Monks and Monasteries: the Cistercian Impact

Dr Emma Wells
A four-day tour of the three great Cistercian Abbeys in Yorkshire
Dr Emma Wells

Tour Dates

15/07/2022 - 18/07/2022 Book

Monks and Monasteries: the Cistercian Impact on Medieval England

Join our small group tour with Dr Emma Wells to uncover the impact of the Cistercians, a Catholic religious order of monks and nuns, on Medieval northern England. 

With an emphasis on manual labour and self-sufficiency, Cistercian abbeys would support themselves through agriculture and brewing ales, transforming the landscape in which they settled and turning wasteland into arable fields.

Over the course of a weekend you'll visit three of the greatest Cistercian Abbeys in Yorkshire and delve into the lives of this transformative group, as well as finding out more about the monks and monasteries of Medieval England, in the company of one of our country's leading eclesiastical historians.  

The expert leading your tour

Dr Emma J. Wells is an historian of religious and architectural history, specialising in the medieval and early modern eras. Her expertise covers everything from parish churches and cathedrals, the saints, pilgrimage and stained glass, to historic buildings in the modern age. 

She is the author of many publications, including Pilgrim Routes of the British Isles, and Heaven On Earth: The Lives & Legacies of the World’s Greatest Cathedrals, to be published by Head of Zeus (2020/21). 

Emma writes often and reviews for newspapers and magazines, including BBC History, History Today, the Times Literary Supplement, History Revealed and BBC Countryfile and is a lively broadcaster and frequent acclaimed public speaker.


Highlights of this three-night monks and monasteries history holiday

  • A walking tour of Ripon and a visit to its cathedral
  • Fountains Abbey, Britain’s best preserved Cistercian monastery
  • Rievaulx Abbey, to enter the world of a medieval monk
  • Jervaulx Abbey, beautiful, atmospheric and charming
  • Evening talk from expert Dr Emma Wells
Please note that due to COVID restrictions outside of our control, the places we visit on any tour may change. If this happens, we will replace with an appropriate alternative.

Tour map

From your base in Masham, our expert guide takes you to a new destination every day.

Map of Cistercian Impact history holiday

Tour prices

This three-night tour costs from £1,199 per person, based on two sharing if you are taking part in the tours, and from £799 if you are not taking part in the daily tours.

There is no single supplement for individuals staying in single rooms, and a small extra charge for individuals in twin or double rooms. 

Included in your holiday

  • Expert guide
  • Luxury hotel accommodation
  • Executive minibus travel to all sites, with space so you can always have a spare seat next to you
  • Entry to all abbeys
  • Breakfast and dinner each day

Available dates

Departure date for this tour are:
Numbers are limited, reserve your place with a low 10% deposit and enjoy the full flexibility of our COVID guarantee. 

Please note, that we require a minimum of five guests for this tour to go ahead. If this number is not reached within four weeks of the departure date we reserve the right to cancel the tour and will offer you a full refund or the chance to move your booking to a later date.


You'll be spending much of your time exploring sights and attractions with your tour expert, so when you return to your hotel we know how important it is to be somewhere you can relax and refresh in comfort.

For this tour, you'll be staying in a boutique style hotel, where you can relax and unwind. You'll have everything you need for a comfortable night's sleep with rooms that are ensuite and facilities including a TV, radio and complimentary wifi.

Each day we'll provide meeting times for tours, meals and evening activities, leaving you with time to enjoy your hotel or explore locally.  

Your booking includes:

  • Ensuite room with tea & coffee facilities and wifi
  • Breakfast and a two course dinner

There are extra charges for:

  • All food and drink outside of breakfast and dinner

Transfers during your tour

For transfers between all tour destinations we use large 17-22 seater executive minibuses so that the seat beside you can be empty.

Transfers will be a luxury experience and your minibus will have comfortable reclining seats with safety belts, a fully operational air-conditioning system, an on-board refrigerator and a fully functioning toilet maintained throughout your journey.

Our drivers are friendly, smart, professional and punctual. so you are always in safe hands. 

Solo travellers welcome

Our tours are perfect for solo travellers who want to expand their knowledge and understanding of a subject, and prefer the choice of being as solitary or social as you like. Each tour is a journey of an independent mind – fellow travellers will be intelligent, well-read, knowledgeable and like-minded people, and a mutual interest in a particular topic can lead to life-long friendships.

Read more about our welcome for solo travellers here.

Options for non-touring partners

Ripon and the surrounding area is such a wonderful place to visit. The town is great for leisurely browsing and the centre piece is the magnificent cathedral, which you can't miss. Head to the attractive market place to be in the heart of the action and visit the Prison and Police Museum, or the Workhouse Museum for a taste of life in tougher towns. 

You can also catch one of Britain's oldest ceremonies by heading back to the marketplace for 9pm to watch the Ripon Hornblower, dressed in ceremonial garb, announce the start of his watch. 

For something a whole lot more relaxing, head to Ripon Spa Gardens where there's a pretty flower display and Alice in Wonderland sculptures that celebrate the work of Lewis Carroll, who was a canon at the cathedral.

Even grander is Studley Royal Water Gardens, where you can enjoy the ornamental lake, canals, cascades and whimsical follies, plus lots of wildlife roaming freely.

If you're a keen cyclist, you can explore the Way of the Roses route that starts in Ripon and follows a stretch of the Morecambe to Bridlington coast to coast trail. 

And even if you decide not to join our specialist tour, Fountains Abbey is an incredible World Heritage Site and you don't need to dig into the history to enjoy the majesty of these incredible ruins. 

Tour Dates

15/07/2022 - 18/07/2022 Book


Day 1

Arrive and settle in to our hotel. In the afternoon we will head to Ripon for a walking tour that will include the often underrated cathedral.

Over dinner, there will be a background talk on the development of the Cistercian order and the rule of St Benedict, plus the importance of the three great Yorkshire monasteries that are the focus of this weekend exploration.

Day 2

Today we head to Fountains Abbey. Set in a valley, this huge structure conveys all the power and majesty of a building dedicated to the greater glory of God through work and prayer, and boasts wonderful views and landscapes.

Day 3

Travel to Rievaulx Abbey, another imposing edifice set in a tranquil valley. Our guide takes us into the world of the Medieval monk, with their daily routines marked by prayer, hymns and the life of the community in this remote yet inspiring location.

Day 4

For our final day, we visit the last of the three great monasteries – Jervaulx. Privately-owned since the dissolution of the monasteries, highly evocative and worth visiting, even if less celebrated than its more famous Yorkshire neighbours. We then return to the hotel before our departure.