abbey walks

Stage 2a - Whixley to Fountains Abbey via Ripon Cathedral




29.4km / 18.2 miles

Explorer maps


Leeds - OL289, Ripon & Boroughbridge - OL299



7 - 7.5 hours average time based on Naismith’s rule

Total ascent   169m

Total descent





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This is a very pleasant and easy walk. Whixley was known by the Normans as 'Cucheslaga' but in the 14th century it was re-named 'Quixley' after the local Lord of the Manor. From Whixley the path passes through fields and then goes parallel to the Roman Road of Dere Street, now the A1/M1 in order to reach the village of Arkendale. In the Domesday Book of 1086 this village is known as 'Arghendene' or 'Archeden', and in 1166 it appears as 'Herchenden'. These are the only time that these name versions occur as 'Erkendene' was the usual spelling.


The Prior Richard Way then continues on a bridleway to the medieval village of Minskip. This village name is of Scandinavian origin and means 'community' taken from 'maenscipe' meaning 'community or communal holding’. The name may also come from the Nordic word 'mine-skep', a hamper or basket used as a measure for corn.

After leaving Minskip the path passes through the village Roecliffe, the site of two 1st century Roman forts. These are located where the modern A1(M) crosses the River Ure. It is believed that the forts were short lived and were abandoned in favour of the Roman town of Aldbrough, one mile to the east.


The path then heads down to the river bank and follows it past Newby Hall ( designed by Sir Christopher Wren ) on the opposite bank, and then along Ripon Canal to Ripon Cathedral. Prior Richard was received here by Archbishop Thurston in 1132 before being taken to Skeldale, the site of Fountains Abbey and the end of the Prior Richard Way.



Walk Description :


1 - With the public house behind you turn right signed High Street to the main village of Whixley. Turn left on Church Street which becomes West Lane to pass a Minotaur on the right, it won’t bite! Take the next left, signed 'Private Road no access', to pass High Farm on the right.


2 - After passing the second house, where the path turns right, continue ahead through the hedge and straight on between the fields to a track at the end. Turn right and before the wood turn left on the footpath to reach a track. Bear right to the T-junction and turn left, direction A168 2/3 mile to pass houses on the left.


3 - At the tarmac lane turn right to the T-junction, then turn right onto the Bridleway / old road to reach the new A168 road. Turn right to pass the Farm shop and then after passing Rougham Farm on the same side, turn left across the A1/M1 road, direction Arkendale.


4 - In Arkendale continue pass the church on the left and at the public house turn right, signed Westfield Lane. As the road turns left, bear right onto the Bridleway and where it turns right keep ahead with a hedge on the left. The path becomes narrow passing between fields with hedges either side. This may be boggy due to horse traffic. Pass through a wooden gate and at the end of the hedge / trees on the left turn left to the fence corner and the farm ahead


5 - At the fence corner turn right and diagonally across the field, over a stream to the far right corner, and a gate. Pass through the gate and continue ahead to pass High View house on the right and then bear left onto the tarmac lane which becomes Arkendale Lane to reach the A6055 road. Ignore path / track right and left.


6 - At the A6055 turn right to Minskip village and take the first road left, direction Slaley. After passing the Minskip sign on the right turn right onto the Bridleway to pass Thorndikes on the left. Where the Bridleway turns left keep ahead to cross the stile to the right of the gate. Continue through two more gates keeping to the right of the field after the second one to reach a stile in the far right corner and then a bridge over the River Tutt. After crossing the bridge continue ahead across the field towards the telegraph pole to reach the old railway line.


7 - Cross over the railway line and straight across the field, again towards a telegraph pole. Turn right keeping the trees on the left and at the left hand corner continue ahead into the small copse of trees. There is a stile but at the time of writing (Nov '15) the fence was broken. In the copse continue ahead keeping the metal fence on the left, the passage is easy but the trees have to be negotiated around to reach the track at the other side. At the track turn left to reach a T-junction. Turn right and before the metal barrier turn left across the stream to reach a small lane in the village of Roecliffe. Turn right to reach the main road and the public house across the road on the left.


8 - Pass the public house on the left and immediately after passing the church of St Mary’s turn left along the wall and opposite the farm building on the left, turn right through the gate. Turn left and cross the field diagonally down to the river bank and across the stile. Follow the river bank all the way to the lock. Pass it with it on the right to rejoin the river bank, which can be boggy in places, passing Newby Hall on the opposite bank to reach a small tarmac road. At the road turn right where there maybe barges out of the water being repaired. Continue ahead with the River Ure on the right to Oxclose Bridge, keep to the left of it to follow the Ripon Canal to Rentons Bridge.


9 - At Rentons Bridge turn right to cross the canal and then left to walk on the right side of the Canal bank. Pass Nicholson’s Bridge on the left, Ripon racecourse on the right and the nature reserve and hides to then pass the Lock House. Continue ahead under Bypass Bridge and after passing a large industrial building (Wolseley @ 11/15) on the right, cross the road to Firs Avenue.


10 - Continue along Firs Avenue and then turn left to cross the wooden bridge over the water and to the T-junction. Turn right to pass a school on the left and then turn left along the small lane to road called St Mary’s Gate. On the left of the junction is a plaque giving details of a Celtic Monastery from c.AD 660 and on the right is another plaque explaining the details of the white house on the other side of the garden wall, that used to be the House of Correction in 1686.

11 - Turn left at the junction and follow the road round right that becomes Minster road to reach Ripon Cathedral on the right.  With the Minster behind you turn left along Bedern Bank and across the roundabout into King’s Street to cross the River Skell. Immediately turn right along the river pathway and at the road continue ahead on Barefoot Street and then bear left on Harrogate Road, direction Harrogate A61. Take the next left Borrage Green Lane keeping the river on the right to pass the junction with the River Laver on the right. Continue with the River Skell on the right to climb concrete steps that are a surviving relic of a First World War army camp which extended up the River Skell to the Deer Park boundary. Most of the remains of the camp are hidden under open parkland/playing fields - though outlines of buildings, roads and an internal light railway may be seen. Follow the river to reach a road at Hell Wath Cottage.


12 - Turn right over the stile with an information board on the left and continue ahead to cross the footbridge over the River Skell and then a second footbridge. Continue on this well-defined and hedged path, passing a large house on the left to reach a path crossroad, turn right to reach the village of Studley. Cross over the road and through the gate into the grounds of Studley Royal, continuing diagonally left to the main drive in the deer park. At the road turn left and continue up the hill towards the Obelisk and St Mary’s church. At the road junction turn left down to Studley Lake, a tea room and the entrance to Fountains Abbey.




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Walking can be a dangerous sport.  Walkers should always be suitably equipped, including carrying and knowing how to use a map and compass.