Hailes Abbey, near Winchcombe
Dating back to the 13th century, this Cistercian abbey lies close to Winchcombe in the Cotswolds. Surrounded by trees, rolling countryside and with the impressive Cleeve Hill in the background, this lovely ruin is owned by the National Trust and managed by English Heritage.
Originally built by the younger brother of Henry III to thank God for surviving a shipwreck, the Abbey was once a place of great pilgrimage due to it owning a phial of the Holy Blood. Using the donations given by worshippers, the Abbey was rebuilt to a huge scale.
Today, the Abbey is a pale reflection of its former self, having suffered after the Dissolution of the monasteries although it was one of the last to give in to Henry VIII’s orders. It’s still worth a visit for a tranquil wander around the ruins where you’ll find impressive archways and the original outlines of the building. There’s a great audio tour and a fascinating museum which details the rich history of the Abbey both as a monastic site but also as a home, which it became after the Dissolution during the seventeenth century.
Don’t forget to pay a visit to the neighbouring Hailes Church, a fascinating Norman building that predates the Abbey by 50 years, and still standing. Inside you’ll find medieval wall paintings which have miraculously survived.
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