The Irish Tintern Abbey, Co. Wexford

Tintern Abbey arrival

Arriving at Tintern Abbey

Tintern Abbey has been beautifully preserved and restored by Heritage Ireland (Office of Public Works) using only the best quality materials and workmanship.

Tintern today

Tintern Abbey today

Stone work


Some ruins remain


The restored Abbey

The restored abbey

In AD1200 William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke and Earl of Leinster, was threatened with shipwreck off the south coast of Ireland and vowed to found an abbey whenever he should safely land. On reaching safety in Bannow Bay he redeemed his vow and granted 3,500 hectares of land for the foundation of a Cistercian Abbey – hence the name ‘Tintern de Voto’ – Tintern of the Vow. Once established, Tintern was colonized by monks from Tintern Abbey in Monmouthshire, Wales.

19th c house in nave

The 19th century house in the nave

The 19th century house in poor condition was largely removed. The clearing out of the Library above the Lady Chapel was one of the initial steps in the conservation works. Removal of vegetation and the repair of the library roof were the next steps. Most recently the window of the Library (also known as The Colclough (pronounced Coke-lee)  Room) has been restored. Much of the timber was salvaged in the repair. Most of the glass has been broken but some has been retained.

Library window repair

Conserving the window of the Colclough Room

Colclough Room

Library displays

Library displays

The Colclough Room tells the story of Tintern Abbey from after The Dissolution of The Monasteries in 1536 up to 1959 when Lucey Marie Colclough left the property and it passed into state care.

6:5 Lucey Colclough

Lucey Colclough (and trusting dog!)

Soon after the Dissolution the lands were passed to one Anthony Colclough from Staffordshire. He had two wives, the first was Protestant and together they had 12 children and the second was Roman Catholic and presented him with a further four children. With a mixed religious ancestry the family was saved from the worst of the atrocities which befell other Anglo-Irish families throughout the coming centuries.

Sir Vesey

‘Sir’ Vesey

Read About The Rake :

About Sir Vesey

Ampleforth Abbey Round


“The monks of the Abbey of St Laurence live a life inspired by the Rule of St Benedict based in a beautiful valley in North Yorkshire. St Benedict emphasised the importance of community living as a context for the growth of the individual.” [website]

ST benedict

St Benedict Sculpture by Judy Brown

Ampleforth Abbey has been home to a community of Benedictine monks since 1802. It provides: a co-educational day and boarding school for ages 13 to 18; hosts retreats, pilgrimages and time for reflection; is home to St Martin’s a co-educational day and boarding school for ages 3 to 13; welcomes visitors wishing to spend the day there and provides refreshments in its Tea Room. St Alban’s Sports Centre provides excellent sport and recreation facilities and is open to the public and the Abbey produces and sells its own cider, beer, and other monastic produce and provides unique holiday lettings.

“The walk is approx 7 miles in N Yorks Moors Western Area with afternoon tea option at Ampleforth Abbey.”

That was the brief message about the Weekday Wanderers‘ Walk today.

Good Samaritans

The Good Samaritan by John Bunting

It’s nearly a year since I had my day out with friends visiting The Plot and I was reminded of this as we walked down from the car park through the Abbey grounds to begin our walk.

Mill Lane Sign

Walk this way


Abbey from field

 The Abbey from the Field Track

From here we headed along the lane and into Ampleforth village itself before heading south on field tracks to the wooded area surrounding the Lower Fish Pond.

Lower Fishpond

 The Lower Fish Pond

From here, through the woodland, we had a steepish climb up, up, up to a track along the ridge which eventually opened out into ‘The Avenue’ a broad avenue with woods on either side which was the approach at one time to Gilling Castle.  Lunchtime!

The Avenue

The Avenue

Ampleforth College Golf Club occupies the grounds of the Castle and our route took us around these immaculately kept greens eventually dropping down into the village of Gilling East.

Gilling Church

 Holy Cross Church, Gilling East

We had the opportunity to look round the Holy Cross Church before moving through the village and past the HQ of the Ryedale Society of Model Engineers where members were hard at work.

Boys Toys

Boys and their Toys

Passing over rough meadow land we arrived at a wheat field which we waded through following a very narrow public footpath. A sculpture of a man by Anthony Gormley (old boy of Ampleforth College) overlooks the local countryside here.


Gormley Man

We were soon back in the College grounds and a tarmac track lead back up to the main buildings and the very welcome Tea Room.

Tea Room

Tea Room with local Mouseman furniture


Pear and Almond Cake nearly finished after a lovely day’s walk and visit

The Aislabie Walk from Fountains Abbey – The Short Route

Referring back to the Barden Moor Access Area practice walk a couple of weeks ago I’m pleased to announce that the alternative walk, which I had initially thought rather dull, was a big success so here’s a brief description of it and some photos. You will notice that the weather was exceptional that day. Several days on either side were dark and wet but the weather last Thursday was truly a gift.

Aislabie Walk

The walk was taken from a rather nice leaflet I picked up on a previous visit to Fountains Abbey. The Aislabie Walk (subtitled A journey through picturesque landscapes) is 17.5 miles (allow 8-9 hours) altogether. It’s a circular walk from Fountains Abbey (car parks and toilets) to Hackfall and back. However, along the way there are several points at which you can cut short the route and I chose the 7.5 mile option.

Aislabie map

We parked at the main Visitor Centre car park and set off down the road to the River Skell following it west and then north for nearly two miles until we reached the old sulphur springs and ruined buildings of Aldfield Spa. You could smell them as you approached.

Sulphur Springs

The Wanderers disturbing the Sulphur Springs

From the Springs we headed slightly uphill to Aldfield village itself, passed through a couple of fields of kale (this had been what I remembered as the ‘dull’ part of the walk, across meadows to Laver Banks where we lunched at Woodhouse Bridge and joined the road later at Galphay Mill Bridge (point 5 to point 16 on the map).

A pleasant track through former parkland, now grazed by cows, brought us back to the the gates of Studley Royal Park. We crossed the deer park (only spotted one) taking in views of the Choristers’ House, St Mary’s Church and Ripon Cathedral.

Studley Royal

Studley Royal Hall much of which was destroyed by fire in 1946

Ripon Cathedral in the distance

Ripon Cathedral in the distance

Church and House

St Mary’s Church and the Choristers’ House

St Mary's

St Mary’s, Studley Royal Church

So my concerns about the walk were not at all justified and a good day out was had by all!

Hailes Abbey Walk

HA Route map

Our Route : The Pink Diamonds indicate The Cotswold Way

Tewkesbury is only a few miles from The Cotswolds so on Sunday my sister and I chose the five mile walk “Thomas Cromwell and Hailes Abbey: how an important abbey was destroyed by a King’s Commissioner”. We drove the few miles to Hailes Abbey and parked up by the church. We decided to have our picnic lunch in the Abbey grounds after the hike.

Hailes Church

Hailes Church (undedicated)

After a short distance back-tracking down the lane we headed off the road along grassy field paths to the village of Didbrook. We were surprised that this village had a primary school besides the honey-coloured stone church and houses. The school does serve a largish catchment area though, not just the village.


Acorn Smithy in Didbrook

Didbrook Church

St George, Didbrook

After Wood Stanway, which we approached along quiet country lanes, we joined the Cotswold Way which is a National Trail and indicates to us a well-marked route with its acorn-topped wooden marker posts. After quite a climb we were pleased to see a wooden bench and enjoy the view towards the Malvern Hills and possibly the Welsh Mountains too.

The Cotswold Way

After passing the ramparts of an Iron Age fort (Beckbury Camp) we came across a bizarre little stone pillar with a niche carved out of it. According to local lore it was from here that Thomas Cromwell (Wolf Hall) watched the destruction of Hailes Abbey in 1539.

Thomas Cromwell's niche

A half-mile deviation from the Cotswold Way lead us to the hamlet of Farmcote with its tiny chapel and herb and chilli peppers farm.

Farmcote Chapel

St Faith’s Church, Farmcote

“The body of this beautiful little chapel is Saxon and fairly early Norman, though the round Saxon apse was destroyed in the early nineteenth century. It has massive windbraces and huge cross-beams, still bearing the axe marks of pillagers. It is thought that the Saxon builders of the Chapel made have made use of an earlier, possibly even Roman building. The Chapel has a Norman rectangular nave and a tiny chancel linked to it by a narrow Saxon arch. the chancel houses a Jacobean canopied oak pulpit and arcaded reading desk, oak benches of 1597, fine altar rails of the Seventeenth Century and an altar itself of the Fifteenth Century with the original Mensa slab scratched with the five crosses, symbolizing the five wounds of Christ.” BBC Domesday

St Faith's interior

St Faith’s Farmcote : Interior

From Farmcote we descended steadily down the track (Cotswold Way) to the road and Hailes Abbey where we flashed our National Trust cards and settled at a picnic table for our well-earned tasty lunch! After lunch we walked around the Abbey grounds studying the information boards and the museum artefacts and discovering just how important this lonely ruin off the beaten track had once been.


Welcome to the Cistercian Abbey of Hailes


Hailes Abbey Museum

As it was

Hailes as it was


Ruined Cloister Walls, Hailes Abbey


The Drainage Culverts Established by the Monks – Still in Use Today

Abbey through tree

Goodbye Hailes Abbey

An Abbey and a Chapel in Tewkesbury

Some of my weekend based in Tewkesbury was spent researching some of my family history in Worcestershire. In addition, staying in a house so close to Tewkesbury Abbey, how could I not visit it several times? Close by there was also a curious little chapel which is probably much overlooked by its towering neighbour. I didn’t get inside as it was closed. It’s in one of the very many little courts and passageways that run off the main Tewkesbury streets and  down to the River Avon.

SML and Abbey

See how near the Abbey is to no. 32

Old Baptist Chapel

Chapel sign

It may be overshadowed by its neighbour but The Old Baptist Chapel in Tewkesbury still manages to be included in Simon Jenkins’ England’s Thousand Best Churches. It is even nearer to number 32 than the Abbey.

Chapel Court

Tucked away down an alleyway it was converted from a medieval timber-framed house in about the 1620s and is still used for services today. The key is available for visitors wishing to see inside the chapel from the Museum over the road in Church Street.

Burial ground

Beyond the chapel lies a peaceful, overgrown, (perfect town habitat for wildlife and plants) burial ground and beyond that is the river and a view of the Severn Ham.


Tewkesbury Abbey

Tewks Abbey

Tewkesbury Abbey fully deserves its five star status as awarded by Jenkins. During the one weekend I must have visited at least five times. Even the last morning before packing the car for the journey home I nipped across the road to admire once more the beautiful Thomas Denny windows. You see, for the first time since my arrival, the sun was shining and sunshine adds another dimension to the windows.

T Denny 1

T Denny 2

Photographs just cannot do justice to the real thing. This is what it says about the windows on a notice nearby :

“These windows have been funded by the Friends of Tewkesbury Abbey to celebrate the 900th anniversary of the arrival of Benedictine monks from Cranborne, Dorset in 1102 to the new monastery at Tewkesbury. The windows were dedicated by the Bishop of Gloucester at the 900th Anniversary Festival Service on Saturday 19th October 2002.”

Of course, I first saw T. Denny’s work in an article in Intelligent Life and shortly afterwards at Bolton Percy Church in North Yorkshire.

At Sunday Evensong the music is equally superb. The choir and clergy may outnumber the congregation several times over but the effort and result is just as striking as if the church had been full to overflowing as I am sure it is on high days and holidays. There is also a large choice of services on a Sunday and the evening was particularly cold. The abbey is heated by huge Gurney Stoves.

Gurney Stove

“Tewkesbury Abbey has two Gurney Stoves which were installed circa. 1875 when the Abbey underwent a major restoration by the Architect George Gilbert Scott. The stoves were converted to gas firing in 1987.”

Mrs C Memorial

In Tewkesbury Abbey there is also a memorial to the “Victorian authoress Dinah Craik (1826–1887) [who] visited Tewkesbury in 1852, and later set her most famous work John Halifax, Gentleman (pub. 1857) in the town, calling it Norton Bury in the book. There is a “Craik House” in Church Street, near the Abbey, but Mrs Craik never lived there and had no other connection with Tewkesbury. There is a memorial to her in the Abbey’s south transept.” [source]


From the Sublime to the Ridiculous: Monasteries and Mardi Gras, 2

On my last full day in Switzerland, Ash Wednesday, Susanne and I drove up the valley from her home to the ski village of Engelberg which, like Einsiedeln, is also dominated by its abbey. S teaches in the Pfarrschule [parish school], in this case, secondary, attached to the monastery. It’s a co-educational school for day and boarding pupils.


There was no evidence on Ash Wednesday of the Fasnacht celebrations which must have been taking place earlier in the week. We were able to drive right up to the school and park in the snow-cleared car park.

Engelberg Car Park

The Snow-Cleared Car Park

Before the service Susanne showed me around the monastery buildings and afterwards we visited her classroom and kitchens. She teaches home economics and her rooms are in a separate building from the main school.

Staff Room

The staff dining room where we were to have had our birthday lunch

School corridor

Inside the Kloster at Engelberg

Domestic Science Room

The Domestic Science Department

School Library

The Library serves both the school and the village

According to Karl Baedeker (1928) Mosbrugger was also responsible for the Engelberg parish church built in 1730-35. The Kloster here is also a Benedictine foundation (1120). Baedeker says (but he’s not referring to the library above!) :

“The valuable library (MSS, antiquities) is shown to male visitors only (apply to the porter). The school connected with the abbey has about 200 pupils.”

The Muirhead Guide (1923) says that “Women visitors are not admitted to the abbey buildings”.

How things have changed nowadays from 90 years ago.

When we emerged from the school the sun had come out and everything looked so beautiful!


Engelberg Kloster


However, the sunny day and blue skies only seemed to apply in Engelberg as we spent the afternoon under very dull skies in Lucerne.

Lucerne Steamship

A Lake Steamer at Lucerne under heavy skies

Kapellbrücke Luzern

The Kappellbrücke, Lucerne

Lucerne and the lake

Lucerne and Lake Lucerne

Hotel Montana

However, an afternoon tea and dessert at The Art Deco Hotel Montana was enough to thoroughly raise the spirits!


From the Sublime to the Ridiculous: Monasteries and Mardi Gras, 1

This recent visit to Switzerland came about following an invitation in January to join my friend Susanne for her birthday celebration to be held at the Engelberg Monastery a few miles from her home. Sadly, a close family bereavement meant that the party was cancelled and there was to be a family memorial service followed by lunch on the Sunday. This being the case, I stayed for a few days in Bern; only joining S and family later on the Sunday.

Susanne is a teacher at the school attached to the Engelberg Kloster [monastery] and as it was ‘Fasnacht‘ like most schools in the Catholic Cantons of Switzerland school was on half-term holiday. This gave us a few days to spend together and on the first one we travelled to Einsiedeln the home of another impressive monastery and church not too far from Lake Zürich.

Einsiedeln Church

The drive, which was to be long enough anyway, was extended quite considerably due to road closures and diversions. ‘Fasnacht’ parades were taking place in every town, village and hamlet – including, when we arrived there, Einsiedeln.


The town of Einsiedeln from the abbey

The vast Monastery and abbey church dominate the small town of Einsiedeln. They serve as a place of pilgrimage – for here is the Chapel of Our Lady, The Black Madonna – and are situated on one of the Swiss paths that lead to the Way of St James de Compostella [Jakobsweg]. I’ve written before about the St James Way here and here.

St James Way 'plasters

Special “St James Way” ‘plasters on sale in the shop. Burberry design??

Let me quote from the 1928 edition of Baedeker’s Switzerland. I’ve enjoyed reading the entries in old Baedeker and Muirhead Guides and comparing with my own experiences.

Einsiedeln, or Notre-Dame-des-Ermites, … the most famous pilgrim-resort in Switzerland, has a Benedictine Abbey, founded in c.948, on the site of the well of St Meinrad, who was murdered in 861. This abbey was richly dowered with lands by the Emperors Otho II (972) and Henry II (1018) and became an independent principality of the Holy Roman Empire. The abbey was once ruled y an Anglo-Saxon abbot, St Gregory (d.996). The chief festival (“Engelweihe”) is on Sept. 14th.

 The abbey, occupying an area of 16 acres, was rebuilt in sandstone in 1704-18, by Kaspar Mosbrugger. … The CHURCH, in the centre of the slightly curved W. front, which 446′ long, with its two towers, was erected in 1719-35, also from the plans of Mosbrugger, and is the best example of the ‘Vorarlberg School’ in Switzerland.”

No photography is allowed inside this over-the-top Baroque church. But the public are allowed to enter the precincts and inspect the horses of the oldest stud farm in Europe that is still working. The stables were built in the 1760s. The horses (the Einsiedeln breed) – apparently famed throughout Europe – are known as “Cavalli della Madonna”, or The Madonna’s horses.

Entering the precincts




The Einsiedeln Horses in the Snow

From the Abbey it’s just a few paces down into the town where we had an apple tart ‘lunch’ and then watched part of the amazing Fasnacht parade. As you might guess, the cold soon got to us and before long we made our way back to the car and home. Not being as tough (or filled with Glühwein??) as the participants.

Moving chalet??

Moving Chalet?


The outfits of the musicians brighten up the day


I just had to  come across cow bells at one point during my visit – and this was it!

Einsiedeln Town Hall

The decorated Town Hall before Nessy!

Town Hall and Nessy

And as The Loch Ness Monster passed by!

Where to stay at Fountains Abbey

Back in January this year I wrote about a visit to Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden saying that I’d be visiting throughout the year at different seasons and reporting back. Yesterday was my second visit this year. Maybe this was because I took out an annual membership to Harewood House in March. Harewood is much nearer home than Fountains and I may only retain the membership for a year or two whereas I will always be a member of the National Trust.

Fountains Abbey may be further from home than the Harewood Estate but still it’s very unlikely that I would ever stay there for a holiday although whenever I visit I think the NT Cottage Properties (as they are called) always look very inviting. They may be part of the Trust’s portfolio of Cottages but several do not warrant this title – for they are very much grander than one would suppose from the blanket “Cottages” title. Yesterday I made these properties the ‘theme’ of my walk through the estate.

Built between 1598 and 1611 Fountains Hall is home to two apartments. On the third floor Proctor is furnished in the style of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the views must from there must be spectacular. Below Proctor, on the second floor is Vyner furnished in the style of Edwin Lutyens.

Fountains Hall

The Doorway to Fountains Hall

Just outside the gates of Fountains Abbey and opening straight out onto one of the minor approach roads are three self-catering cottages converted from what I remember well from a few years ago as the NT shop.

Abbey Cottage and Abbey Stores

Fountains Cottage

Until the ‘new’ Visitor Centre was opened in 1992 this was the main entrance and car park to the ruins. My, how things have changed – I couldn’t even find a space in that car park yesterday, the main car park was overflowing and the Studley Royal Car Park was full too.

Burges’s St Mary’s Church and Choristers’ House

Finally, on the actual Fountains/Studley Royal Estate, a walk though the grounds from the ruins to the Lake brings you out into the Studley Royal Park. Walking along the main drive through the deer park one can clearly see Ripon Cathedral to the east and the Church of St Mary to the west. On the approach to the church, just on the right and standing detached and rather exposed, is the William Burges designed Choristers’ House which sleeps 10 and has been awarded 5 ‘acorns’ for comfort.

Built in 1873 the original use was to house a music school along with the organist and music master. It was the Estate Office until 2001 and now it is a holiday home sleeping ten people. The interior reflects the Burges style with all existing original features maintained.” (NT Holiday Cottages Brochure)

It’s another holiday home in an outstanding location: right in the middle of a deer park.

How Hill Cottages

Finally, a short walk along one of the approach lanes to Fountains Abbey are the newly converted, and lately added to the portfolio, How Hill Cottages. These fall into the Trust’s “Celebration Collection” category of properties. From a group of 18th century farm buildings five self-catering units (using the most up-to-date green technology) have been created.

The Shared Courtyard at How Hill

The tower on the hill behind the cottages is believed to have been originally built as an outlying chapel for the Abbey. It was restored by John Aislabie, when he owned the Estate, and rumour has it that he used it as a gambling den.” (NT Cottages Brochure, 2012)

How Hill Tower

The cottages share a single sheltered courtyard and there are magnificent views, including some of the Fountains Abbey buildings from a couple of them. Each is named after a bird : Curlew, Lapwing, Wren, Swallow and Lark.

The View from How Hill Cottages

Buckfast Abbey Window

Earlier this month Lynne commented here that she loved the blues of the Millennium Window by Tom Denny at Bolton Percy church she compared it with the newer window at Buckfast Abbey.

Tom Denny Millenium Window, Bolton Percy

So, after we left Dartington late last Thursday afternoon we drove a few miles to Buckfast Abbey. Lynne specially wanted to show me the stained glass window in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. But before heading into the Abbey tea and cake called. The Grange Restaurant can be highly recommended for its homemade cakes and cheesecakes!

The Abbey interior and exterior are currently undergoing major renovation works. The nave is full of scaffolding but we made our way to the only dust-free, quiet area The Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

“In contrast to the rest of the Abbey, the Blessed Sacrament Chapel brings a touch of modern. After the main church was completed, the chapel was added to provide a place for quiet prayer, especially during the summer months when thousands of people visit the church daily. The splendid stained glass windows depicting Christ at the Last Supper, were designed and made in the Abbey’s workshops by the monks.”


The window is breathtaking and to think that it was made by the monks themselves and we could actually touch the chunky roughly-hewn glass.

Studley Royal Park including the Ruins of Fountains Abbey

When I wrote about Saltaire and Salts Mill last year I mentioned how lucky I was here in Yorkshire to have TWO Unesco World Heritage Sites on my doorstep. Today I visited the other site in North Yorkshire – Studley Royal Park and the ruins of Fountains Abbey.

Fountains Abbey is about 23 miles and a world away from busy Leeds. That is not to say that the car parks weren’t empty and there weren’t queues at the restaurant counter today and the shop wasn’t a-buzz with bargain hunters – the world and his wife had come to breathe the fresh air and walk around the gravel paths and let his children climb over the ruins. But it is easy to get away from the crowds and follow some of the paths that lead to higher levels and peace and tranquility. Every step of the paths around the estate reveals something of interest whether it’s a temple, a tower, a banqueting house, a surprise view, a river, waterfalls, a lake. It’s easy to see why the whole area is classified as a World Heritage Site.

The Temple of Fame

The Octagon Tower

The Gardens of Studley Royal

The Water Gardens with Statues

The Banqueting House

The Temple of Piety and Moon Pond

As you can see this Yorkshire World Heritage Site has a lot more than 25 trees and the time is nearly here already to take down my own Christmas Tree. I’ll be visiting Fountains Abbey a lot more times throughout the different seasons. I hope you will join me here again.