Over a thousand people took part in the now traditional Boxing Day Pilgrimage from Ripon Cathedral to Fountains Abbey.

Leading an estimated 750 walkers from the steps of the cathedral, through the city streets and out into the countryside on the four mile walk were the Dean of Ripon, the Very Revd John Dobson, and the Bishop of Huddersfield, the Rt Revd Jonathan Gibbs.

Numbers swelled half-way along the walk at the entrance to the  UNESCO World Heritage site. The modern day pilgrims were following in the footsteps of a group of Cistercian monks who set out from Ripon the day after Christmas in 1132 AD to found a new Cistercian monastery, Fountains Abbey, on the banks of the River Skell. The monks were seeking a more remote location from the bustle of Ripon.

The Boxing Day Pilgrimage from Ripon Cathedral to the stunning and atmospheric ruins is now an annual tradition for many across the diocese and beyond and each year hundreds of people walk off their Christmas dinners across four miles of stunning scenery.

This year’s pilgrimage began with a service of Holy Communion in the cathedral at 9.30am and ended with a carol service accompanied by the rousing Stray Brass Ensemble – and a glass of mulled wine in the cellarium of the ancient monastery.

Along the way, the route led out of the city along the River Skell,  through the Studley Royal Deer Park and on to the National Trust site at Fountains Abbey. It crossed fields, passing grazing deer and wound through woodland and landscaped water gardens.

Dean John said: “The Boxing Day Pilgrimage from Ripon Cathedral to Fountains Abbey is one of the hugely enjoyable events in our annual calendar. Drawing on the lengthy history of both the cathedral and Fountains it gives a welcome encouragement to all of us to take some much needed exercise after a day of feasting.

“It gives an opportunity for family and friends to spend time with each other and also to chat with new people along the way. The carol service in the abbey’s awe-inspiring cellarium is the climax of the whole event and is enjoyed by both those who have walked and those who have travelled straight to the abbey.”