Kirkstall Abbey in Autumn slightly behind a tree.

Kirkstall Abbey

Kirkstall Abbey is a well preserved Cistercian monastery with a public park nestled alongside the River Aire.

Kirkstall Abbey from the front in afternoon sunlight

The Abbey is around 3.1 miles North-West from Leeds City Centre in West Yorkshire bordering the River Aire. Although only a few minutes drive from the city centre it feels like you are in the countryside.

The sound of the river drowns out any car noise, and the expansive park edged with woods is a peaceful break from reality.

Location Details

Take a look around

Things to Note

Kirkstall Abbey has the following on-site or nearby:

  • Accessible Toilets
  • Disabled Access
  • Disabled Parking
  • Dog Waste Bins
  • Nearby Food & Drink
  • Nearby Parking
  • Nearby Shops
  • Nearby Toilets
  • On-site Food and Drink
  • On-site Toilets
  • Parking
  • Pushchair Access
  • Rubbish Bins

Things to Do

There is plenty to do within the Kirkstall Abbey park. Enjoy a stroll next to the river aire and through the woodlands area. With over 7 acres of grass within the grounds and incredible views, it is one of the better places for a picnic in Leeds!

You can explore the ruins and visit the interactive visitors centre to discover the history and what life was once like at the Abbey. The Grade I listed building is where people today can explore the picturesque ruins of the Abbey, and uncover the livelihood of the Cistercian Monks who for almost 400 years lived within the Abbey.

Runners and walkers enjoy the grounds of the Abbey both in groups and individually. The tarmac paths around the grounds are roughly around 0.5 miles however there are other areas that can be built into this route for a longer run such as Kirkstall Road or the Leeds to Liverpool Canal.

If you are looking to enjoy some social interaction whilst improving on health and fitness, there are exercise classes available to join. Some of these groups include:

You can also become a member of the Kirkstall Abbey Tennis Club. There is competitive play, informal social play and coaching sessions available.

Fishing is permitted at Kirkstall Abbey as well as along other parts of the River Aire. When the Abbey was still in use Monks used to fish Salmon but this time has since passed. Now Trout and a small variety of other species can be found, having been stocked by the environmental agency. One consideration is bank access, as in some areas the river banks can be fairly high. As can be expected, a fishing rod licence is required.

Kirkstall Abbey has a variety of workshops, events, talks and activities run throughout the year suitable for families and guests of all ages.

One of the more popular events is the Kirkstall Abbey outdoor cinema run by Sneaky Experience. Enjoy a film whilst being outside in the grounds amongst the history and nature within the Abbey. This is usually run throughout the summer months and an incredible experience.

From around the end of March until November you can have the chance to explore and indulge at The Kirkstall Abbey Outdoor market set within the grounds of the Abbey. Browse the handmade crafts, gifts, foods from all over the world and other produce from around Yorkshire. There are 40 stalls or more to keep you busy.

Is it Dog friendly?

The surrounding grounds of Kirkstall Abbey are dog friendly and at the front entrance of the visitors centre dog bowls are available. On the Abbey grounds guide and assistance dogs are welcomed. Dogs can be off a lead whilst exploring the outside area of the Abbey.

Things to do nearby

If you want to do more learning and discovery, The Abbey House Museum is opposite the Abbey. It has a cafe on site and a children’s play area next to the car park.

You may be looking for something a bit more active nearby. There is the West Leeds Activity Centre just a 5 min drive away specialising in outdoor activity experiences and Timberjacks Leeds if you fancy some axe throwing.

If you are looking for something a little different the Arcade Club Leeds is a 2 min drive away with 3 floors of old school and new school arcade games.

To find out more about activities and events held at the Abbey visit the events page on the Kirkstall Abbey website.

History

Established and founded by Abbot Alexander in 1152 with the help of Henry De Lacy who helped the land be acquired from William De Poitou. Cistercian Monks then came to live within the Abbey for almost 400 years. The Abbey was disestablished in 1538 under Henry VIII during the dissolution of the monasteries.

A lot of the Abbey’s stones were removed and reused in other buildings such as the steps leading to Leeds Bridge in the late 1600’s when the Abbey was with the Brudenell family.

Colonel North gifted Kirkstall Abbey to the Leeds Corporation who undertook extensive renovation and in 1895 it opened to the public.

Amenities

There is a visitor’s centre on site with a variety of gifts and products available.

If you want more retail therapy why not visit Kirkstall Bridge Shopping Park just half a mile (2 min drive) from the Abbey. There are a selection of shops, leisure facilities and cafes with a free on site car park.

Looking to get some picnic treats for your visit? There is a large Morrisons store half a mile away (2 min drive) with a petrol station, cafe, small garden centre and free car park available.

Toilets and baby changing facilities are available at the Abbey inside the visitors centre. See the Visitor Centre website for opening times

To help keep the site clean, plenty of bins are provided.

Food and Drink

There is a café on site – The Gate House Café – serving both hot and cold food/drinks with a vegan range available.

Pubs

You could indulge in some pub grub. Here are some pubs located close by:

  • Kirkstall Bridge Inn (0.6 miles) 14 min walk, 4 min drive. This has a beer garden on the edge of the River Aire. It is walker and dog friendly.
  • Vesper Gate (0.4 miles) 7 min walk, 2 min drive.  Beer garden on site.
  • West End House (0.5 miles) 8 min walk, 2 min drive. Beer garden and dog friendly.

Restaurants

Why not treat yourself to a meal at Gallery FourtyOne a Mediterranean restaurant situated (0.7 miles) 12 min walk, 3 min drive from the Abbey.

Or enjoy a meal at Dos Amigos a family run restaurant specialising in Spanish and Italian food (mainly Spanish Tapas) just a 4 minute walk away.

Parking

There is a free car park next to the Abbey House Museum opposite the Abbey. Disabled access available within this car park and additional disabled parking is available directly outside the Abbey House Museum entrance. (If using satnav use the post code LS5 3EH).

Access

The tarmac paths around the grounds are wheelchair and pushchair friendly. The majority of the rest of the grass areas are fairly wheelchair friendly, but care should be taken after rain or on a wet day.

How to Get Here

Train

Headingley Train Station – (0.7 miles) 16 min walk. Also accessible from this train station via Bus route 34.   Kirkstall Forge Train Station – (1 mile) 21 min walk. Also accessible from this train station via Bus route 34.  Burley Park Train Station – (1.6 miles) 35 min walk. Also accessible from this train station via Bus route 34.

Bus

33,34 and 757 which go through the city centre all stop outside the Abbey.