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Kirkstall Abbey Leeds, England

Winter Colour at the Ruins of Kirkstall Abbey Leeds - things to do in Leeds England Yorkshire

I lived in Leeds for 10 years, I went to university there then stuck around after graduation.  I have very fond memories of the city where I spent my student days, for its huge variety of shops, bars, restaurants and nightlife.  However, it is only recently I have come to appreciate the cultural side of Leeds, perhaps it is old(er) age which is driving me to explore the other attractions in the city, like Kirkstall Abbey.

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Where is Leeds?

For those of you not familiar with this northern city, Leeds is around 2 hours north of London by train, and around 30 minutes from beautiful city of York.  An hour east of Manchester, Leeds is close to three of Britain’s national parks – the North York Moors to the north east, the Yorkshire Dales to the north west, and the Peak District to the south west.

Kirkstall Abbey Leeds - things to do in Leeds England Yorkshire

Kirkstall Abbey

Cistercian monks began to build Kirkstall Abbey in 1152.  Their community grew and was successful and popular with the local people, for religious and business reasons. However, when Henry VIII became head of the Church of England in 1534, he abolished all abbeys and religious houses in England due to their connection with the Catholic Church, and Kirkstall Abbey was closed in 1539.  The grounds were sold, and in 1890 the then owner donated the grounds to the Leeds Corporation (now Leeds City Council) so that the people of Leeds would always be able to visit the abbey ruins.  Kirkstall Abbey tells the fascinating story of the monks’ lives, and use of the Abbey grounds since it closed.

Towering Ruins of Kirkstall Abbey Leeds - things to do in Leeds England Yorkshire
Towering Ruins of Kirkstall Abbey Leeds

How to get to Kirkstall Abbey

Kirkstall Abbey is on Kirkstall Road, the main road which leads out of Leeds towards the Leeds Bradford Airport and Ilkley.  Parking is available across the road in the visitors’ centre, or you can take the bus.  I took the 757 bus from Leeds Bus Station which took about 20 minutes.  The 33 and 33a also pass by.  You can find up to date bus timetables here, currently, the 757 runs every 20 minutes from Leeds Bus Station.

Exploring Inside Kirkstall Abbey Leeds - things to do in Leeds England Yorkshire
Exploring Inside Kirkstall Abbey Leeds

Please note that Kirkstall Abbey is usually closed on Mondays (unless it is a bank holiday) and opens at 10am.  In the winter, it closes at 4pm, with last admission at 3pm, but in the summer, it is open longer.

The nearest train station is Headingley, about a mile away.

I love to travel independently, but if you would like to take a tour of attractions around Leeds, check out these options from GetYourGuide:

I visited in December, and although it was dry, the weather was bitterly cold, so I was glad of my woolly hat and gloves!  I was surprised by the size of the ruins up close, I had only ever seen them from a distance as I drove past.

I took a couple of photos from the outside, there are footpaths that run around the Abbey Park and alongside the River Aire, and even in this weather there were a few people jogging or walking their dogs.  The entrance to the Abbey is through the gift shop, and there is a bathroom here if needed.  On the day I visited there were several school groups coming and going from the study room attached to the shop, but luckily, I managed to them as I walked around the ruins.

Inside Kirkstall Abbey Leeds - things to do in Leeds England Yorkshire
Inside Kirkstall Abbey Leeds

What to do at Kirkstall Abbey

Kirkstall Abbey is free to enter, and the main ‘attraction’ is obviously the Abbey ruins.  The Abbey Park surrounding the ruins is always open, and covers an area of around 24 hectares.  There are football and rugby pitches here, as well as tennis courts, and plenty of space for picnics and other recreation.

There is also a gift shop, and across the road there is a visitor’s centre and café/restaurant to get some lunch.  A short walk away in Kirkstall there is a cinema, and plenty of other restaurants to try.

Rest for a moment on a bench inside Kirkstall Abbey Leeds - things to do in Leeds England Yorkshire
Rest for a moment on a bench inside Kirkstall Abbey Leeds

Events at Kirkstall Abbey

One weekend a month during the summer, Kirkstall Abbey hosts a weekend market, with fresh produce and hand-made crafts from local businesses.  The current dates for 2018 are 31 March to 2nd April, 28th & 29th April, and 26th to 28th May.  They also have live theatre performances, a Christmas market and various other activities arranged throughout the year.  Their website has more details of arranged events.

Is Kirkstall Abbey a Must-See?

In the summer, I would say yes.  The ruins of the old Abbey are beautiful, and the park area is a lovely spot for a picnic, and a pleasant day in the sun.  Time your trip with one of the events in Kirkstall Abbey and you have the perfect combination of relaxation and entertainment!

In the winter, it would be a great place to stretch your legs on a sunny day.  It was very cold when I was there, but it is still nice to escape the hustle and bustle of the city just a short distance away.

Rest for a moment on a bench inside Kirkstall Abbey Leeds - things to do in Leeds England Yorkshire
Rest for a moment on a bench inside Kirkstall Abbey Leeds

Where to Stay in Leeds

Find accommodation in Leeds on Hostelworld or

I stayed at the awesome Art Hostel Leeds, a funky hostel in the centre decorated by local artists.  All profits from the hostel go to the arts charity East Street Arts, and the hostel was in a great location just around the corner from the bus station where I caught the bus to Kirkstall Abbey.  You can read a review of my stay at the Art Hostel Leeds here.


Or check the options on Airbnb.   If you have never used Airbnb before, use this link to sign up & get $30 credit to use on your first trip!


If you’re looking for travel insurance for your trip to the UK, get a quote now from World Nomads.

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The city of Leeds in Yorkshire, UK is best known for its huge variety of shops, bars, restaurants and nightlife.  However, Leeds also has a cultural side to explore, including attractions in the city, like the beautiful Kirkstall Abbey. #Leeds #Yorkshire #VisitLeeds #WelcometoYorkshire #England #UK #UnitedKingdom #KirkstallAbbey #Ruins #History #travel

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Last updated: February 16, 2020

11 thoughts on “Kirkstall Abbey Leeds, England

  1. Archana Singh says:

    England is a treasure trove for history and architecture lovers like me. And, Leeds besides its educational campuses, is a great area to explore. I have few of my friends living there but i never got a chance to explore the Kirkstall Abbey

  2. Vicky and Buddy says:

    I have a friend in Manchester that visited the abbey ruins so ever since I saw her photos I’ve been wanting to visit. And isn’t it funny how you can be near something for years and never visit? I’m glad you enjoyed your time when you finally got there (even though it was cold lol).

  3. Punita Malhotra says:

    England is a treasure trove of lovely places like Leeds, isn’t it? I haven’t explored enough of the area besides Bath, Stonehenge, Oxford and Windsor, but I’m sure my itinerary can easily extend up to 10 days covering all that it has to offer.

  4. Bella WW says:

    I heard Leeds is beautiful and I’ve always wanted to visit it. I particularly like the architecture and the feeling of vintage this city gives me through your photos.

  5. Marissa says:

    I’ve heard of Leeds before, but had no idea Kirkstall Abbey was there. I need to add this to my list of things to do in that area next time I go. I’d love to see the ruins, and I love that they even have sports pitches there.

  6. Paige says:

    It’s interesting that you wouldn’t find the Abbey to be a must-see outside of summer. I love old ruins, so I’d love to visit. Would it be totally miserable if it was raining? I’m going to be in London for three weeks in May, and this looks like it’s right up my alley.

  7. Ryan Biddulph says:

    The Kirkstall Abbey picture with the tree in front of it is fabulous Claire. Such a strong Game of Thrones feel to it, as does the abbey itself. Neat history on Henry VI too. They guy was a nut.


  8. Skye Class says:

    I almost made it to Leeds in 2015 when I first started traveling, and now I’m bummed that my plans changed last minute. Or rather the bus never showed up to take me there. That abbey looks really cool. Living in Scotland, I’ve got all my winter clothes to explore at this time, although I also wouldn’t mind visiting in the summer either. I definitely have to get to Northern England this year, including the Lake District!

  9. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie says:

    I love visiting historical places like the Kirkstall Abbey. The ruins look to be in pretty great shape considering their age. I must admit. I’ve only sent time in London and the immediate countryside. I need to make it further north to York, Manchester, Leeds, and the national parks. The Kirkstall Abbey would make for a perfect day trip.

  10. Eloise says:

    Oh no! I lived in England for more than a year, and only now I discover that Leeds is just a couple of hours from London by train! For some reasons, I thought it was further away! I would have loved to visit it. Like you, I didn’t explore all the cultural attractions the city where I studied offered. I really wish I did! It’s good that you had the opportunity to do it later on.

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