Fountains Abbey - if you haven't been before, go! Located near Ripon and cared for by the National Trust, it is an awe-inspiring place and somewhere that I simply love to go. I never tire of visits there, and so much so, I returned from a visit this weekend thinking that it is certainly up there as one of 'my happy places'. Why?
1. I love the drive to get there. A 50-55 minute drive from Newton Grange Cottages in Bank Newton, but absolutely worth it. We tend to travel via Grassington, Hebden, and Pateley Bridge and there are some stunning views as you travel on the high road towards Pateley Bridge and in to Nidderdale. It is very much 'escape from the crowds' country. I love it.
2. You see something different every time. On this visit, in the Abbey we climbed up a flight of stairs to discover a large wooden door that was open and we could gain access to an elevated room with some great views over the stream and a part of the Abbey I had not seen before.
3. There's always inspiration of things to do - from walking leaflets, through to boards signposting the way to make it easy for you to enjoy the precious environment and history of the place.
4. The National Trust continues to invest in new improvements - this time we saw two fantastic new pieces of play equipment in the adventure playground. Our girls loved climbing to the top of a tree house and balancing on wooden beams to get there. There was also a ramp up to a treehouse with mirrors in it, which were great fun. I loved seeing the new signs next to some of the trees, giving fascinating facts about tree species. Whilst I wasn't quick enough with the camera (holding hands with the young ones), next time I'll snap away. And the main Visitor Centre cafe has had a refurbishment too.
5. You can be amazed! Just walk through the Abbey and the Cloisters. Look up. Think about the size and scale of the place you're in, and it leaves you with a sense of awe. Can you imagine how it was built?
6. It's somewhere to enjoy in all seasons. November and December are wonderful months to visit as the anticipation of Christmas and the festive season is here. I recall a visit two years ago when the cloisters were lit up in a multitude of colours - fabulous.
7. A destination that appeals to young and old - with some excellent footpaths and routes through the estate.
8. If my family are happy, I'm happy. Fountains Abbey is a place that all of us love in equal measure.
9. Park Runs - If Park Runs are your thing, you can even join the crowds at 9am on a Saturday morning to be part of the 5km run through the Abbey. One day I hope we'll set off early enough for me to join in too!
10. Time spent in the fresh air does wonders for the soul.
I highly recommend a visit to this fantastic place. There's so much that is appealing this winter time.