You can easily spend a day at this UNESCO World Heritage Site, an 822-acre complex made up of an 18th-century water garden and deer park, a Jacobean mansion, and, on the banks of the River Skell, Fountains Abbey, the largest monastic ruins in Britain. Here a neoclassical vision of an ordered universe—with spectacular terraces, classical temples, and a grotto—blends with the majestic Gothic abbey, which was founded in 1132 and completed in the early 1500s. It housed
Cistercian monks, called "White Monks" for the color of their robes, who devoted their lives to silence, prayer, and work. Of the surviving buildings, the lay brothers' echoing refectory and dormitory are the most complete. The 12th-century Fountains Mill, perhaps the best preserved in England, displays reconstructed machinery (wool was the abbey's profitable business). The 17th-century Fountains Hall is partially built with stones taken from the abbey. The water garden and Fountains Abbey are 9 miles northwest of Knaresborough, 4 miles southwest of Ripon.