Walkers of the route trodden by St Aelred as he walked from Helmsley to the Cistercian abbey at Rievaulx can now take a virtual guide along with them, as English Heritage launches a series of podcasts by TV historian Julian Humphrys for rural ramblers.
Julian Humphrys recorded the podcasts as he walked from Helmsley Castle to Rievaulx Abbey earlier this year, creating a commentary for walkers to point out items of historical interest along the way.
Julian Humphrys explains: "This is a wonderful walk. It's not too strenuous, so it is suitable for most ages, and it takes in some magnificent North Yorkshire countryside as you walk between the fortifications of Helmsley Castle and the majestic ruins of Rievaulx Abbey," explains Julian.
"This is a wonderful route even without any explanation, but if you know where to look, there are points along the route which help explain the area's heritage - from the partially hidden quarries from which the stone was taken to build Rievaulx Abbey to the remains of concrete bunkers from the Second World War."
The route follows much of the Cleveland Way, and includes spectacular views down the Rievaulx valley and over the Duncombe estate - views which have changed remarkably little over the past 900 years.
"If anything, these views are now better today than they would have been during Aelred's lifetime, as the wealth of the Abbey attracted all kinds of industry," adds Julian. "The quarries would not have had the vegetation masking the scars on the landscape that we see today, and as you get closer to Rievaulx Abbey itself, you can see signs of iron working - foundries that would have been belching out smoke. There is some irony that the serenity that attracted Aelred to Rievaulx would have been lost as under his leadership it became one of the wealthiest monasteries in the North."
The commentary starts inside Helmsley Castle, before heading out into open country along well established footpaths. The route is not suitable for pushchairs, as there is a steep set of steps at one point along the route, but visitors arriving at Rievaulx feeling a little tired are able to catch the Moorsbus back to Helmsley if they cannot face a return trip after unwinding in Rievaulx Abbey's tea room!
The commentary ends within Rievaulx's ruins, although visitors can continue their exploration of the Abbey's history with the audio guides, available on admission.
The podcasts can be downloaded free of charge from the Rievaulx Abbey pages of the English Heritage website.
Both Rievaulx Abbey and Helmsley Castle are open daily from 10.00am to 6.00pm.
Admission prices for Rievaulx Abbey are:
- £5.80 for adults
- £5.20 for concessions and
- £3.50 for children
And for Helmsley Castle:
- £4.90 for adults
- £4.40 for concessions and
- £2.90 for children
Entry to both sites is free for English Heritage members.