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Background

 

This outdoor tourist attraction in Knaresborough is England’s oldest tourist attraction that opened in 1630. It is also the birthplace of England’s most famous prophetess. She is believed to have been born in a small cave just by the River Nidd. Mother Shipton’s Cave is an enchanting experience for all of the family to enjoy. It is set within the touristy picturesque town of Knaresborough down by the riverside.

Mother Shipton's Cave at outdoor attraction in Knaresborough

Image taken by Aiden Dawson

There is also the Petrifying Well, a famous natural wonder where the high mineral content of the running water literally turns everything it touches into stone! Come and see for yourself!

You will also delve into the history of the prophetess and how she came to be confined to this little grotto.

Why you should visit this attraction in Knaresborough, Yorkshire

I you’re looking for accessible days out with the family, we definitely recommend this old tourist attraction in Knaresborough! There is so much to do and plenty of fascinating things to see and learn about too. Mother Shipton’s Cave has something for everyone to enjoy- including playgrounds for children, the museum, plenty of walking trails and seasonal attractions too!

The Petrifying Well

This geological phenomenon is perhaps one of the most mesmerising features in England. It is now England’s oldest visitor attractions and has received over millions of people visiting since 1630!

Petrifying Well at outdoor attraction in Knaresborough

Image taken by Aiden Dawson

You can literally stand and watch as the running water transforms everyday objects into stone! People have tied objects including teddy bears, a camera and old shoes suspended over the well. Water constantly flows over the items and you can see the natural wonder of petrifying take place before your eyes!!

The cave

The other main attractions of this place is Mother Shipton herself. Legend has it that she was born during a thunderstorm in this small cave tucked beside the River Nidd. She grew up mainly isolated in this cave whilst she studied the surrounding nature and made potions from some of the flowers and herbs.

She had become famous for being a prophetess and the story has been passed on since. You can actually go and visit her petrified body inside this small cave.

Click here to visit their website to read more about the story.

Sir Henry Slingsby’s Long Walk & Beech Avenue

Sir Henry Slingsby landscaped the entire park and created the pathways people walk on today. The Beech Avenue is home to some of the oldest and tallest beech trees in the country that were planted by Sir Henry Slingsby himself. This short walk now stretched from the Petrifying Well and cave to the Old Inn pub at the far end of the park.

Beech Avenue at outdoor attraction in Knaresborough

Image taken by Aiden Dawson

Food/drink

Visitors can buy food and drink from catering stands within the park located in the main park area. Food including pies, cakes, and ice creams along with many other delicious treats can be bought from various vendors. People can also buy hot drinks including coffee, tea and hot chocolate as well as soft drinks. There are plenty of lovely spots to sit down for a picnic including the many sheltered huts big enough for one large family and other picnic benches scattered around this area.

Teapot at Mother Shipton's cave outdoor attraction in Knaresborough

Image taken by Kimberly Hughes

Giftshop & museum

After walking down the Beech Avenue, you will get to the small museum and giftshop at the end. Here, you can learn about the many petrified items donated by famous people and celebrities, including the shoe left by Queen Mary. There is also a life-size figure of Mother Shipton as you enter the museum. The giftshop is within the same small building as the museum, where visitors can by awesome souvenirs including tarots, bracelets with “healing powers” and other merchandise.

Events

Throughout the entire year, there are season events that take place during all school holidays including Easter, May Bank holiday, the summer holidays, Halloween and Christmas.

In March/April 2024 they ran an Alice In Wonderland themed Easter event during the Easter school holidays. There was a maze of tepees with all kinds of fascinating displays for people of all ages to be amazed at. There was also an Easter Egg hunt for the kids and statues of other nursery characters including Humpty Dumpty!

Display at Easter event at outdoor attraction in Knaresborough

Image taken by Aiden Dawson

In May 2024, they are running the Lost Boys event where visits can delve into the enchanting world of Peter Pan. There are themed displays inspired by the wild children from the Peter Pan story including shipwrecks and pirate hideouts.

In the summer, visitors can immerse themselves in the magic of Neverland where there are more fantastic displays featuring Tinkerbell, shipwrecks and pirate hideouts. Click here to book online.

In October, they run different Halloween-themed events. These events feature displays including wicked witches, cauldrons, and famous characters casting magical spells. If you’re a Hocus Pocus fanatic then this one is definitely worth booking!

During the Christmas holidays, you can buy a Santa Experience Ticket for the children and with this they will get a pack of festive activities including Santa’s Grotto. The entire park turns into a winter wonderland, where there is a Christmas Village featuring merry displays. There is also hot chocolate, gingerbread biscuits and mince pies for people to enjoy during their visit.

Click here to book for events online.

Play area

The park also has a newly-built Adventure Playground. It has a variety of equipment suitable for children of varying ages and abilities. It is situated right near to the main picnic area and food and drink vendors.

Other nearby attractions

While Mother Shipton’s Cave is the most popular family outdoor attraction, Knaresborough is also home to many other touristy things to do. Knaresborough is a historic and picturesque North Yorkshire market town. Visit the ancient Norman Castle which stands at the top of the hill looking over the River Nidd Gorge on the opposite side of the River Nidd to Mother Shipton. There is also the Knaresborough Theatre, the Nidd Gorge, and the Knaresborough leisure pool.

Accessibility

Throughout this outdoor attraction in Knaresborough, there is varying levels of accessibility for people of all different needs for both physical disabilities and learning disabilities.

Wheelchair access

It is important to note that the entire park is built on natural rock formations on the riverside so wheelchair access may be limited at some parts of the attraction. From the main car park, it is easy to move a wheelchair to the picnic and playground park area although some of it is uphill.

The Petrifying Well and cave have very limited access for wheelchairs and pushchairs. There are three lots of twenty-five steps to get to this part so it is not suitable for wheelchairs unfortunately. The giftshop and museum are also inaccessible to wheelchairs for this reason. For people bringing pushchairs, it is recommended to bring a baby carrier of sling if you want to access the well, cave, museum and giftshop. All of the steps are also narrow but there are handrails and spots in between with a bench for people to sit down to rest.

During seasonal events, all of the attractions take place in the park area just up the slight hill from the car park so wheelchair users can access most of the features and displays. Most of the ground is tarmac but parts are covered in wood chips which may be slightly awkward for wheelchairs.

Toilet facilities

Throughout this outdoor attraction in Knaresborough, there are different toilets located at different points. There are main toilet facilities at the entrance where cars drive in. It is recommended to pull up to one side and allow people to visit these toilets here before parking as these are the nearest disabled toilets in the area. There are portable toilets provided at the picnic area near the food vendors. There is an accessible toilet here too.

Outdoor space

This entire attraction in Knaresborough is outdoors but there are sheltered spots around too. This is perfect for people who prefer open space and minimal crowds. It never gets crowded in the picnic area. It may however, get congested at the wishing well and cave due to narrow spaces. People may need to move up and down the narrow steps in single-file too.

There is lots of space for children to run around at the picnic area and the playground but please be careful of the sudden drop down to the riverside along the edge.

Mother Shipton's Cave outdoor attraction in Knaresborough

Image taken by Kimberly Hughes

Child-friendly

All of this outdoor attraction in Knaresborough is child-friendly. So much so, that we recommend bringing your little ones as there are so many fun activities, features and plenty of outdoor space for your children to enjoy. A lot of the attraction inspires imaginative fairy tale wonder which kids definitely love!

You can hammer pennies into logs for good luck! You can go to the wishing well and put your hand in the small pool of water and make a wish! Come to any of the events and you can see your child’s favourite fairy tale displays make their dream come true!

The facilities are also child-friendly, because they provide designated spots to park pushchairs, baby-changing facilities at the main entrance toilets and the food vendors provide baby-friendly snacks too.

Dog-friendly

We encourage bringing your furry friends too. Dogs are allowed throughout most of the attraction as it is all outdoors and it is ideal for dog-walkers living local to Knaresborough. Most of the attraction require dogs to be kept on a lead including the well and the cave. Dogs are not allowed at the playground for health and safety reasons. The museum and giftshop don’t allow dogs inside but guide dogs are allowed.

They also provide refreshments that are suitable for dogs too. Including “Puppiccino” and Doggy Ice Cream. There are water bowls provided in the food vendors area too.

Parking

All visitor parking is immediately after you drive into the main entrance. Traffic marshals will assist vehicles on where to park once you have checked in. It is important to note that charges apply per vehicle visiting this outdoor attraction in Knaresborough. There is other parking available nearby including the Conyngham Hall public car park which is a two-minute’s walk to Mother Shipton’s. There is other parking throughout the market town on Knaresborough within walking distance of the outdoor attraction but there may be a lot of hills as the town is a very hilly location.

Public transport

The nearest bus stop is just along from the main entrance to Mother Shipton’s Cave. You can catch a bus here from Harrogate.  You can also catch the 74 to York, Grassington, Otley, Ilkley and Bolton Abbey.

There is a train station in Knaresborough which is ideal to catch a train from Leeds and York. This is just a 5 minute’s walk from Mother Shipton’s Cave.

Conclusion

We hope this listing was helpful in your search for things to do and outdoor attractions in Knaresborough and Yorkshire. Click here to view other similar listings in North Yorkshire including:

Ripley Castle
The Valley Gardens
Harrogate Murder Mystery Trail
Nidderdale Llamas

Q How do I book for a family day out?

The website takes bookings of £36 per vehicle and this is up to 5 people max. During off-peak periods, it is £30 (term-time)

Q What if I'm not driving?

People travelling their by train or bus and not arriving in a car will also have to book tickets of £10 per person or £30 per five people. During peak times (weekends and school holidays) it's £36 per 5 people and £13 per person.

Q Can I bring a picnic?

Yes, and there are plenty of lovely picnic spots on site.

Q Are there places to eat out nearby?

Yes, there is the Worlds End pub which serves wood-fired pizzas as well as other meals and this is just a 2 minute's walk from Mother Shipton's Cave. There is also plenty of places in town including Wetherspoons.

Q Is this place open all year round?

Every year it is open from 23rd March till 3rd November as well as various dates over the Christmas holidays for Christmas events (check the website to keep up to date).

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