abbey walks

Shining Lights of the North Way

abbey monkThis 55.2km / 34.7 mile linear walk starting in Helmsley, North Yorkshire follows monastic footsteps made between Rievaulx Abbey, Byland Abbey and Fountains Abbey.  These three abbeys (top 3 abbeys listed on our UK Abbeys page) are linked in history by being known in monastic circles and described by the 12th century historian and Augustinian Canon William of Newburgh, as the 'shining lights of the North'.


This walk incorporates crossings of the rivers Ure, Swale and Rye / Skell and passes through the medieval village of Coxwold and town of Boroughbridge. The route finally skirts around Ripon which was founded in the 7th Century by St Wilfrid and was then known as Inhrypum.


The Shining Lights of the North Way links with several other popular National Trails and established long distance paths including the Cleveland Way National Trail, Ebor Way, Ripon Rowel, Abbey Trail, Howardian Way, St. Bernard's Way, Swale Way, Trans Pennine Way, Way of the Roses, Whitby Way and the Yoredale Way.


Click on a stage name to get details and see map information.


Stage Number / Name Distance ( km ) Distance ( miles ) Time ( hours )

Stage 1: Helmsley - Rievaulx Abbey and Byland Abbey



3 - 3.5

Stage 2: Byland Abbey - Brafferton



4.5 - 5

Stage 3: Brafferton - Fountains Abbey



5 - 5.5


Route Overview:

shining lights of the north map


Interactive Google Map:



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Walking can be a dangerous sport.  Walkers should always be suitably equipped, including carrying and knowing how to use a map and compass.