A cheap day out for those interested in a dose of history. The abbey is mostly ruins, but there’s plenty to see and a programme of regular events to boot.
The area of Kirkstall might bring to mind students, terraced housing, takeaways and a retail park, but its abbey presents a refreshing blend of historical architecture and a haven for wildlife. The once-giant Cistercian structure is now largely ruins, but it still proves a popular choice in the warmer months for an inexpensive historical day out, best enjoyed with a picnic.
The early constructs of the abbey are approaching 900 years old, and recall a time of unwavering religiosity, political unrest, and medieval farming traditions. Younger visitors used to interactive historical monuments may find it difficult to fully connect with the crumbling ruins, but children of all ages will enjoy playing among the stones and in the substantial, manicured grounds.
A £5.5 million renovation has seen the installation of a visitor’s centre, café, and informative exhibits that illustrate the disciplined lives of the monks. The remains of a chapter house, refectory, lodgings, infirmary and malt house can be explored, with the impressive nave and tower, which give the abbey its distinctive shape, occasionally used as an imposing performance space.
The Kirkstall festival that takes place in the Abbey’s grounds is an annual highlight that features food stalls, live music and games, and a monthly deli market (from March to November) provides an iconic space for local traders to sell produce. The grounds also play host to atmospheric, outdoor Shakespeare plays, a yoga programme in the summer months, and a craft market (also monthly) selling unique handmade wares.
Located around a 15-minute bus journey out of the city centre in beautiful suburban parkland, Kirkstall Abbey is an affordable day out away from the materialism and expensive parking of the city centre.
|Venue name:||Kirkstall Abbey|
|Opening hours:||Apr-Sep daily 10am-4.30pm; Oct-Mar daily 10am-4pm|