The perfect marriage of architecture and countryside, Rievaulx (pronounced ree-voh) Abbey sits in a dramatic setting 2 miles northwest of Helmsley, its soaring arches built to precisely frame a forested hillside rushing down to the River Rye. A French Cistercian sect founded this abbey in 1132, but the monks' life of isolation didn't prevent them from being active in the wool trade. By the end of the 13th century the abbey was massively wealthy and the evocative ruins give a good indication of how vast it once was. Medieval mosaic tiling can still be seen in places, and large parts of the symmetrical cloisters remain. At the entrance to the Chapter House is the original shrine to the first abbot, William.
By the time of Henry VIII, the abbey had shrunk dramatically; only 20 or so monks lived here when the king's soldiers arrived to destroy the building in 1538. After that, the earl of Rutland owned Rievaulx, and he did his best to demolish what was left, with villagers carting
away stones from the abbey to build their houses. What remains is a beautiful ghost of the magnificent building that once stood here. From Rievaulx Abbey it's a short climb or drive up the hill to Rievaulx Terrace, an 18th-century escarpment with a magnificent view of the abbey. At either end of the woodland walk are two mid-18th-century follies in the style of small Palladian temples.