The Ruin

Hackfall, Grewelthorpe


This little pavilion is dramatically perched above a steep wooded gorge, in the remnants of an outstanding 18th-century garden at Hackfall. Open the doors of its richly decorated sitting-room to see miles of Yorkshire countryside roll out before you.

  • Fire or StoveFire or Stove
  • Open SpaceOpen Space
  • Parking AvailableParking Available
  • BathBath
  • MicrowaveMicrowave

Beds 1 Double

4 nights from
£416 equivalent to £52.00 per person, per night

A Georgian folly and a Romanesque ruin

The Ruin is a typically Janus-faced Georgian folly (meaning it has two faces): smoothly Gothic on its public elevation, which leads through to a rugged, Romanesque, triple-domed ‘ruin’ redolent of ancient Rome and Piranesi. It frames a terrace set before one of the finest views in North Yorkshire. The garden, now triumphantly restored by the Hackfall Trust, was conceived and created by the Aislabies, who also made the gardens at nearby Studley Royal. Hackfall was Studley’s antithesis: a ‘natural’ Gothic landscape with follies, waterfalls and built structures. The Ruin is one of these, a tiny banqueting house which we have allowed to keep its 18th-century name, trusting our visitors to share the Aislabies’ sense of irony.

Landmarks often surprise us

However well we get to know our buildings, they can still surprise us. It took us some 15 years to acquire and it had indeed become a ruin when we set our stonemasons to work. Work was well underway when our building archaeologist noticed a striking similarity between The Ruin’s Romanesque elevation and a watercolour, Design for a Roman Ruin, by Robert Adam - a discovery that was entirely consistent with Hackfall’s pedigree. It offers an unusual example of the work of this greatest of 18th-century British architects, better known for his more formally Classical houses and interiors. The three rooms inside never originally communicated with each other, and we have kept them so. Inside, a richly decorated sitting-room is flanked by a bedroom and bathroom. Flitting between the two wings across a moonlit terrace is a truly Gothic experience

Floor Plan

To get between the three rooms you must cross the outside terrace.


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Map & local info

The Ruin stands alone on the edge of a precipice above Hackfall gardens. The terrace provides a vast view over Hackfall and beyond.

In nearby Ripon you can find a weekly market, as well as the historic Ripon CathedralRipon Museums are a great day out, giving visitors an insight to the lives of those in the workhouse, courtroom and prison. 

Newby Hall and Gardens is open for tours, but do check their website for details. In summer months, be sure not to miss their outdoor theatre events. 

Studley Royal and Fountains Abbey offer a great place for walks and excellent views of this area of Yorkshire, and is full of atmosphere. 

Close by is Newby Hall and Gardens (12.3 miles). For more information and ideas of things to do during your stay at The Ruin, please see our Pinterest Map.

Please Note: The Landmark Trust does not take any responsibility and makes no warranties, representations or undertakings about the content of any website accessed by hypertext link. Links should not be taken as an endorsement of any kind. The Landmark Trust has no control over the availability of the linked pages.

Clear directions
What you need to know about this building
  • No.
  • Via an unmade track which is is uneven and has a number of pot holes which fill with water in adverse weather. It needs to be negotiated with care and is unsuitable for cars with low clearance. There are also a number of gates that need to be opened and closed when accessing the property.  
  • Thirsk – 17 miles.
  • There is a parking area for one car about 10m from the property.
  • There are electric underfloor heating and night storage heating. There is also a stove in the bedroom (smokeless fuel only).
  • Unfortunately, there is currently no arrangement for the purchase and delivery of fuel, however details of local sources will be provided with your order confirmation.
  • To check up-to-date mobile network coverage in the area, visit Due to the location and structure of many of our buildings, signal strength may differ to those indicated.
  • The kitchen is fully equipped with all plates, cutlery, fridge etc. There is also an electric cooker.
  • There is one bathroom with a bath.
  • There are no difficult internal stairs.
  • There is a small garden. Please note the very steep drop from the terrace. There is a public footpath which runs across the terrace which is open to walkers during the day.
  • Yes, you need to go outside on to the terrace to access each room.  There are no internal doors.
Booking and Payment
  • If the weather is bad, please contact our booking office who will be able to tell you whether the Landmark is accessible. If the housekeeper can safely get to the building to prepare it then we consider that it is open and available for guests. However if we cannot undertake a changeover then we will do our utmost to transfer your stay to another Landmark, depending on what we have available. It may not be of a similar size or in the same part of the country as your original booking. If the building is accessible but the customer cannot travel due to poor weather in his/her local area then please be aware that Landmark will not provide a refund. However the customer may be able to claim on his/her own travel insurance. We recommend that all guests take out travel insurance when they first secure a booking.
  • We accept Maestro (if issued in the UK), Visa, MasterCard, direct transfer and sterling cheques drawn on a UK bank. Cheques should be made payable to the Landmark Trust except for Lundy stays and boat/helicopter tickets which should be payable to The Lundy Company Ltd. All payments must be in sterling.
  • The key arrangements will be included in the Further Infomation document which will be sent to you prior to your stay.
  • If your stay starts more than two months from the date you make the booking, you are required to pay a deposit of one third of the cost of your stay (or £100 per booking, if greater) at the time of booking. Camping on Lundy and The Bunk House at Llwyn Celyn must be paid for in full at the time of booking.
  • If you wish to cancel or change your booking, please contact our Booking Office on 01628 825925
  • At the moment we only accept payment in sterling.
  • Our housekeeper will leave the key in a suitable place, the details of which will be sent to you prior to your stay.
  • It depends. Some of our most popular Landmarks are booked up a long time in advance, but many can be booked at short notice. We will always have Landmarks free for the coming weekend so it’s always worth checking our availability list.
  • No, Landmarks are available to be booked for anyone.
  • No, all the information you need can be found on our website, although we’d like you to buy one anyway as it will be a pleasure to own!
Staying at a Landmark
  • Some of our Landmarks are suitable for people with disabilities or limited mobility. However, many Landmarks have steep or narrow staircases, uneven floors and thresholds, changes of level, low ceilings or beams, as well as indistinct colours on steps and in corridors. We recommend that you call Booking Enquiries on 01628 825925 if you would like to find out the suitability of a particular Landmark for anyone with a specific disability.  Further information on access when visiting Lundy can also be found here.
  • Yes, Landmarks are only available as self-catering accommodation. We do not offer bed and breakfast.
  • Landmark does not provide catering, but we can recommend Greycoat Lumleys who can arrange for expert and well-trained staff to cater for one evening or for your entire holiday. Their cooks and chefs are able to work with you to meet your specific requirements
  • You may bring up to two dogs to properties where dogs are allowed (please see specific property details for exemptions however dogs are not permitted on Lundy except assistance dogs). They must be kept off the furniture and under proper control. A charge of £20 per stay is made for each dog. Please contact booking enquiries if a registered assistance dog is supporting one of the guests, for which there is no charge.
  • Apart from two dogs (see above) no other pets are permitted.
  • Arrival is from 4pm and departure is by 10am.
  • We do not carry insurance for breakages. However we appreciate that accidents do sometimes happen. If you have a breakage during your stay, please let the housekeeper know and if appropriate we reserve the right to invoice you accordingly.
  • Yes, most of our Landmarks are perfect for children, with gardens to play in and secret places to discover. Our furniture is surprisingly robust and we positively encourage families to stay. However, some of our buildings may not be suitable for small children; for example, some of them have steep or uneven spiral staircases. We recommend that you call the Booking Enquiries team if you would like to find out the suitability of any of our Landmarks for young children.
  • Unfortunately, most of our Landmarks are not licensed for weddings. However, you may get married on Lundy.
  • All our larger Landmarks are perfect for gatherings of family or friends. You may invite an additional two guests to visit you during your stay, however they must not stay overnight. This is very important because our fire regulations specifically note the maximum number of people in any one building. In addition our properties are prepared, furnished and equipped for the number of people specified and greater numbers cause damage and excessive wear and tear to vulnerable buildings. Should this condition be ignored we shall make a retrospective charge per person per day (whether or not they stay overnight) for each guest over the permitted limit, the charge being pro-rated on the total cost of your booking.
  • We deliberately do not provide televisions and find that most people appreciate this.
  • One of the challenges of restoring unloved buildings is gaining access to them. We frequently have to negotiate rights with our neighbours and share tracks with them. In many cases tracks do not belong to us and we have no right to maintain them. Wherever possible we work with our neighbours to provide you with a good quality surface, but where this is a problem then you will be warned at the time of booking.
  • Yes, we have standard electricity sockets for UK appliances. If you are coming from outside the UK, you will need to bring your own adaptor plug(s). If you are visiting one of our European properties we have standard European electricity sockets. If you are visiting from the UK, you will need to bring your own adapter plug (s).
  • Landmark’s electrical systems have not been designed to provide continuous power from one socket over several hours.  If an ordinary socket is used to charge an electric vehicle, there is significant risk of an electrical fire and consequent danger to life.  Therefore, we are unable to allow electric vehicle charging from most of our Landmarks at present.

    We are working to provide Type 2 Electric Vehicle charge points at our properties where there is private parking.  Where this is available, please request this facility when booking the property to ensure the outlet is enabled on your arrival.  There is a small charge to cover the cost of electricity provided.  Please book this facility in advance.
  • No, we do not allow smoking in any Landmark.
  • Sometimes our kitchens and bathrooms have to be imaginatively fitted into the available space in buildings where before there were none, but they are all planned and equipped to a high and modern standard.
  • Yes, Landmarks are fully equipped with sheets and towels. All the beds are fully made up for your arrival. Except for the Llwyn Celyn Bunkhouse.
  • Yes, our kitchens are well equipped with cookers and fridges. There are freezers and dishwashers (in larger buildings) and, where space allows, microwaves as well as a wide and standard range of utensils. A full equipment list is available at time of booking.
  • Logs are provided at many of our Landmarks for an additional cost.
  • Mobile coverage varies. Some Landmarks have an excellent signal, but others have none at all. If you are concerned, you can check with the housekeeper before your arrival.
  • No. At the moment, we have decided not to implement Wi-Fi in our buildings following a consultation with our customers. Many said that they would find it useful, but many also felt that it would somehow damage the experience of staying in a Landmark. As the responses were so split, and as we have so many other initiatives requiring funding, we have decided to put this on hold for the time being.
    Except at Llwyn Celyn Bunk House where a password is available in the property when you arrive.
  • A welcome tray with tea and sugar awaits your arrival and you will find a pint of milk in the fridge. We also provide toilet rolls and a bar of soap per basin, but no other toiletries. Hairdryers are provided.

A picturesque scene

‘After a tedious ride… through fields and intricate by-lanes, I reached the little village of Gruelthorpe, and visited Hackfall, one of the most picturesque scenes in the north of England.’ So wrote Welsh naturalist, Thomas Pennant, one of many 18th-century travellers who visited William Aislabie’s famous gardens at Hackfall. Aislabie and his father, John, are now best known for the gardens they created at Studley Royal, yet William (and many of his contemporaries) preferred the rugged wildness of Hackfall.

The Hackfall Trust was founded in 1988 to restore Hackfall gardens to their former glory. In 1989 the Woodland Trust took out a 999 year lease on the site, which two years later was designated Grade I on English Heritage’s Register of Parks & Gardens of Historic Interest. Mowbray Point, on which sits the pavilion known as The Ruin, was then leased to the Landmark Trust. Our restoration of it, completed in 2004, was thus only one piece of the wider restoration of the garden, brought to triumphant fruition by the Hackfall Trust in 2010, and awarded a European prize for Conservation by Europa Nostra in 2011.

John Aislabie was a politician whose reputation was ruined by his involvement in the South Sea Bubble scandal. He retired from public life to concentrate on his passion for gardens, creating the famous landscape at nearby Studley Royal, now in the care of the National Trust. He bought the land at Hackfall in 1731, originally, it seems, for the agricultural potential of the fields along the ridge. Little was done besides felling and hedging before John Aislabie’s death in 1742 and the gardens as created were entirely the work of his son, William. Through the 1750s, William Aislabie (also a local MP) gently manipulated the landscape at Hackfall to enhance its natural features and vistas, and erected various small buildings as he created an ‘associative’ garden that bore comparison with the finest of its day. He was concerned to enhance rather than mask or unduly orchestrate the nature of the site, in this far less interventionist than his father at Studley Royal. No other landscape designer seems to have been directly involved at Hackfall.

The garden was developed roughly between 1750 and 1767. With the possible exception of The Ruin, the buildings William Aislabie scattered through Hackfall were not especially original or distinguished, but derived their exceptional character from their placing in the landscape. There was a consensus by the mid-18th century that the irregularity of the Gothic style coincided best with that of a wild landscape and William Aislabie’s buildings reflect this. Most of the buildings at Hackfall have no known designer and they almost certainly sprang from Aislabie’s own imagination, fuelled by the fashionable pattern books of the day. As a result of Landmark’s work, The Ruin has become the one exception. Colin Briden, our project archaeologist, spotted an uncanny similarity between the terrace elevation of The Ruin and a Design for a Roman Ruin by Robert Adam, the finest British architect of the mid- to late-18th century. Weight of circumstantial evidence – which includes Adam working at nearby Newby Hall from 1766 points overwhelmingly to this watercolour having directly inspired The Ruin, which building accounts suggest was completed by 1767.

The view across the Vale of Mowbray, in one direction to York and almost as far as Durham in the other, is the main justification for The Ruin’s existence which is directly centred upon Roseberry Topping in Cleveland, now in the care of the National Trust. The Ruin was the climax of any tour of the gardens. Arthur Young, that great 18th-century travel writer, recommended being carried to the spot as we arrive today, ‘through the close lanes of the Ripon road. You have not the least intimation of a design upon you; nor any suggestion that you are on high grounds.’ Visitors were confronted by a simple classical elevation whose smooth Augustan façade was further enhanced by the calciferous coating on its stones. Here, they must have felt, was civilisation and the chance for well-earned refreshment. For this little building was a banqueting house, a mixture of classical and Gothic forms, and on entering, they would have found themselves in a sumptuous room, exquisitely furnished and decorated, it seems from the traces of colour which remain, in a vibrant greenish-blue verditer. To right and left were two further small chambers, one a sitting room with a small fireplace (today’s bedroom), the other a rougher room used to prepare food. Each of these could be entered only from the terrace and not directly from the central room, an arrangement we have respected.

Then, at some point no doubt carefully staged by host or custodian, the folding doors at the back of the pavilion were thrown open and the visitors invited to pass through – and there was the climax of the day’s experience. As they emerged onto a balustraded terrace, it must have been a moment bordering on the Sublime: they stood amid an apparently ruined building, beneath a domed apse of roughly hewn blocks hanging perilously above them; at their feet was – almost nothing, so sharply did the ground fall away down a heavily wooded ravine, and before them lay ‘one of the grandest and most beautiful bursts of country, that imagination can form.’ Many visitors laid down their pens and declared their eloquence unequal to the expression of the experience.

Architecturally, The Ruin presents a tripartite entrance façade beneath a central, pedimented block, which contains a door and two windows. These three openings have Gothic points, while the windows in the smaller, flanking blocks are square. The pointed windows and door introduce a different tone to the prevailing classical one of the day, a tone further enhanced by the rear elevation where the three tall, linked, Romanesque apses abut the classical entrance block.

Hackfall remained a favourite tourist destination until the 1920s, despite becoming increasingly overgrown. In 1934, it was sold to a timber merchant who felled many of the trees and replanted with conifers. During the 1980s, Dutch elm disease struck. Even after the Hackfall Trust’s foundation, the process of regeneration was agonisingly slow.

For a short history of The Ruin please click here.

To read the full history album for The Ruin please click here.


The terrace suffered a serious collapse

The terrace upon which The Ruin sits suffered a serious collapse in 1993 and had to be shored up with a reinforced concrete, tied back in to the rockface and faced with stone. This work was undertaken by English Heritage in 1995. While Landmark strove to raise the necessary funds for the restoration of the building, and despite emergency scaffolding, the dome of the central apse at the rear collapsed in December 2001. The need to start work had become distressingly urgent, even though we had yet to raise all the necessary funds.

Through 2002, the exterior of the building was pieced back together by mason John Maloney under a protective roof, under the guidance of architect Andrew Thomas. Extensive areas of stonework were rebuilt, using stone salvaged from the site wherever possible, and lots of hidden pinning and grouting introduced. John also rebuilt the flues and the roof.

Once the building was weathertight, there was a further pause as we raised the next tranche of funds, until in late 2003 we were able direct its completion by Bernard Thwaites of CAT Builders. Water and electricity (cables buried) were brought from the main road and a small sewage treatment plant installed to safeguard the SSSI below. Further work was needed on the stonework and it was a dramatic moment when the last stone was lowered into place in the central dome, using a large crane. Underfloor heating and night storage heaters were installed in each room and the walls re-plastered with lime mortar over sawn lathes. The wall and joinery colours reflect paint analysis: the blue-green verditer shade was a popular one in the 1760s. The cornice in the central room is based on a small fragment of the original. The external doors to the viewing terrace are original, as is the solid fanlight above them; the glass fanlight on the opposing door is an exact copy in bronze, using a surviving metal glazing bar as a reference. The niches on the east side of the room retained evidence of shelving, which we have reintroduced. After much deliberation, we decided not to make new doors in the side walls between rooms, thus retaining the original circulation of the building. In the bedroom, the chimneypiece is new, a copy of the badly decayed original. Half the hob grate is new, cast using the surviving half as a mould. In the bathroom, the lavatory is positioned within the reinstated arch of the former cooking hearth.

The building has been known as The Ruin since the 18th century, with fashionable irony, given the comfort enclosed by its trompe l’oeil exterior, and also perhaps (if we are right about the Adam connection), a reference to the Design. The design of this small building incorporates ideas, motifs, and structural elements derived from prominent Roman buildings, the European Gothic tradition, contemporary garden design, and a typically Georgian vision of rustic elegance. Yet one of the most intriguing aspects of The Ruin remains its extraordinary duality. That this attempt to throw two buildings into one was so successful is a tribute to William Aislabie, to Robert Adam and to the craftsmen who hid their smiles and managed to build it.

Supporters of The Ruin

We are hugely grateful to those who have supported The Ruin, including:


Mr and Mrs N Baring

Gifts in memory:

Mr Stephen Bacon, Mr Bob Ollerenshaw

Charitable Trusts and Foundations: 

Architectural Heritage Fund, Delves Charitable Trust, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, J Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust, The Hackfall Trust, Leche Trust, The Monument Trust, Normanby Charitable Trust, Pilgrim Trust, South Square Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation, 

Statutory Grants:

Harrogate Borough Council 


We would also like to thank those who have chosen to remain anonymous, and the many other donors who supported the appeal.

Availability & booking

Select a changeover day to start your booking...

What's a changeover day? and Why can't I select other dates?Explain MoreQuestion

A changeover day is a particular day of the week when holidays start and end at our properties. These tend to be on a Friday or a Monday but can sometimes vary. All stays run from one changeover day until another changeover day.