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Knaresborough is a beautiful Yorkshire market town that’s just 5 miles from Harrogate on the banks of the River Nidd. This ancient spa town may not be quite as well-known as its North Yorkshire neighbour but with a maze of medieval streets, a Tudor Castle and England’s oldest visitor attraction, there is plenty to see and do in Knaresborough.
You’ll also find a range of lovely holiday cottages in and around Knaresborough that are ideal for a short break or holiday to this beautiful region.
#01 Head into Mother Shipton’s Cave
The birthplace of a famous Yorkshire prophetess, visitors have been drawn to Mother Shipton’s Cave since this Knaresborough attraction first opened its doors in 1630.
At the heart of Mother Shipton’s Cave is a petrifying well which turns everyday objects to stone in its mystical waters. There’s much more to the attraction than this though, as the cave and petrifying wall are set in parkland that’s part of the Royal Forest of Knaresborough with scenic walking trails (including Sir Henry Slingsby’s Long Walk) and an adventure play area for children.
It’s a great day out for the whole family and as the attraction is dog-friendly, canine companions can come along too.
#02 Browse the stalls at Knaresborough Market
There’s been an outdoor market held in Knaresborough since the 13th century and Knaresborough Market was granted a royal charter by Edward II in 1310. The market is held rain or shine in the market square every Wednesday and you’ll find an array of stalls to browse with everything from clothes and bags to artisan Yorkshire cheeses.
Visiting the market is a great opportunity to pick up a bargain and seek out some locally made items. A market day tradition is the Knaresborough town crier who reads out local news and events dressed in distinctive blue regalia.
#03 Explore the maze of medieval streets
Knaresborough is one of the prettiest market towns around with ancient cobbled streets and medieval stone staircases winding up a hill on the banks of the River Nidd. It’s all framed by the iconic Knaresborough viaduct which stands 30 metres high and is Grade II listed.
You’ll find cafes, pubs, shops and galleries dotted around the warren of streets that surround Knaresborough’s historic market place.
Places to look out for include the characterful 16th-century Mother Shipton’s Inn and Art in the Mill which showcases local artwork, pottery and jewellery all within an original 18th-century flax mill.
#04 Attend a Yorkshire festival
For one week every August, Knaresborough is filled with colour, music and street performances as part of the town’s annual festival - FEVA. The Festival of Entertainment and Visual Arts (to give the event its full name) features an Art Trail through the town, a host of music gigs and a programme of daily activities that includes poetry, children’s entertainment and theatre shows.
Many of the cafes and restaurants in Knaresborough host their own events as part of ‘Flavours of FEVA’ and the festival culminates in a fantastic Picnic in the Park, a free open-air music festival that takes place in the grounds of Knaresborough House.
#05 Seek out the Knaresborough Windows
Knaresborough is filled with beautiful Georgian architecture and a feature of this type of historic buildings are ‘blank windows’ which were either blocked out or built this way so that the owners could avoid paying a hefty window tax.
A collection of these windows have been given a new lease of life with illustrations that show a selection of famous Knaresborough people and events from the town’s rich history. Trompe l’oeil paintings that have been created in ten different sites fool the eye and show characters like Mother Shipton, King John and Guy Fawkes peering out through the intricately painted Knaresborough windows.
#06 Witness the Knaresborough Bed Race
The Knaresborough Bed Race is the town’s quirky annual event and sees 90 teams of competitors don fancy dress and race decorated beds around a 2.4 mile Knaresborough course before taking to the freezing cold waters of the River Nidd for a swim. The race first took place in 1966 so is now over 50 years old and the next race takes place on 13th June 2020.
Before the race starts visitors can enjoy a colourful procession through the town where the decorated beds are joined by floats, marching bands and dance troupes for a carnival-style pageant. There’s also a range of stalls, refreshments and entertainment to enjoy throughout the day - lots of fun for the whole family.
#07 Visit a historic castle
The atmospheric ruins of Knaresborough Castle are set high above the town and the views out over the River Nidd from this elevated vantage point are quite spectacular.
Visitors to Knaresborough Castle can explore a sinister dungeon, discover a secret underground tunnel and meet the castle’s resident ravens. There’s also an on-site museum which has tales from the castle’s history and a restored Tudor courtroom where prisoners would have faced public trial. There’s a small admission charge to enter the castle which is open seasonally from April to October.
The surrounding castle grounds and parkland are free to enter and open throughout the year. Visit between March and October and you can even arrange to play a game of bowls or golf on the park’s putting and bowling greens.
#08 Enjoy a riverside walk along the River Nidd
Knaresborough has an idyllic location on the banks of Nidderdale's River Nidd so it would be a shame to visit without going for a riverside stroll (or two). There’s a selection of pubs and cafes where you can call in for refreshments during your walk or if the weather is sunny, you’ll find picnic tables at the riverside grounds of Conyngham Hall which is a 2-mile walk from Knaresborough Castle.
If you fancy taking to the water, there are a couple of spots along the river where you can hire a boat:
- Blenkhorn’s Boats have been around for 100 years and their traditional red and green boats are an iconic Knaresborough sight.
- Marigolds Cafe & Boating offer home-made food and rowing boats to hire close to the arches of Knaresborough Viaduct
Just outside of Knaresborough is the Nidd Gorge ravine - a dramatic section of the river that cuts through 68 acres of unspoilt woodland. The ravine is 120 feet high and the woodland is home to over 100 different species with a range of walking trails.
Plan your visit to Knaresborough
If this has inspired you to visit Knaresborough, you’ll find a range of cottages that make a great base for exploring this historic market town and the surrounding Nidderdale countryside.
It’s up to you if you choose to stay in Knaresborough itself or look for a holiday home in nearby Harrogate which is just 4 miles away. There’s everything from traditional Yorkshire Dales country cottages to sleek Harrogate town centre apartments with lots of dog-friendly options available too.