This walk links two important medieval sites near Ripon – Fountains Abbey and Markenfield Hall.
In monastic times their lands adjoined. In the 16th century both sites lost their original owners in the turmoil that followed Henry VIII’s break with Rome. In the 20th century, changes of ownership led to restoration and conservation for them both.
For more details about these two sites, visit their official websites: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/fountains-abbey and www.markenfield.com.
l Car park at West Gate of Fountains Abbey, shown at point 1 on the route.
l From Ripon, walk up Whitcliffe Lane and join the walk at point 6. The 36 bus passes the end of Whitcliffe Lane and Quarry Moor, where a path takes you to Whitcliffe Lane.
l Take the 36 bus from Ripon or Harrogate, passing the entrance to Markenfield Hall (Hell Wath Lane) and join the route at point 9. Alight at the Hollin Hall bus stop.
1. From the West Gate car park turn right uphill, signed Harrogate. Turn left at the fork in the road, signed Markington, Harrogate.
2. Just after the road bends right, leave the road through a gate or over a stile on your left into a field. The field entrance is marked with a National Trust sign and bridleway signs. The grassy path leads straight on with the abbey wall on your right. Continue past a pond in the wood to your left.
Stop at the telegraph pole for views of Fountains Hall and a small red roofed barn, behind which are a group of yew trees known as the Seven Sisters and said to have been planted by the monks. The wall is said to be the largest remaining monastic boundary wall in Europe.
At two big oak trees, look down at the lumps and bumps in the sloping ground which are the remnants of the abbey’s industrial area. There is a second pond which may have supplied water or been connected with the tanning of leather.
Continue past two more ponds, go through the gate and keep to the track, following way-marks, then turn right through a metal gate and continue straight ahead, keeping the farm-house on your left. The track swings left over the stone bridge toward the farm.
3. This is Hill House Farm. Go through a metal gate at the other side of the bridge. Follow the way-marks to turn right in front of a large barn, then left following a FP sign, and right in front of more cattle sheds with an FP sign, to a metal gate. Pass through onto a track, with a hedge to your right. When the hedge ends, bear slightly left downhill and cross the field to a gate into a wood.
4. Go through the gate and follow the track in the wood, passing an old archway in the Abbey Wall on your left, originally part of Mackershaw Lodge. This is an entrance to Studley deer park – red deer can sometimes be seen grazing here. Continue along this wide track for about 1km and descend to a junction of paths.
5. Here the track from Studley Park and Studley Roger comes up from the left. Go straight on, following the ascending way-marked path to reach a gate marked with a Ripon Rowel Walk sign. Go through this gate and continue straight on, following a line of trees towards a gate. Go through this gate and turn right.
6. You are now on Whitcliffe Lane. The lane rises and at the top continue straight on, passing a picnic seat.
7. Cross a cattle grid at Bland Close, bear right and continue keeping the hedge on your right to reach a stile and gate. Cross the stile and continue straight on along the way-marked track across two fields.
8. Soon after, the track is joined from the right by the old deer park wall of Markenfield, and you have a choice of route.
In dry weather you can reach Markenfield Hall by crossing the wall at a stile on your right leading down to a footbridge, over a stream, and uphill across an arable field to Markenfield Hall. At this point you will have a fine view of the hall.
At the end of the field, cross a stile into pasture, walk across the field close to the moat, cross a stile to your right over the stone wall and walk across the car park towards the gatehouse on the right.
Turn left between farm buildings, then right. Do not go into the courtyard through the gatehouse (see point 9).
Alternatively, if the route above is muddy, continue along the track following the old park wall on your right, shortly becoming a newly repaired wall. From here on you will have occasional views of Markenfield Hall across the fields.
Go through a gate and bear right when the park wall moves to your left and follow the track to reach a gate. Go through the gate and turn right on the tarmac drive.
9. You are now on Hell Wath Lane (as signified on the OS map) leading from the A61 to Markenfield Hall.
Walk up the drive to the farm buildings, and where it turns right to the hall entrance you may follow it up to the moat and gatehouse. Here you can admire views of the Hall and courtyard. Please respect the privacy of the residents and do not go into the courtyard.
10. Return from the gatehouse to Hell Wath Lane and turn right, then shortly go through the left hand of the two metal gates (way-marked) to head (south) along a grassy track passing through three fields and crossing two stiles.
11. In the third field, follow the track between fences, at the end of which bear right and cross the field on an obvious path to a stile.
Cross the stile and turn right up the narrow way-marked track called Strait Lane. This lane is probably very old and is called a “holloway”.
Continue along it for nearly 1km, passing Christmas tree plantations on both sides, to emerge into a field through a small gate.
12. Follow the way-marked path along the edge of a field with the hedge on your right and views of How Hill to your left. At the field end, go through a metal gate in the corner into another field with the hedge on your right. Pass through another metal gate at the end, then in the next field go right across the field, to reach a third metal gate.
In the next field corner, take the gap in the hedge to the left of a wooden gate to walk along a permissive path with the hedge on your right to a metal gate onto Whitcliffe Lane. As you walk across these fields you have views of Morcar House to the left and How Hill now ahead.
13. Turn left onto Whitcliffe Lane, following it to the T-junction with How Hill Road. Here you can turn left to climb How Hill for the views, or right to return along Fountains Lane and the West Gate car park.
14. To visit How Hill, the former chapel of St Michael, cross the road and walk 75 metres left and take a permissive path through a small gate on your right after a small copse. Climb the hill bearing right to reach the chapel. From here there are fine views to Ripon Cathedral, York Minster and possibly Selby Abbey. It is thought this was a place of pilgrimage in medieval times (because of the views of three religious buildings). Look also for the Yorkshire Moors and the White Horse to the NW.
Return to How Hill Road, by walking downhill on the other side, to the left of How Hill Cottages, and then right past the cottages to the road. Turn left and follow the road back to the car park.
l This route has been prepared by the Historic Parks and Gardens Study Group with support from Nidderdale AONB and in collaboration with the National Trust and the owners and Friends of Markenfield Hall