16) Kirkstall Abbey & Tea Rooms, Abbey Road, Leeds, LS5 3EH
Kirkstall Abbey lies just a few miles west of Leeds City Centre.
The Abbey is the most complete example of a Cistercian monastery in Britain, c.1152 – disestablished during the dissolution of monasteries under Henry VIII. As much as it’s the most complete example of its type in Britain – it is quite a ruin, but is very picturesque, especially if the clouds above it are moody.
The Abbey was a gift to the public of Leeds from a Colonel North, it has been drawn and painted as a subject by such as Turner, Girtin and Sell-Cotman.
My wander around the ground is about 2.91 miles but you can extend the route by heading out the eastern entrance onto Bridge Road (by the retail park, there’s a Costa here) turn right and find the Leeds Liverpool Canal.
Mostly on tarmac, a few sections on dirt path. No gates, no stiles or steps. A few sneaky hills so if using and self-propelling a manual wheelchair you may need a little assistance.
Wheelchair powered attachments and mobility scooters will not have any problems.
Dogs are allowed if kept on leads.
Facilities: Normally disabled toilets are located at both the Abbey Tea Rooms and the café immediately in front of the Abbey. The Abbey and both tea rooms were closed due to the pandemic – but do check their website for further information.
Parking is free to all visitors, there are plenty of disabled parking bays provided.
From the car park – head across the busy (crossing provided) Kirkstall Road. Enter the gate.
I turn right once in the grounds, on well-made wide paths, head right and take the right-hand turn by the river. This path takes you alongside the River Aire with many ancient trees around you. Go as far as where the path narrows and turn around. Head back towards the Abbey. Choose you route or explore the grounds. The best route is to head to the front of the Abbey and look at the huge structure towering above you. It’s quite a marvel. From the main entrance follow the path around to the right – this takes you behind the monastery.
Follow this path – taking in the new fish ladder that is being built on the river. To allow Salmon to get passed the weir to their spawning grounds. Head into the far eastern corner of the grounds, a few slopes on wide paths to negotiate. All along this path are vast nettle beds and wildflowers. Both are excellent for finding many insects, ladybirds and bugs. Butterfly and Moths.
Further along the path drops down and leads to a wide bridge, the beck is a great place to spot fowl, and kingfishers. The beck and the River Aire have both been frequented by Otters- so keep your eyes open and keep quite. Although I didn’t see any Otters during my visit I did see Otter Spraints by the beckside..
Lots of wildlife to see on the river, in the grounds of and around the Abbey. Nice to see Ravens and a huge Heron today too.