9.00*
Child: £4.85*
Family: £23* (2 adults, up to 3 children)
National Trust & English Heritage members & under 5s free

*includes a voluntary 10% donation

Venue contact details:

T: 01765 608888

Fountains Abbey

Turner visited Fountains Abbey on his first trip to Yorkshire in 1797.  He had decided to make an extensive tour to the North to gather subjects for the next year's exhibitions.

As Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal is Yorkshire's finest Cistercian Abbey ruin, spanning over 800 years of history, it offered a wealth of potential material for Turner.  He made three detailed pencil sketches (two with watercolour) in two large sketchbooks that he carried with him and then during the following winter developed a watercolour to exhibit at the Royal Academy in the spring. 

Turner revisited Fountains Abbey in 1816 and made a number of good sketches on that occasion and a watercolour of the base of Abbot Huby's tower.

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Turner's Viewpoint

The subject Turner chose to develop for his first watercolour is more than a little surprising - an obscure corner of the ruins, taken from the banks of the River Skell, looking along the side of the monk's refectory to where the dormitory and cellarium cross the river.  He had made far more recognisable sketches, of the great east window and tower and the interior of the Chapel of the Nine Altars, for example, typical of the subjects that most artists would have chosen, but instead chose to show an aspect that hardly anyone would have recognised. 

The watercolour 'The Dormitory and Transept of Fountain's Abbey - Evening' (York Art Gallery, Wilton number: 238) shows a figure sketching in a large sketchbook, Turner himself; another is preparing a fishing rod.  During his life Turner was almost as enthusiastic about fishing as he was painting.  It would seem that having already made a selection of fine sketches, Turner decided to reward himself with an evening's fishing.  The sun, however, interrupted the fishing, as it set behind the dormitory range, making an effect that Turner could not resist and he took out his colours to record it.

Turner's viewpoint for his second watercolour 'Interior of Fountains Abbey' (Private collection, Wilton number: 546) from his 1816 visit is more easily accessed by exploring the interior of the Abbey ruins; the great perpendicular tower built by Huby dominates the north transept.

The Turner Trails bench is located within the Abbey facing the north transept, the inspiration for Turner's 'Interior of Fountains Abbey' watercolour.

The Turner Trails panel can be found by leaving the admissions area at the Visitor Centre and following the left hand path towards the Abbey. After passing through the second gate, the panel will be immediately on your right, looking out towards a view of Huby's Tower.

The Venue


Ripon, North Yorkshire, HG4 3DY

Map reference: SE275682

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Directions to Fountains Abbey:

8 miles west of the A1 on the A61 to Ripon; 4 miles west of Ripon off B6265. Follow the brown tourist signs