Five beautiful ruins

  • 4 March 2014

To celebrate the opening of Ruin Lust at Tate Britain, we've picked our favourite ruined buildings across the UK, from derelict abbeys to Tudor palaces converted to Art Deco homes.

1. Yorkshire Museum, York
Free entry with National Art Pass

Designed by 19th-century architect William Wilkins, the Grade I-listed Greek Revival building that houses Yorkshire Museum is far from ruined, but the surrounding grounds are home to one of the country's most beautiful ruins. The museum was built on the site of St Mary's Abbey, a ruined Benedictine monastery that was once the richest abbey in the north of England. The surviving ruins date back to the late 13th-century rebuild, after a rioting group of disputing monks left St Mary's to establish the nearby Fountains Abbey.

2. Eltham Palace, London
Free entry with National Art Pass

Set within the Royal Borough of Greenwich in London, Eltham has been the site of a palace for over 700 years, since the Bishop of Durham gave his residence to Edward II in 1305. Eltham was a royal residence from the 14th to the 16th century, hosting historical figures from the Byzantine emperor Palaeologus​ to a young Henry VII, who impressed the scholar Erasmus while living at the palace. While the palace eventually fell into disrepair, its ruins were incorporate into the beautiful Art Deco house built on the site by the Courtauld family, creating a stunning hybrid of old and new.

3. Roman Baths, Bath
Reduced price entry with National Art Pass

Home to Britain's only hot spring, Bath has been the site of human settlements spanning over 7,000 years. Chief among those developments were the magnificent Roman baths and temple, which survive today as ruins. Located below modern street level, the ruins comprise the spring, bath house and the remains of the Temple of Sulis Minerva – a hybrid Roman deity which combined Minerva, the goddess of healing, with Sulis, the Celtic goddess of healing and sacred waters. The Great Bath, a gigantic pool that would once have been covered by a high, vaulting roof, is a highlight.

4. Newstead Abbey Historic House and Gardens, Nottinghamshire
Free entry with National Art Pass

When the young poet Lord Byron arrived at his ancestral home in Newstead, he found it a dilapidated wreck, the result of an 18th-century family feud that culminated in one of his ancestors laying waste to the house (and over 2,000 of its deer), leaving it to fall into disrepair. Byron romanticised the ruins in his poetry, writing: 'Thro' thy battlements, Newstead, the hollow winds whistle; Thou, the hall of my fathers, art gone to decay.' While much of the building has been rebuilt today, many of the ruins have been left intact – the wind still blows through Newstead's battlements.

5. Guildhall Art Gallery and London's Roman Amphitheatre, London
Free entry to exhibitions with National Art Pass

At ground level, Guildhall Art Gallery is a hidden gem of a London art gallery – established in 1886 as 'a Collection of Art Treasures worthy of the capital city', its collection includes works dating from 1670 to Mark Titchner's 2012 sculpture Plenty and Progress, acquired in 2013 with Art Fund support. Head downstairs, however, and you'll discover one of London's best-kept secrets: a remarkably well-preserved Roman Amphitheatre, once the site of wild animal fights, public executions and gladiatorial combat. The ruins were lost for centuries before eventually being rediscovered by archaeologists working on the site of the new gallery building in 1988.

Ruin Lust is at Tate Britain until 18 May 2014. Save 50% on tickets with a National Art Pass.

Tags: What to seeMuseums and galleriesGreat days out