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Kirkham Abbey

Kirkham Abbey, Yorkshire

Kirkham Abbey - Unofficial Guide

Enjoy a lovely day out at the romantic and peaceful Abbey at Kirkham in Yorkshire. Tranquil beauty spot. The 'Unofficial Guide' finds out more...

We chose a lovely, sunny morning to visit Kirkham Abbey, near Malton.

We'd often see signposts for the priory from the A64 between York and Scarborough, and always meant to stop and explore sometime...

I'm really glad that we eventually managed to visit - its a really special place, so tranquil - and I'm sure we'll be visiting again... I think its the perfect place for a picnic in the sunshine, amidst beautiful ruins, and looking down onto the River Derwent...

Kirkham Abbey, Yorkshire - looking down to the river

Park in the small car park in front of the Abbey. A car park charge is payable (free to English Heritage members). Don't forget to admire the impressive gateway as you enter, and pay your admission charge at the kiosk/shop.

Kirkham Abbey, Yorkshire - gatehouse / gateway

Gateway to Kirkham Abbey

Brief History of Kirkham Abbey

  • The monastic site was begun around 1122, on the site of an earlier church.
  • The vast majority of the site was built through the 12th and 13th centuries, with smaller building works in the 14th and 15th centuries.
  • The abbey was founded by Walter l'Espec, who lived at Helmsley Castle, and also founded the Cistercian Rievaulx Abbey, close to Helmsley.
  • Originally, Kirkham Priory was an Augustinian house. Augustinians followed a much less strict regime than the Benedictine monks, and also took on priestly duties in the community.
  • In the 1130's there was much dissent at the Abbey, following an attempt by the founder, Walter l'Espec, to convert the abbey to a Cistercian rule - this ultimately fell through, though.
  • From 1155, and the death of l'Espec, the abbey passed to the de Roos family, of Helmsley.
  • 1538 - The Dissolution of the Monasteries. Kirkham was surrendered to the Crown, and stripped of all valuables.
  • 1540 - The Abbey was sold on. Stone was taken from the buildings to build Howsham Hall, nearby, and the buildings gradually fell into ruin.
  • World War II - Kirkham Priory was used as a testing and training site for the military.

Me at Kirkham Abbey, Yorkshire

That's me! ...Enjoying my day out!

Visiting the Site

  • Hot and cold drinks and snacks only are available at the shop. A toilet is available at the back of this small building.
  • Dogs are allowed on a lead.
  • A guidebook (only £2.99 at the time of our visit - July 2009) guides you around the abbey, in a clockwise direction.
  • We enjoyed wandering amongst the beautiful ruins, so tranquil, and so perfectly located, with views of the hills and the river - so picturesque - you've just got to stop a while and soak up the peaceful atmosphere...

  • Beautiful Kirkham Abbey, Yorkshire

  • At the time of our visit, some medieval floor tiles had been newly uncovered - although it is possible that these will be re-covered in the future, to help protect them.
  • Ask the very helpful attendant to point you in the right direction, as they are quite hard to find.
  • When you've explored the beautiful ruins, if you didn't bring your own picnic (there are plenty of picnic tables, and a wonderful, shade-giving cherry tree to picnic under)... stop for lunch at the nearby Stone Trough pub, which comes highly recommended (turn right as you leave the priory - the pub is on the left hand side).

I hope you have a lovely day out at Kirkham Abbey. I think you will agree it is a very special place...

Kirkham Abbey - picnic under the cherry tree

The ideal spot for a relaxing picnic.


  • 1 April to 30 September only
  • Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays
  • Open daily throughout August only

Visit the official English Heritage website for Kirkham Priory for more details.

Kirkham Abbey ruins, Yorkshire

Kirkham Abbey on the Map

This map is interactive.

  • Just use the + and - buttons in the top left corner of the map to zoom in and out.
  • Use the arrows to move about the area.

Please tell us about your best days out in the UK, here, or elsewhere...

Also nearby:

Castle Howard

If you liked Kirkham Abbey, you may also like to visit Whitby Abbey...

...Scarborough Castle...

...and Bridlington Priory

More ideas for days out and things to do

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