The ruins of Byland Abbey stand beneath the Hambleton Hills, just over a mile from the village of Coxwold, in North Yorkshire. This was not the original location and the monks occupied four sites before settling here in 1177. The community had to work hard to prepare the site at Byland for habitation. They cleared woodland, built ditches to drain the marshy land and embarked on a highly ambitious system of water management. This involved extensive alterations to the watercourse, and the construction of fish ponds, dams and lakes. Surviving earthworks from these ponds and their dams are amongst the most remarkable of their kind in this region.
Today the site at Byland is dominated by the remains of the great abbey church. This was an impressive building built in the New Gothic style of architecture, which was as large as many cathedrals. Stunning remains of the mosaic tiles in the south transept offer a glimpse of just how magnificent the church was in the Middle Ages. Other remarkable remains at Byland include the great rose window in the west front of the church, the extensive cloister with the remains of the Collation porch, and the stone seats for the lay-brothers in the conversi’s lane. Whilst Byland is now less well-known and visited than the great abbey ruins at Fountains and Rievaulx, it is perhaps a more striking reminder of Cistercian life in Yorkshire.