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The Ruins of St Mary's Abbey

Home > Leeds > Churches | Free | Outdoor
by Erin Connelly (subscribe)
I am a medievalist in the process of completing a PhD (involving medieval medicine). I travel as much as possible at home (UK) and abroad. I'm always ready for new experiences!
Published December 13th 2012
Beautiful ruins in England's rugged North
England's North has such a different character to the South in general, as any Londoner on a weekend away is well aware. The old Viking city of York is the perfect place to escape the hectic city and enjoy the company of friendly, relaxed people, rugged scenery, wild weather, and historic landmarks. Major reasons to journey up to York for the weekend include the medieval Shambles, Clifford's Tower, the grand York Minster, the Roman Wall, and the atmospheric ruins of St Mary's Abbey.

Abbey Wall. Photo by Erin Connelly.


This Abbey, with its Viking heritage (it was originally dedicated to Olaf II of Norway), currently lies in scattered ruins with the towering York Minster as a backdrop. It dates to the late eleventh century and was a thriving, powerful religious institution until it was dissolved and left to ruin by Henry VIII in the mid-sixteenth century.

Entrance to the Abbey. Photo by Erin Connelly.


Because of its great influence during medieval times, the abbots of St Mary's, usually portrayed as wicked, also appear in certain period tales of Robin Hood. All that remains today of this once proud abbey are the north and west walls and some broken stones.

Photo by Erin Connelly.


Visitors are often compelled to overlook the abbey in favour of the beautiful nearby York Minster, which makes this area all the more attractive to the historically-minded traveller in search of something different. Its solitary location, quiet woods, and long, troubled history fuel an atmosphere of both tranquillity and intrigue. A short walk from the city centre and other famous attractions, these ruins are not to be missed on a visit to York.

Photo by Erin Connelly.
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Why? Historic ruins surrounded by serene natural beauty
When: All year round
Phone: 01904 687 687
Where: York Museums & Gallery Trust, Museum Street, York, YO1 7FR
Cost: Free
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