The river Skell is perhaps best known (if at all) for flowing through the valley of Fountains Abbey and the Studley Royal water gardens (a world heritage site, on account of the latter). It rises on the moors east of Nidderdale, and joins the Ure on the eastern edge of the city of Ripon (which is half the size of Beverley, the third-smallest city in England). We’ll start at the latter, for lunch down by the cathedral, followed by a visit to the restored canal basin. The canal, which takes its feed water from the Skell, closed in 1956 – forty years later, it had been re-connected to the inland waterways network.
It’s only a short drive to Fountains. The ruins need little introduction – the abbey is one of the largest and best-preserved of its kind, and particularly photogenic, even on a dull grey afternoon. There’s plenty to explore, and afterwards we walk the length of the water gardens, a very pleasant stroll which is concluded by fine views as we approach the abbey once more. Little more needs to be said – visit the NT site (below) for more.