visiting leiston abbey monastic ruins

Exploring Leiston Abbey ruins

It appears N quite likes ruins. He prefers those to finding out more about the actual detail of how castles were used and built.  And he’s more interested in how short a visit he can make it, while I try to get him to embrace finding out at least about some of the exhibitions or display information. I was surprised how keen he was to visit Leiston Abbey ruins but it made it much easier for me to enjoy.

visiting leiston abbey monastic ruins

We visited on the first morning of our break in Suffolk. Leiston Abbey is an English Heritage site that’s free to visit during any ‘reasonable time’ during daylight hours. There’s no gate leading up to it, so if you wanted to do a sunrise or sunset visit I suspect that may work out ok. I bet it would be great for photos at those hours of the day.

It’s easy to find and not too far off the beaten track, being signposted. There’s a small carpark, with a converted medieval barn and the former farmhouse integrated amongst the ruins being used by a music trust to train chamber musicians.

leiston abbey view from a distance

We arrived early and only saw a couple of other people while we were there.  But it’s quite spectacular as you walk up. It felt a lot bigger and grander than I’d expected.

boy taking a photograph with a camera stood in the courtyard of the abbey and farmhouse

A former monastic abbey, it was originally built in 1182 by Ranulf de Glanville, part of Henry II’s Chief Justice. Being on marshland meant it was flooded often, so was moved further inland to Leiston in about 1363 by the Earl of Suffolk, Robert de Ufford. Later it became used as a farm and barn with the farmhouse built within the walls. Later a Georgian frontage was added to the house and it’s more ornate than you’d imagine a former farmhouse to look.

close up facade shot of leiston abbey former farmhouse

When you visit you’re free to walk around and inside the ruins. They’re doing ongoing conservation work so there were parts fenced off. If you take young children, keep an eye on them. It’s also on uneven grassy ground, so for wheelchairs it might be limiting where you can go.

Around the ruins there are signs showing where you’re standing in relation to the former abbey, the sacristy, presbytery, refectory and Lady Chapel. There’s a few information boards to read more about the history and building as well.

archway ruins
child from afar below the archway ruins

N took my camera off me straight away (he’s never been that fussed about his own point and shoot and gets annoyed by the speed of his phone camera – although it’s absolutely fine). That meant I had more time to enjoy taking photos and exploring, although we still both ended up with lots of photos of use taking pictures of each other!

photo of a photograph being taken on a camera of ruins

The ruins are impressive. The largest standing arch is 14 metres high, you can still see an old altarplace.

2 large arches by the altar at leiston

You can go up steps in some places to get up higher and look down on the courtyard. In the sun it looked really beautiful. I wouldn’t mind studying music in such a beautiful setting as some obviously get to do. 

arches walls at a ruined abbey
fisheye view of the courtyard area at leiston abbey
leiston abbey ruined walls
looking through empty doorways at leiston
head and shoulders shot of women

We used Leiston Abbey as a stop off on the way to Framlingham Castle as we were there for less than an hour. It was definitely worth a visit.

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    1. We loved exploring it. I’d have liked to have found out more about the individual rooms and areas, but N was off to the next bit. It seems ruins are more his thing than actual touristy attraction castles!

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