The cold weather and early finish gave us an opportunity to explore. We decided to take the road that explicitly says “No public right of way”. Well, we’re not public, so that obviously doesn’t mean us.
We had no idea where it would take us, and imagined we’d find ourselves at some dead end, but it turned out to be a really good short cut back to the A6. As we travelled along it we had a fantastic view of the remains of Shap Abbey, looking very atmospheric nestled in an isolated spot. When we got to the end of the road we decided to turn round and make our way back to Keld and then onto the Abbey for a closer inspection.
The ruins are pretty amazing. There is the huge west tower and then plenty of bits and pieces for you to get the feeling of the size and shape of what used to be there. The grounds are really well maintained, with a few plaques dotted around to tell you what you’re looking at – church, chapter house, dormitories, and cloisters – and amazingly it’s all FREE!!
The Abbey was built in 1199, the last Abbey to be founded in England, and the last to be dissolved by Henry VIII in 1540 – probably because he couldn’t find it! It was founded by the Premonstratensian order, also known as the White Canons from the colour of their habits. They liked to contemplate in solitude. Most of the buildings are 13th Century and the west tower is early 16th Century. Most of the stone was taken and re-cycled into other buildings – Shap Market Hall and Lowther Castle.