A HUGE £125,000 project is under way at Fountains Abbey to give visitors a history of the World Heritage site and an insight into the lives of the medieval monks who lived there.

The scheme is being funded by the European Union and will see a contemporary building built within the ruins of the gatehouse, which is known as the Porter's Lodge.

Currently visitors can find out about the estate's history by buying a guide book, hiring an audio tour or joining a free guided tour.

The National Trust now hopes the new Porter's Lodge Interpretation Centre will make it possible for people to imagine what the abbey was like in its day-to-day life via a new medium.

They say it will introduce a new audience to a deeper understanding of the history of the daily life of the monks and wider community, as well as the uses of different rooms in the abbey, both prior to and following exploration of the ruins.

Exhibits will include sections on medieval beliefs and the popularity of religious ideals, how the abbey was built by skilled craftsmen and how the monks spent their time each day, as well as interactive elements.

Jenny Coupland, a spokeswoman for Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, said: "We are delighted to have been the UK participant of this leading example of partnership working within Europe, which has enabled the National Trust to complete a number of conservation and interpretation projects here at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal. Porter's Lodge will be a fabulous addition to the interpretation of this unique World Heritage Site and is an excellent opportunity to promote learning and understanding of this particularly interesting period of history."

The Porter's Lodge is part of a 13th century building and although the Interpretation Centre will be a modern construction, the National Trust says it will be screened by the walls of the lodge.

Jenny said: "It will blend into its surroundings sensitively, striving to employ maximum use of natural light and ventilation and will provide innovative explanation of the history of the abbey from its inception in the 12th century to the Dissolution Of The Monasteries by Henry VIII in 1539."

The Interpretation Centre is due to be finished by Easter next year.