A visit to Waverley Abbey in historic Surrey will take you back 900 years, to a time when this meadow was the site for a bustling monk community. Today the abbey lays in ruins, but is a popular attraction for history-lovers and families in Surrey.
After a day out at the Rural Life Centre in Farnham, we decided to stop off for a visit to Waverley Abbey. Although we live locally, it was our first visit and I was keen to see what it was like.
Waverley Abbey was built for Catholic monks over 900 years ago and was the first Cistercian abbey in England. Its founder was the Bishop of Winchester, William Giffard. Nowadays, English Heritage manages Waverley Abbey and what’s even better, admission is free.
From the car park, it is a very picturesque stroll to the abbey ruins. The walk is flat and takes about 10 minutes. To your left, there are open fields with grazing cows and to your right is one of the prettiest rivers ever.
The river is also very wet, as one of the kids discovered when he put his foot right in it! With lots of lily pads and a covering of green, he wondered if you could walk on it (very much edged on by his twin brother). It appears not, so he made his visit to Waverley Abbey with one very squidgy trainer!
At the end of the path is a kissing gate which leads into the meadow with the abbey ruins.
Apparently. the monastery was built in the 1130s and started as a simple building. At the time only 12 French monks lived there. Over time, the monk population grew significantly and in its heyday over 170 monks and lay-brothers lived there. However, flood damage from the River Wey ruined the original and in the 13th century a bigger, abbey was built.
Today’s the ruins at Waverley Abbey are from the newer, grander building which replaced the original. As you approach the abbey ruins, you’ll appreciate that the site must have been far bigger than it first appears.
There are no staff at Waverley Abbey and we were able to wander at leisure round the grounds. If you need information on the abbey, there are boards telling you what you are looking at and the former use of the buildings. You can also download an audio guide from the Heritage Centre website if you want more details.
Although the abbey is in ruins, it is clear to see the plan of the buildings as you wander round. Some areas are still in good condition and show how grand the buildings were at the time.
As well as Waverley Abbey, you can see the remains of a large church. There is also a clear definition of different areas of the abbey, the dormitory, dining area etc, so it is easier to imagine original life here.
After our visit to the ruins, we did a short walk to the River Wey and had a look at the river and the World War II defences (Dragon’s Teeth) that can be seen there. The kids also took the opportunity for some tree climbing.
The whole area has a very serene, calm atmosphere and on a sunny day is a pleasant visit. It is not a whole day’s activity, but worth stopping after a visit to one of Farnham’s many other attractions. I took twins and one enjoyed it and the other was less keen, so it’s not for everyone.
We were probably there about half an hour but could have spent longer if we’d taken a picnic. You can bring your dog, but must keep it on a a lead.
Getting to Waverley Abbey
Waverley Abbey is about 2 miles south-east of Farnham in Surrey in South-East England. The easiest way to visit is by car. You can access it via the B3001 or junction 10 of M25. The postcode for Waverley Abbey is GU9 8EP and there is a free, small car park.
The nearest train station to Waverley Abbey is in Farnham.
Opening hours at Waverley Abbey
There is no ticket office, so you can visit at any time during daylight hours.
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