Looking for a free day out in Leeds?
‘Kirkstall Abbey’ is a day trip full of history, beauty and fun for all ages and abilities – any time of the year!
A cool place to visit while in Leeds is a place called ‘Kirkstall Abbey’ – so cool in fact I visited twice in the space of four months! It is easy to get to, being three miles from the City Centre of Leeds, off the A65.
Kirkstall Abbey is a Cistercian Monastery founded in 1152 and one of the best-preserved monasteries in England.
Visiting Kirkstall Abbey is a chance to go back in time and learn about how these Catholic Monks built the Abbey and how they used to live at that time in history.
The ruins are fascinating and striking in structural beauty with its archways and impressive height. Walking around the Abbey grounds looking over the River Aire is beautiful and full of natural beauty and wildlife to spot.
My brother and his wife live in Leeds and this year also saw the arrival of their first child and my first Niece. So, while visiting Leeds in April, we visited Kirkstall Abbey on a cold and rainy early spring day. Then on returning to Leeds to visit them again in August, I got to visit the Abbey once again, but in the glorious summer sunshine.
This is an impressive and fun day whatever the weather, but the warmer weather made walking around the Abbey easier as we didn’t have to avoid puddles of rainwater (which if you put your child in Wellington boots and waterproof coats, could be a great part of this day out in wetter weather.)
COOL FACT via Wiki: On 10 and 11 September 2011 the Kaiser Chiefs played two concerts at Kirkstall Abbey to a maximum audience of 10,000 on each day.
When arriving, there is a free car park on the opposite side of the road to the Abbey ruins. Walking out of the car park and crossing over at the traffic light crossing, you come to the old Abbey Gatehouse building, that has now been refurbished into the ‘Abbey House Museum’ and Gatehouse Café building with a book and gift shop. They are also surrounded by beautiful gardens you can explore and walk around the pretty flowerbeds.
The cafe is really cute and I’m happy to say they offered gluten-free choices too – yay! I had an egg mayonnaise gluten-free roll, which was yummy. However, I was torn between having a gluten-free brownie and a piece of gluten-free lemon drizzle cake – so I gave in to living freely and had them both! 😂 Washed down with a hot chocolate to warm me up when we visited in the colder weather.
Handy Hint: There is usually an ice-cream van in the car park too. So if you go on a Monday when the café & Museum building is shut, like we did once 🙈 you can still get a tasty treat 😉🍦
Also in the car park area, there is a children’s playground at the far end of the car park with lots of children’s equipment and activities such as a finger maze and a character cut out of a monk you can take it in turns to be the face of. Of course, being the silly character I am, I had to have a go with the kids – see photo below:
Other facilities include:
- Picnic area
- grounds for picnic blankets
- wide grassed areas for children to play (my nephew played catch with his Dad & it was a great big space for him to practice throwing further distances)
- Baby change facilities in the Visitor Centre (my Sister-in-law also breastfed my Niece in the café with a friendly and accepting atmosphere)
- Toilets including disabled toilet facilities
Although the Abbey, café, book shop & park are all free – there is a small charge for access to the ‘Abbey House Museum’ where you can learn all about Abbey life in more detail.
- Adults – £4.95, Concessions £4.00
- Child – £2.50 – Children under 5 years – free.
- Family – £10.50
- Groups – £4.00
Visiting Kirkstall Abbey if you have disabilities:
This visitor attraction is disability friendly, whether it is wheelchair or pushchair access or hearing loops that are available. Wheelchairs can even be booked through the visitor centre prior to your visit. Assistance dogs are welcomed too – water bowls for dogs can be found by the Museum entrance. It is those little caring touches that let you know this heritage site tries to make this piece of history available to all!
The car park has disabled parking. Then when going from the car park its flat ground over to the museum and café which has an automatic wide doorway suitable for wheelchairs and double pushchairs. From there, there is a ramp downhill to the pedestrian crossing over the main dual carriageway towards the Abbey (see photograph below).
Around the Abbey itself, there are smooth pathways all the way around the ruins for wheelchairs and pushchairs. There are benches along the side of the Abbey walkways and along the river bank too, so Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome definitely didn’t make this day impossible for me. Don’t get me wrong, the Abbey is big in size so it’s a fair walk around it all, but there are benches at numerous points along the walkway to take advantage of and break up the walking for you.
When going over to see the River, there are benches alongside the river bank lookout points where we sat to look out over the water and watched the natural wildlife all around. So taking rests as you go along is done with pretty views and a chance to take in the atmosphere of your surroundings.
HANDY HINT: like most places, I took my cushion with me, so I used this when sitting on the hand benches and also for my chair in the café too.
Kirkstall Abbey is a local love in Leeds:
This is a heritage site that the locals have a great love for and they all work together to look out for the area – including arranging litter picking days along the riverbank etc. Locals have their own website ‘Kirkstall Online’ where they share event information and a magazine called ‘Kirkstall Matters‘ and have recently published their 120th issue!
Kirkstall Abbey Market is also held among the ruins, one weekend each month selling local Yorkshire produce and crafts. You can find more about the Market & a list of dates, by clicking HERE.
Here are some more photos from my visits during the two different climates, for you to enjoy:
I will be sharing more of my pictures of this great day out, over on my INSTAGRAM: @helens_journey
Did you notice in April’s photos I had long hair & in August’s photos I have short hair? That’s because in between I donated 12 INCHES of my hair to charity to be made into a wig for a child with cancer hair loss. Please click on my blog posts below to read all about this wonderful, humbling experience:
- What I’ve learnt from 3 years of growing my hair for charity, to make a wig for a child with cancer
- My Creative spin on the ‘Fresh Prince’ theme tune to express my feelings along the journey of growing my hair & donating it to charity (guaranteed laughs reading this one!)
Looking for more to do in the Leeds area? Read all about my trip to Otley Chevin by clicking HERE!
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