History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: The west tower is the best remaining feature
The tower seems to loom over the nearby farmhouse like a city skyscraper. The tower is by far the most impresive feature of Shap Abbey; it truly is an imposing building, though I must say that a large, jagged crack like a lightning bolt zig-zagging up the side of the tower made me slightly nervous passing through the wide archway underneath! The tower was one of the last buildings built at Shap, and dates to about 1500. Aside from this, most of the abbey buildings are little more than crumbling walls and foundations, but it is very easy to make out the layout of the abbey, with cloister ranges and auxillary buildings very easy to make out.
The tower stands almost to its full height, and was possibly bult by the same masons responsible for the towers at Furness and Fountains Abbeys. The tower was probably instigated by Richard Redman, one of the most influential of the abbots at Shap. Redman was the son of a local landowner, who entered holy orders and was selected as abbot of Shap in 1458. In a remarkably long career, he rose to become the head of the Premonstratensian order in England, and was eventually appointed Bishop of Ely. He died in 1505.
Across the river in Abbey Wood are remains of a walled enclosure, and a small quarry where stone for the abbey buildings was mined. to the north of the abbey are a pair of fish ponds, and to the north are the ruins of the abbey mill. Further to the west are the remains of a medieval dyke system.
I absolutely adored visiting Shap; the location is utterly superb, in a lush dell, with the sound of the rushing river accompanied by bird calls the onbly sound to be heard. You won't find any gift shop here, and no ice cream vans. Nor any w.c's I should add. But its better that way; you can imagine yourself for a moment back in the medieval period, without some of the distractions of modern life. Shap really is one of the most beautifully situated monastic sites in England.
About Shap Abbey
Address: Shap, Penrith, Cumbria, England, CA10 3NB
Attraction Type: Abbey
Location: 1½ miles W of Shap on the bank of the River Lowther
Website: Shap Abbey
English Heritage - see also: English Heritage memberships (official website)
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Opening Details: Open access site, usually accessible at any reasonable time
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Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Morland, St Lawrence Church - 5.5 miles (Historic Church)
Morland House Gardens - 5.5 miles (Garden)
Lowther Castle and Gardens - 5.5 miles (Historic House)
Ullswater - 7.1 miles (Countryside)
Gamelands Stone Circle - 7.3 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Clifton Hall - 7.4 miles (Historic Building)
Bolton, All Saints Church - 7.6 miles (Historic Church)
Brougham Hall - 8.2 miles (Historic Building)
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