I visited Leeds recently and took the opportunity to visit Kirkstall Abbey while I was there. Kirkstall Abbey is a ruined Cistercian monastery in a really pretty setting just outside town. The Abbey is right by quite a busy road, but is surrounded by parkland through which runs the River Aire.
The day I visited it was cool but sunny and there were lots of families out exploring the ruins and enjoying a picnic. The park is large enough that it didn’t feel at all crowded; in fact, it was a really peaceful experience and one of the most enjoyable outings I have had in the UK.
The Abbey was built by monks over a period of 30 years starting in 1152. They also
brought the niggard soil to grow rich
which made me laugh. You can read more about the history here.
There is a little museum and café across the road from the Abbey which is nice to explore.
During the summer the Abbey sometimes hosts an open air cinema, which I think would be pretty fun to go to if you happened to be there at the right time.
There are also other nice things to see in Leeds, like Leeds Minster
And some fancy shopping arcades
I got the bus there from Leeds city – you can get any of bus numbers 33, 33a and 757, and it took about 15 minutes. You could also get a train to Kirkstall Forge.
There is free parking if you wish to drive.
This is another cheap day out, as it’s free to visit and wander around the ruins. There was a small entrance fee (£4) to the Abbey House Museum.
Complete your experience
The Blackthorn and Grim series by Juliet Marillier. If I tell you why Kirkstall Abbey reminds me of these books that would be a spoiler, so just trust me. The books are set in early medieval Ireland (so at least it’s the same general part of the world). Marillier has a distinctive storyteller voice and the way she uses fairy tales, myths and lore in her stories is wonderful to read.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Eat (or drink, in this case)
Try a Stingo Beer – a very old type of draught beer local to Yorkshire.
It Breaks by Arthur Wimble because that Abbey is broken … but mostly because it is a good song.