Places to Visit in North Yorkshire
phill@philljamesbroadcasting.co.uk
phill@todoinyork.com

Knaresborough North Yorkshire

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The video below relates to Things to do in Knaresborough North Yorkshire. Knaresborough is an idyllic market town close to Harrogate and is a popular tourist destination owing to its waterfront on the Nidd Gorge.

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Useful Links for Knaresborough

Official Website for Knaresborough

Mother Shipton’s Cave and Petrifying Well

Knaresborough Castle and Museum

Knaresborough Boat

Marigold Cafe and Boats

Knaresborough Market

Transdev Harrogate Bus No.1 Service

National Rail Enquiries

Where is Knaresborough in North Yorkshire?

Watch the Things to Do in Knaresborough Video Documentary

Things To Do in Knaresborough Video Narrative

Getting to Knaresborough

Knaresborough North Yorkshire

Getting to Knaresborough is very easy and from Harrogate you can catch one of the no.1 buses that run approximately every 7 minutes. You can alight at one of the bus stops but there is also a bus station on the High Street.

Trains run throughout the day between York, Poppleton and Leeds via Harrogate but are not as frequent as the bus services.

If you are travelling by car, there are several places to park including Castle Mills car park and another large car park near Conyngham Hall.

St John’s House

Knaresborough North Yorkshire

You might want to take a look at St John’s House on your way into Knaresborough that was constructed in 1490. This timber framed building is obviously a listed building and has a pantile roof. A pantile roof is a kind of fired tile that is typically made of clay. Until the mid 1700’s the house was in church ownership. It has recently been restored and is a point of interest.

Knaresborough House

Knaresborough North Yorkshire

Another historic building along the high street is Knaresborough House which is currently the council offices. However, it was constructed in 1768 for Reverend Thomas Collins who was the vicar of Knaresborough. It was retained by the Collins family until 1951.

St John the Baptist Church

Knaresborough North Yorkshire

Another historic landmark on your way to the waterfront is St John the Baptist Church. Not unlike most churches in England it was constructed in Norman times. However, it was first dedicated to St Mary until it was changed to St John after the reformation. The church was restored in the 1880’s and inside are some historic paintings of Moses and Aaron.

What is unusual about this particular church is that the tower is central instead of at one of either ends. It also not only has this clock that heralds the time over the town but also a sundial underneath.

Blind Jack or John Metcalf

Knaresborough North Yorkshire

Opposite the church you will see a blue plaque by the Knaresborough Civic Trust. It relates the history of ‘Blind Jack’ or otherwise John Metcalf who was almost as famous a local after Mother Shiption. He was blind after having smallpox at just six years old, yet he went on to achieve a great deal. He was a gifted musician, guide, horseman and trader. However, after he was fifty he then went on to built hundreds of miles of roads and this also included bridges.

Knaresborough Railway Station

Knaresborough North Yorkshire

Knaresborough railway station is also an attractive and historic landmark. The line was build in 1848 and was part of the East and West Yorkshire Junction Railway and Leeds Northern Railway which later came under the York and North Midland Railway in 1851. However the station we see today was a replacement built in 1865 by Thomas Prosser who was also instrumental in designing York Station. You will also notice a small signal box that was built later in 1890 and it is unusual because of it being attached to a row of terraced houses.

Knaresborough Market Square

Knaresborough North Yorkshire

It is not uncommon for towns such as Knaresborough to be a market town, and it’s first mention of it being a market town dates back to 1206. However, it wasn’t officially granted a Royal Charter to hold a market until 1310. The castle being Norman was constructed in the 1100’s and it was at this point that the town began to grow, providing a market to service the castle itself. Wednesday’s are market day’s so you might want to allow the market to service your castle too!

Knaresborough’s Icons

Knaresborough North Yorkshire

In the market square there are two statues recently introduced of two completely different characters but famous to the town. First of all you will notice so called Blind Jack who we have mentioned already. In way of reminder, he was well noted not only for being blinded by smallpox, but also overcoming that deficiency and constructing hundreds of miles of roads and accompanying bridges.

The opposite statue is of Mother Shipton or Ursula Southell who as a soothsayer or prophetess who is well noted for the prophesying the end of the world. Yet her prophecies weren’t published until 1641, 8 years after her death. She lived in the 1500’s and was married to Toby Shipton who was a carpenter from York.

Like almost every market town is a Market Cross. These are kind of a confirmation that the town has the right to hold a market, approval given by the monarch, in this case Edward II in 1310.

Even if you arrive on a day when the market isn’t present, there are still plenty of independent and high street retailers to keep you amused, and this includes cafe’s and other eateries too. In fact you can even dine al fresco in the market square as you watch the world pass by, before it ends that is!

Don’t forget to look out for the old 1862 town hall in the market square, identified by its overshadowing analogue clock above the square. The town centre also still has a town crier adding to the already historic feel of this fascinating market town.

On the right hand side of the building you will notice a large historic plaque relating to market stallages and rents. However, today the town hall forms the Castle Courtyard shopping centre featuring small businesses.

Around the corner however, you will notice a blue coloured building which is an alms house built for the poorer communities. It was not uncommon for the wealthy land owners to build homes for the poor and they can be found widespread. Many of them still exist today, and its thought that this building dates back to 1450.

Knaresborough Castle Area

Knaresborough North Yorkshire

Aforementioned, the old town hall is part of the Castle Courtyard shopping centre, and there is another entrance around the rear in the castle area. However, it is here where we leave the theme of shopping behind us and discover one of Knaresborough’s most famous landmarks, that being the castle.

In this area in 1865, 11 men ranging from 18 to 62 were arrested for causing a riot and sentenced to 3 months in Armley Prison. However, they were later acquitted as it was discovered that they were defending the rights of the township from a corrupt member of the local establishment.

Knaresborough Castle

Knaresborough North Yorkshire

The castle was built in 1100 in the Norman period by a baron, strategically placed on the cliff overlooking the River Nidd below. Documentary evidence insists that Henry I had an involvement. In the 1170’s Hugh de Moreville and his followers assassinated Thomas Becket and took refuge at the castle. However, in 1205, King John took control of the castle and recognised the importance of the castle as a northern fortress. He spent a considerable amount of money on improving Knaresborough Castle.

Knaresborough Castle
Knaresborough Castle

However, by 1307 to 1312, Edward I and later Edward II had Knaresborough Castle rebuilt which included the castle’s keep, which is a fortified tower typically a residence. Clifford’s Tower in York is an example of a castle keep. Edward II gave the castle as gift to the First Earl of Cornwall, Piers Gaveston who was a favourite of Edward II.

In 1331, Philippa of Hainault took ownership of the castle and it was at this period the castle became a royal residence and she lived there during the summer with her children. However, by 1372, the castle once again changed ownership and was added to the already enormous land ownership of the Duchy of Lancaster.

The castle was taken by parliamentarian troops during the civil war in 1644 and by 1648 much of it was destroyed. However, this was owing to an order from parliament to destroy royalist castles and not as a direct result of the Civil War.

The castle is currently situated in some very scenic gardens with accompanying benches throughout. These gardens are particularly fantastic in the summer time. Of course, not all of the castle is still remaining, but still features as a popular landmark. It is popular not only with visitors of a human nature, but with our canine friends too.

Knaresborough Castle Views

Knaresborough North Yorkshire

Granted the castle grounds are a scenic place to be, but they also hold some scenic views over the waterside of the River Nidd and over the town. You will also see another one of Knaresborough’s popular landmarks, the railway viaduct over the Nidd Gorge. There is a popular seating area on a walled path section next to the castle keep.

Knaresborough Castle Views
Knaresborough Castle Views

Something to watch out for are ravens as they have populated the area since around 2000 when some were donated by the Tower of London. Knaresborough Castle is still under the ownership of the Duchy of Lancaster but is under the administration of Harrogate Borough Council.

If you think that the castle area is all about tranquility and dramatic views, think again. There is also a putting green as well as a bowling green too. However, if you are not so much a games person, you can still enjoy the swaying lavender in the area.

Knaresborough War Memorial

Knaresborough North Yorkshire

All towns and cities have some form of memorial for the soldiers involved in the Great War, and Knaresborough has a fantastic memorial garden overlooking the Nidd Gorge. It is rare to have a memorial garden within castle grounds but it feels a fitting location owing to its tranquility.

The Nidd Gorge

Knaresborough North Yorkshire

The Nidd Gorge is a section of the River Nidd of which river begins at Great Whernside in Nidderdale. The gorge is around 3 miles long and starts at Grimbald Bridge through Knaresborough to the now defunct Bilton Viaduct. The river converges with the Ouse near Nun Monkton.

In any case, these views are incredible and it comes as no surprise that words such as picture-postcard, idyllic, scenic and picturesque are used regularly to describe it.

From the War Memorial you will probably hear the sound of gushing water. Well if you look down towards the River Nidd here, you will see the weir below which is kind of a man made waterfall. Weirs were used to power mills by increasing the speed of the river to turn the waterwheels to power the mill. They are very common around the country and although the weirs remain, the water wheels are now long gone. Still, they make attractive water features where they are placed.

Before we leave Knaresborough Castle, there is one more place of interest to tell you about. Knaresborough Castle also has a courtroom museum in the Castle grounds as well as entry into what is left of the castle itself.

The courtroom museum not only considers a Tudor courtroom but also you will find the Kings chamber and what is known as a sallyport which is a secret underground tunnel that was only known to a trusted few. The visit inside the castle and museum is in form of a tour. There are even civil war costumes to try on! Eat your heart out Vivienne Westwood.

Nidd Gauge Walk

Knaresborough North Yorkshire

One of the clever reasons to begin your visit to Knaresborough from the castle first is that you now don’t have to walk up the steep stairway, but walk down them instead. This does nothing for your cardio but it does prevent a great deal of agony.

However, if you are walking uphill, there is fortunately a caved seating area where you can rest for a while as you admire the views across the gorge. In any case, one of the most popular areas of Knaresborough is walking along the waterside where you will find not only the River Nidd but boating opportunities, cliff faces, as well as ice-cream parlours, eating places and attractive riverside cottages.

You may also find references to the Tour de France that came to Yorkshire in 2014. On Sunday July 6th, 2014, the competitors came through Knaresborough on the stage 2 section of the route between York and Sheffield.

At the foot of the descent heading northwards, you will see the Castle Mill area. The mill is currently a private dwelling, but you can also see a plaque placed by the Knaresborough Civic Society. We learn that the mill was built in 1764 and is a grade II listed structure. It was a cotton mill that was built along side a paper mill. In fact, between 1770 until 1972 it produced fine quality linen. The mill owner John Walton was awarded a Royal Warrant by Queen Victoria in 1838.

Walking along the riverside however, we find further attractive properties adorning the area under the shadow of the cliff side. We’re going to follow the sign’s for Chapel of Our Lady in the Crag, and we also discover a steep staircase back to the Castle, confirming that we are better off for starting at the top. On the right hand side you will see an interesting Tudor dwelling that was extended having connections with Laura Ashley.

You will also see a plaque for gas town lighting. Of course, the use of gas is now long gone when it comes to lighting streets, but in 1824, the first gas powered light was situated at Castle Ings, but later 2 gasholders were located on the opposite side of the road. The town came to have 200 gas powered streetlights. The last one went out in 1975.

Before we reach the chapel however, you will see a small garden area near a stone bridge. There you will see a rowing boat with a floral arrangement as well as a small green lawn that overlooks the River Nidd. The stone bridge however, stretches over to the attractive looking Mother Shipton’s Inn. Even more appealing on a hot summers day.

You will also see an antiques shop on the left as you venture further down the narrow road. This is an extremely scenic walk to do and very easy to do. The walk is relatively flat beside the Nidd but you do have to watch the passing vehicles. There are some extremely attractive dwellings a long this road adorned with some stunning gardens.

Chapel of Our Lady of the Crag

Knaresborough North Yorkshire

However, on your right hand side you will come to the Chapel of Our Lady of the Crag, which is a chapel that is amazingly excavated in the cliffside. You will also note the house in the rock here. It was carved in the cliff face by John Mason in 1408 who had received permission from King Henry IV. It was more than likely constructed as a shrine for passing pilgrims and a place of prayer for local quarry workers. You will see a path leading up to it as well as a statue of Mary in the grounds.

Chapel of Our Lady of the Crag
Chapel of Our Lady of the Crag

However, there are some further points of interest close by including Roberts Cave, our next port of call. Before we reach there, we can enjoy some more scenic views including some idyllic properties and their gardens alongside the Nidd.

Knaresborough and the Domesday Book

Knaresborough North Yorkshire

Knaresborough is mentioned in the Domesday book as ‘Chenaresburg’ which denotes Cenheard’s Fortress. The Domesday Book was a great survey of England on the instruction of William the Conqueror in 1086.

This relatively short walking route along a narrow lane takes you through some stunning views of the River Nidd, a tributary of the River Ouse merging near Nun Monkton.

However, it is not only properties and gardens that adorn the river side. You will also notice some interesting work of art in the form of wood carvings. First of all you will see the obvious looking Kingfisher which are often witnessed at Knaresborough along the river bank. We did actually see a Kingfisher but it was too quick for us to set up the camera.

However, not all of the carvings are of typical creatures we see daily. This particular impressive carving is of a tree man. I suppose you could say, you wooden believe it if you didn’t see it.

A little further along and you will also find a mythical looking dragon lurking in the woodland. Not really pet shop material!

Robert’s Cave

Knaresborough North Yorkshire

Another creature and this time not so mythical, is St Robert who is another well noted local in the Knaresborough area. You first pass a static caravan park on the opposite bank, with a weir down below you. You will then see a path down the bank where you will find a sculpture of St Robert.

St Robert's Cave
St Robert’s Cave

He was never officially canonised but was outstanding nonetheless. He was the son of the Lord Mayor of York in 1160. At a young age became a sub-deacon but this was short-lived as he sought tranquility travelling to where we find ourselves. However, he initially had to share his cave with a knight who was a fugitive from Richard I. After the King died, he lived in the cave alone somewhat reclusively. He was well noted for assisting the poor however. Having said this, he prospered for sometime having cattle and four servants. He enjoyed redeeming men from prison, but this did not sit well with William de Stuteville the local constable who accused him of harbouring criminals.

Beside the statue you will find the cave, or Robert’s cave that you can walk into. Imagine how Robert, as well as the knight, would have literally lived in this cave.

However, it takes a brave soul to go in there as there is very little in the way of lighting and anything could be lurking in there. Are you up for the challenge? Big baby!

Would you like to have a look inside the cave? Well, we can arrange this for you. Anyone got a match?

Knaresborough Viaduct and Waterfront

Knaresborough North Yorkshire

Returning ever so quickly to Knaresborough we continue along the waterfront to Knaresborough viaduct. This viaduct was designed to be in keeping with the town hence the castled feel to the structure. It was built in 1851 and designed by Thomas Grainger. Today it serves as a rail crossing over the Nidd Gorge for the York to Leeds via Harrogate Line operated by Northern. It is one of Knaresborough’s main landmarks and it is just as scenic travelling over it as it is to view it on foot.

Knaresborough Viaduct
Knaresborough Viaduct

Presently, you will often see a Class 170 Turbostar crossing over it, but this is not the main York to Leeds route as this runs by Church Fenton at a much faster line speed. It takes around an hour and a half to travel between York and Leeds on this line in contrast to 25 minutes via Church Fenton. However, this is the most scenic route as you can imagine. The chequered house beneath is the old Manor House.

The waterfront at Knaresborough can get very popular especially when the weather is warm and sunny in the summer. This is not to say that Knaresborough isn’t worth a visit in the wintertime too.

Certainly a hit with me, if nobody else, is the opportunities for an ice-cream. You will find some fantastic ice-cream parlours along the riverside serving some extremely tantalising flavours. Lemon being a favourite for me in Knaresborough.

If you want something more substantial however, there are eateries where you can dine outside al fresco. You can imagine this being extremely popular in good weather when you consider the accompanying river beside you.

Beside an ice cream parlour you will see the old dye house on the right of it towards Gallon Steps heading towards the town centre. It is actually Knaresborough’s oldest industrial building dating from 1610. It was run by John Warner and his son Simon and locally made textiles were dyed here.

In more recent times, it was a small zoo for children during the 1960’s and was even used by Sturdy’s as a storage remedy for boats.

You will also notice a plaque for the black and white chequered Manor House which informs you that is was built in 1208 and the fruit tree planted by James I is still bearing fruit today in the garden.

The manor house is not the only attractive property, as there are many. It is adorned with some quite sizeable abodes that peer over the river from above. And not all of them have a tiled or slate roof.

You will notice what I consider to be my favourite property bearing a thatched roof. The property itself is on a steep climb towards Knaresborough station and the road is attractively cobbled. The cottage outweighs the reluctant feet that tell you not to walk on a steep cobbled ascent. It is biscuit tin properties such as this one that makes Knaresborough a North Yorkshire town.

However, there is more to discover as we continue further along the riverside upon a narrow lane. Although Knaresborough became a market town you still see a great deal of history reflecting its textile industry. We see properties that served as moorings along the Nidd as well as buildings where textiles were woven or dyed. So Knaresborough was certainly very active in industry just as much as it was as a market town. Interestingly, domestic properties are intertwined with these too which no doubt served as residence for workers.

Knaresborough Boating and Wolds End

Knaresborough North Yorkshire

One vehicle that you will certainly see are the boats that are available for hire. These boats have no outboard motor, but they do have oars. They are relatively inexpensive to hire and can be good fun especially if you are steering. You don’t need to be Steven Redgrave to manoeuvre one of these boats but it will help. They are very popular in the summer and as the water is quite slow at this point, they are reasonably safe to use to. At times the Nidd appears to be a major road for boats, perhaps the N1 boat away.

Knaresborough Boats
Knaresborough Boats

At a place where you can hire these boats from is a small seated, lawned area with a wishing well beside it. You could always wish for a boat ride where you’re the one that is steering. However, behind the well you will notice on of the riverside public houses that has a theme relating again to Mother Shipton. This of course is the World’s End, and for a message of woe, it is really positively decorated both with external paint as well as a joyful refreshing drink which you can enjoy outside. Let’s hope that the mystical petrifying water is not served in pint glasses! She may have foretold the end of the world, but failed to say it would be a public house in one of North Yorkshire’s most attractive towns.

Wolds End Pub Knaresborough
Wolds End Pub Knaresborough

Mother Shipton’s Cave

Knaresborough North Yorkshire

On the same theme as Mother Shipton, on the opposite side of the river is the Mother Shipton’s Cave attraction. What you will find here is the complete story of Mother Shipton who was to be England’s most well known prophetess. Here you will find the petrifying well, a wishing well, Mother Shipton’s cave, a museum and a children’s adventure playground.

However, on the opposite side of the road you will find a path beside the River Nidd that takes you along a scenic circuit walk. This walk is a relatively short one that takes you past a memorial for Beryl Burton OBE who was a seven times world cycling winner. She died back in March 1997.

However, back on our feet, we can continue through a initially lawned area before it continues through a more wooded section of the walk. Here it is more tranquil and you hear the sound of oars gently striking the water on the Nidd. It is also a shady walk which is good respite from the hot blazing sunshine if we should ever get some.

Bird Life on the Nidd

Knaresborough North Yorkshire

However, it is also necessary to be vigilant here because there are all manner of wildlife that can be spotted. This can include Kingfisher, and you might find them nesting in holes in the river banks. You might catch one flying across the river in a streak of electric blue.

Also we see some ducks that are on this occasion being very thorough with their personal hygiene as if in some communal Roman bath. In any case, this is one of the many species you can expect to see. However, we were taken back when a grey heron swooped down for us to capture.

Grey heron’s are instantly recognisable owing to their long legs and beaks, grey, white and black plumage as well as their distinctive movements for capturing and consuming fish. However, they also have a diet for ducklings as well as small mammals such as voles.

Grey Heron Knaresborough
Grey Heron Knaresborough

You will eventually hear the sound of gushing water again owing to another weir where a wooden pedestrian bridge crosses above. You can take a good look at the weir when you peer over the side of the handrail.

Following the path back towards Knaresborough on the other side of the river, you will come to a medieval farmstead, or at least a ruin of such. Obviously, this is no longer a working farm but you can still see the foundations of the outbuildings beside the River Nidd. In 2012, a grant of £8,500 was received to make the site safe for residents and visitors as well as put an information board about the site. Some picnic benches were also funded too.

Conyngham Hall

Knaresborough North Yorkshire

You will see the grounds and buildings for Conyngham Hall on your left hand side where there is also a 18 hole putting green. The hall is a grade II listed building but is currently been used as office accommodation under Harrogate Borough Council. The house was rebuilt around 1555 and was more than likely named Coghill Hall as it belonged to Marmaduke Coghill. The present hall however was rebuilt again at the end of the 18th century designed by John Carr and now known as Conyngham Hall. The site not only attract office staff and golfers but also the occasional grey squirrel too.

With the car park on your right hand side, you will eventually see another chequered building being the Ugly Duckling Tearoom, and we thought the ducks were being thorough with their appearance. Until next time!


Further Series Pertaining to North Yorkshire

The North Yorkshire Reporter

My North Yorkshire Walks Video Diaries

North Yorkshire Photography Workshop (Phovlography)

Britain’s Most Scenic Bus Route