Shap Abbey ruins, Cumbria: The last abbey in England

What's left of Shap Abbey remains worth a visit, even 900 years later, says Annunciata Elwes.

This lonely spot of grazed land next to the River Lowther is the site of the last abbey to be founded in England, in 1119, and the last to be dissolved, in 1540.

The Premonstratensians who floated about in billowing white robes might be pleased to see that the striking west tower still stands after 500 years, somehow surviving the pillaging of stone for Shap Market Hall and Lowther Castle, itself now a dramatic ruin.

Of further intrigue are nearby Neolithic remains, including the pink-granite Thunder and Goggleby stones and the Hill of Skulls burial mound; see if you can trace Shap’s 1½ mile-long stone avenue starting at Kemp Howe stone circle, now cut in half by the West Coast Main Line railway.

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