Things to see and do

The extensive ruins of Rievaulx Abbey

Explore the abbey ruins

Hidden in the deep River Rye valley, the beautiful and tranquil abbey ruins reflect nearly one thousand years of spiritual, commercial and Romantic history.

Rievaulx was one of the first Cistercian abbeys to be founded in England in around 1130, and after the dissolution, became the centre of commercial activity for many years. The abbey forge was used to set up an ironworks on the site. 

The abbey then entered its Romantic period when its picturesque ruins became a beacon for poets, painters, and scholars. It was one of the first major ruins to be conserved by the Office of Works (ancestor of English Heritage) in 1917.

Artefacts in the museum at Rievaulx Abbey

Stop by the museum

Discover the rich past of this powerful medieval monastery in the museum. Peer at previously unseen artefacts from the abbey including elaborate medieval stone carvings, chess pieces and gold coins. Every object tells the story of the rise and dramatic fall of the first Cistercian abbey in the North of England.

Afternoon tea at Rievaulx Abbey

Rievaulx Abbey café

Enjoy stunning views of Rievaulx Abbey as you enjoy a treat in our café. The café serves hot and cold drinks and a selection of high quality food using locally sourced ingredients. There’s a choice of hot and cold meals, sandwiches, soup, cakes, tray bakes and scones all freshly prepared on site.

Our homemade soup is always vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy free, and we offer more options for those with a vegetarian, gluten-free or dairy-free diet. Children’s lunchboxes are available, and we can offer smaller portions of some of the main dishes especially for younger visitors.

We also have an outdoor terrace where you can soak up the atmosphere of the Abbey while enjoying your meal or afternoon tea. The cafe is accessible without admission to the Rievaulx Abbey site and is open whenever the Abbey is open, but note that we close 30 minutes before the site.


Visitors to Rievaulx Abbey enjoying their audio tour

Take the audio tour

Pick up an audio tour when you visit and discover 900 years of fascinating history. Learn about the monks in medieval times. Hear how they devoted their lives to spiritual matters yet at the same time established a thriving business to become one of the wealthiest monasteries in Britain.

Find out about the abbey's role in the development of the Cistercian order across Europe, and its important place in England's medieval economy.

Two girls exploring the abbey ruins

Family fun

Grab a trail sheet from the visitor centre and find out all about life as a monk at Rievaulx Abbey. Discover what monks ate, how they communicated and where they went to the toilet! Would you have liked to be a medieval monk?

Have a game of hide and seek in the maze-like rooms of the infirmary and snap a family selfie with a view from the abbey church. Enjoy activities during the school holidays too.

Visitors view the abbey from the adjacent path

Lace up your boots

Walk in the footsteps of medieval pilgrims from the stronghold of Helmsley Castle to the breathtaking Rievaulx Abbey. Discover more about the castle at Helmsley, which belonged to the founder of Rievaulx, and explore the beautiful and peaceful Rievaulx Valley.

Download our walking map here. Theres also a free podcast available to download featuring historian Julian Humphreys who picks out key landmarks along the way.

The walk takes around one hour following the Cleveland Way. Unfortunately, parts of the path are not suitable for wheelchairs or pushchairs.

The 3D printed annunciation sculpture now on display at Rievaulx Abbey

Rievaulx Re-Viewed: Annunciation

Until Sun 4 Nov 2018 delve into the depiction of the annunciation within Cistercian art, through a new exhibition. See a 3D printed recreation of a carving portraying the annunciation scene, at the entrance to the abbot's house. Look up to compare this to the original carving that, incredibly, survived the dissolution of the monasteries.

The annunciation had an important place in the spirituality of the Cistercians. Step inside the gallery to the rear of our museum to discover more about medieval religious belief and the annunciation through artefacts such as a surviving service book, floor tiles and stone sculptures brought together from nine English Heritage sites.

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