Knaresborough is a gorgeous market town in North Yorkshire, that has a long history dating back to the 11th century. If you're looking for things to do in Knaresborough, this is the perfect guide for you, as I live in Knaresborough with my husband!
From exploring the castle ruins and marvelling at the Knaresborough viaduct, to hiking through the countryside and enjoying an afternoon tea with a view, there is plenty to do and see in Knaresborough.
I recommend spending at least a weekend in Knaresborough. There are plenty of local attractions, stunning hikes, fantastic restaurants and lovely cottages for accommodation. Knaresborough is also just a stone throw away from the Yorkshire Dales and Yorkshire Moore, as well as Harrogate, Leeds, and York.
Knaresborough is renowned for its Knaresborough viaduct, Knaresborough Castle, built by the Normans in the 11th century and Mother Shipton's Cave, which is England's oldest attraction. It's a charming town with so much to offer.
Knaresborough feels classy and authentic with its stone cottages by the river Nidd, cobbled alleys and a lively town centre with so much going on.
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Is Knaresborough worth a visit?
Yes, Knaresborough is a fantastic place to visit in North Yorkshire, with plenty of interesting attractions and places to visit. Knaresborough is a charming town with a rich history, unique architecture, and beautiful riverside views.
What day is market day in Knaresborough?
Wednesday is market day in Knaresborough, as it has been for the last 700 years.
What's better Harrogate and Knaresborough?
Both Harrogate and Knaresborough are astounding places to visit. Harrogate is a larger town with lots more to do, but Knaresborough is more picturesque with stunning vista points and lots of history.
How long to spend in Knaresborough?
I recommend spending a full day in Knaresborough to be able to visit all main attractions such as the Knaresborough Castle, the Railway Viaduct, Mother Shipton's Cave and River Nidd walkway.
How long a walk is Mother Shipton's Cave
The walk from the entrance to the Mother Shipton's Cave is 1 mile (1.61 km), so expect it to take around 20 minute at leisurely pace.
Is Knaresborough good for shopping?
Knaresborough is a great place for shopping local produce, especially if you visit on Wednesday for Knaresborough market or Sunday for Farmer's Market.
Can you walk around Knaresborough?
Yes, Knaresborough is a very walkable town, known for its Riverside walk and Nidd Gorge hike.
What is the best time to visit Knaresborough?
Knaresborough is a year-round destination, although it's best to visit during summer, to enjoy the boat rides and other outdoors attractions.
Visit Knaresborough Castle
Knaresborough castle is a ruined fortress dating back to 1100, famous for its most stunning vista points of the Knaresborough viaduct.
It's by far the most visited attraction in Knaresborough. Whether you love history or just want to snap a great picture of Knaresborough, this is a must-visit on your itinerary.
Knaresborough Castle was built in the 1100s by a Norman baron on a cliff above the River Nidd. It was later improved upon by King John, who spent a large sum on it, and was used as a royal residence by Queen Philippa in the 1300s.
The castle was taken by Parliamentarian troops in 1644 during the English Civil War and largely destroyed in 1648 on the orders of Parliament. The destruction of the castle was mainly done by local citizens. Many of the buildings in the town centre are made of "castle stone," which is believed to have come from the dismantled castle.
The castle now belongs to the crown and is managed by the duchy of Lancaster.
Local Tip: Spot the local ravens, introduced to Knaresborough castle in 2000 as a community project. There are currently ten resident ravens.
Entrance fee: Free to explore the grounds, but there is a small fee to enter the castle.
Adult £3.50, child £2, family ticket £10.
Once you took all the best pictures from the grounds, make your way to the Courthouse museum. Inside the museum you'll see a rare and original Tudor courtroom and learn the many tales of Blind Jack, Guy Fawkes and Mother Shipton. To learn about events or special activities, check the official page for Knaresborough castle and museum.
Photograph the Knaresborough Viaduct
The most beautiful attraction in Knaresborough is the stunning Railway viaduct rising majestically over River Nidd.
The viaduct is a grade II listed structure which carries the Harrogate train line into town. The line was built in 1848, but just as the viaduct was almost completed it collapsed. A new viaduct was started in the same year and eventually opened in 1851.
For the best views of the Knaresborough viaduct, I recommend heading to the Knaresborough castle, a well-known vista point, ideal for epic photos. Relax with a cup of coffee and wait for a train to cross on the viaduct.
For a closer view of the viaduct, rent a boat and row under the viaduct on the river Nidd. The viaduct looks especially majestic and imposing from below.
The viaduct has long been a subject of debate, some stating "it does not make a picturesque object" [Nikolaus Pevsner] while others saying it "added a double beauty to the scenery" [J. B. Priestley]. Go and see the viaduct for yourself and form your own opinion. I believe this is the glory of our Knaresborough town.
River Nidd Waterside Walk
Walk on the well-maintained paths and stop to read the blue plaque erected by the Knaresborough Civic Society on each historical building. There are places to eat dotted all along the waterside walk. The walk is several miles long and can be a bit muddy in parts, so bring appropriate footwear.
Many come from nearby towns to enjoy a walk by the river Nidd. It's green, calming and serene, perfect for an outdoors weekend. On the way there's the iconic waterside World's End pub with tap ale and home cooked food.
Visit Mother Shipton's Cave
Mother Shipton's Cave and the Petrifying Well are must-see tourist attractions in Knaresborough, located in ancient woodland along the River Nidd. The cave is the birthplace of the famous 15th-century prophetess and fortune-teller, Mother Shipton, known for correctly predicting major events such as the Great Fire of London and the defeat of the Spanish Armada.
Not only is the cave itself a fascinating piece of history, but you can also witness the strange and wonderful phenomenon of the Petrifying Well, which turns ordinary objects into stone. Once upon a time, this was believed to be due to magic or witchcraft, however we now know that this happens due to a process of evaporation and deposition of an unusually high mineral.
The Petrifying Well is considered the oldest tourist attraction to charge a fee in England, and has been operated since 1630.
The forested path that leads to Mother Shipton's cave is a lovely remnant of the Royal Forest of Knaresborough. There's also a children's playground, a cute little café, and a souvenir shop on site. And the views of the river from this spot are absolutely stunning. Don't miss the museum on site, which has a petrified shoe left by Queen Mary when she visited in 1923.
Behind the Petrifying Well is the Wishing Well, which is believed to have magical waters that make wishes come true. Follow the instructions on the signs by the well on how to make a wish. I made a wish and to my surprise my wish actually came true within a month!
Admission price: £30 per Car (max 5 people per car), £10 per pedestrian.
Take a walk along the River Nidd
To see some of the best attractions in Knaresborough, take a River Nidd waterside walk. This is a gentle and flat walk, with stunning views of the castle, viaduct and old cottages. There are many places to stop for either a picture or a good cup of coffee.
Head to the Viaduct Terrace for lovely views of the viaduct and over the river Nidd. Stop at the dog-friendly Black Mulberry for some delicious avocado toast and a doggy sausage treat for your pet. Rent a boat from March until end of October from the Marigolds Cafe & Boating.
Stop at the Worlds End pub for a great local pint of ale and if you're feeling adventurous, I recommend continuing your walk towards the Nidd Gorge.
Explore the Knaresborough Market
As a local, I definitely recommend that you visit the historic Knaresborough market that has been operating on the Market Square for over 700 years.
Although a market was first mentioned in 1206, the town was not granted a Royal Charter to hold a market until 1310, by Edward II. The Knaresborough market is still held every Wednesday from 7.30am until 3pm throughout the year.
Located just a few minutes' walk from the train station, the market features over 100 stalls selling a wide range of goods including fresh produce, locally raised meat, bakery items, household essentials, clothing, and more.
There is also a farmer's market held on the third Sunday of every month if you arrive on the weekend. The local stalls include all sort of delicious local products including bread, honey, preserves and more. It's a great way to get a local and edible English souvenir.
Knaresborough is a fantastic place for shopping as there are many independent boutiques around Market Square.
Row on River Nidd
As a resident of Knaresborough, I must recommend that you hire a boat and row on river Nidd. Locals have been rowing over Nidd for over 100 years! The red and green boats are an iconic image of our town.
Rowing a boat on the peaceful and calm River Nidd is a romantic activity to consider while in Knaresborough, especially in the summer months. The view of the layered houses on the cliff and the towering viaduct is breathtaking.
Boat rentals are available from two companies, Marigold Café & Boating and Blenkhorn's Boats.
Marigold Café & Boating, located on the banks of the river, operates 36 boats that can accommodate up to 4 people and also has a riverside café. They are open from mid-March to the end of October, with hours of operation from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm on weekdays and 9:30 am to 5:00 pm on weekends. Prices start at £6 per hour for adults and £4 per hour for children.
Blenkhorn's Boats, located next to the World's End pub, offers rentals of four different types of boats from March to October, with daily hours of operation from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Prices start at £7 per hour for adults and £4 per hour for children.
The river can get pretty crowded during the summer weekends and on bank holidays, so my advice is to arrive early and be the first to get on that boat!
Hike the stunning Nidd Gorge
Nidd Gorge is a 114-acre woodland located in a steep-sided valley about 1.5 miles west of Knaresborough. The river Nidd runs through the gorge, dividing the woodland into two sections.
The ancient, broadleaved forest is home to a wealth of flora and fauna, and you'll see relics, dating back to the Iron Age, scattered throughout the area. Take a leisurely stroll through the wood, following the gentle path of the river, or climb higher for breathtaking views of Knaresborough and Harrogate.
The gorge is made up of five smaller woods: Coalpits Wood, Bilton Banks, Spring Wood, Scotton Banks, and Gates Wood.
Don't miss my favourite, the pedestrian bridge across the river, perfect for cute woodland photos. I recommend following the riverside path to reach Old Bilton and the Nidd Viaduct.
The Nidd Viaduct at Bilton stands 104 feet above the river and was built in 1848 as part of the railway line that ran to Ripley, Ripon, and Thirsk. It carried both passengers and freight, primarily coal and later gas, until its closure in 1967. The viaduct is now defunct.
The Viaduct is open for pedestrians and it offers incredible views over Harrogate and a lush forested area on each side of the river Nidd.
Take the Knaresborough Town Windows Trail
Art lovers should not miss the opportunity to explore the Town Windows trail in Knaresborough. This collection of public artworks brings the town's history to life through a series of paintings using the trompe l'oeil technique, which creates a realistic illusion on the blank windows of Georgian buildings.
In the Georgian era, the window tax was introduced and many windows in buildings were blocked to avoid paying the tax. Today, these blank windows display paintings of prominent figures and historical events in Knaresborough's history, including Mother Shipton and King John.
There are a total of sixteen windows, located on ten properties throughout the town. You can see them all by following the Knaresborough Town Windows Trail. This project has been devised and managed by Renaissance Knaresborough.
Get the leaflet for the trail from the Tourist Information Centre in Castle Courtyard.
Participate in the Great Knaresborough Bed Race
The Great Knaresborough Bed Race has been held every year since 1966, on the second Saturday in June.
The bed race is an unforgettable experience for both participants and spectators. The 2.4 mile course takes teams through parkland, the Nidd Gorge, up the steep Castle Ings, and into the town centre. They then race down High Street, Bond End, and across High Bridge before finishing with a thrilling 30-yard swim through the icy waters of the River Nidd.
The bed race is organized by volunteers from the Knaresborough Lions and raises funds for local charitable and community needs.
Local knowledge: There's a similar bed race happening in Ottawa, Canada! We've been to both and it's so cool that we got to experience both bed races in Knaresborough and Ottawa! The difference is that the Bed Race in Ottawa usually takes place in the winter, in February.
The Great Knaresborough Bed Race is essentially a fun mixture of an athletic contest with a fun and eccentric pageant of decorated beds.
Eat Breakfast at The Ugly Duckling Tearoom
The Ugly Duckling Tearoom is my favourite place for a full English breakfast in Knaresborough. The tearooms are set in a beautiful spot by the river Ridd, conveniently located at the starting or finishing point for walkers and hikers.
The Ugly Duckling Tearoom is dog-friendly and if you arrive on a sunny day, I recommend taking your coffee in the garden. The restaurant is open Tue – Sun from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm.
Indulge either in a fantastic British lunch or order a lovely afternoon tea. If you want to meet some of us locals, join one of the regularly hosted events and themed nights such as a Mexican night, Italian night and Greek night.
If you're just passing by, I recommend popping in for a cone of Grandpa Greene ice cream served at the counters.
Buy a souvenir from Ye Oldest Chymist Shoppe
Visit the Ye Oldest Chymist Shoppe is the oldest chemist shop in England, located in Knaresborough on Market Place.
The Grade II listed building itself was a popular magnet for tourists, where John Beckwith was said to be dispensing medicines as far back as 1720. But the building is 200 years older.
Did you know Ye Oldest Chymist Shoppe it is the second-oldest chemist's shop in the world, beaten by one in China by only 53 years?
Today you can enter the establishment to purchase some local souvenirs or sit down for a traditional afternoon tea at the Lavender rooms.
Take a walk in Jacob Smith Park
Knaresborough is all about the great outdoors, and Jacob smith park is the perfect example of a lovely public park that brings the community together. Explore the 30 acres of idyllic parkland open to all to enjoy. I live just minutes from the Jacob Smith Park, and it's a beloved hilly area which offers stunning vistas across the countryside.
Walk around the recreational space, especially ideal for family with kids or dogs who want a lovely green space to explore.
The park is home to lots of plant and animal life, including a thriving bird population. The paths are open year around, but please consider that they may become muddy after a rainy day. Bring appropriate walking footwear.
Insider Knowledge: There is only one entrance to Jacob Smith Park, from Scriven Road, and it takes 16 minutes walk to get here from the Mother Shipton's Cave.
Relax in Bebra Gardens
Visit the attractive Bebra Gardens, a cute hidden gem tucked away below Knaresborough castle. The gardens are named in honour of the town's links with Bebra, Germany.
You'll find sloping pathways through beautiful trees and conifers, and in the summer months, a paddling pool that's free to use. The gardens are open all year round, and the paddling pool is open from spring through early September.
Relax in these ornamental gardens and sit down for a quiet moment on one of the wooden benches dotted throughout the park.
Visit St Robert's Cave
The St. Robert's Cave in Knaresborough is a must-see attraction if you love history and are interested in medieval hermitages. St Robert's Cave is a rare example of a medieval hermitage, previously a pilgrimage site, now an open tourist attraction.
Located on the outskirts of town, the cave was home to St. Robert of Knaresborough (born Robert Flower), a 12th-century hermit who was known for helping the poor and sick. See the foundations of a small chapel and an altar platform inside the cave, as well as the living area where St. Robert lived out the remainder of his life.
Many came to the nearby cave, now a Roman Catholic shrine, hoping for miracles and cures. In 1252 though never officially canonized Robert was recognized as a Saint by Rome.
The cave is a unique and fascinating place to visit, and is easily accessible from the Chapel of Our Lady of the Crag via a 20-minute walk along the River Nidd. Don't miss this opportunity to learn about Knaresborough's rich history and visit a truly special site. The entrance to the cave is free.
See the medieval Chapel of Our Lady of the Crag
The Chapel of Our Lady of the Crag is a small, 15th century chapel located in Knaresborough and a popular tourist attraction.
The Chapel of Our Lady of the Crag is cut out of the sandstone of the river gorge cliff face and is a Grade I Listed Building. The chapel is dedicated to St Mary and features a carved altar, gargoyles, a vaulted ceiling, roof bosses, pillars with floriate capitals, and a piscina.
The chapel was once a popular site for pilgrims and was reconsecrated as a Catholic place of worship in 1916.
To reach the Chapel of Our Lady of the Crag, take the narrow path and steps from Abbey Road. It's just 3 minutes walk from the Mother Shipton's Inn, a sixteen century coaching Inn that looks straight out of a fairytale.
Take the bike to Beryl Burton Cycleway
If love the great outdoors, then add Beryl Burton Cycleway to your Knaresborough list of must-do activities. The Beryl Burton Cycleway is a fully surfaced path is perfect for cycling and it connects Knaresborough to Harrogate and beyond. The cycleway also connects to the Nidderdale Greenway, which leads to Ripley and the centre of Harrogate.
The first section of the route was opened in 1997, and it was dedicated to the memory of World Champion cyclist Beryl Burton.
Any cyclist can hop on a leisurely ride, and I honestly think the Beryl Burton Cycleway is a great way to experience the natural beauty of Knaresborough.
As well as providing a traffic-free path, the Beryl Burton Cycleway crosses the Grade 2 listed, seven-arch Nidd Gorge Viaduct. This cycleway goes from the side of the River Nidd in Knaresborough to the Gardner's Arms in Bilton, where it joins the Nidderdale Greenway for even more cycling adventure.
See the St John's the Baptist church
St John the Baptist Church is a historical parish church in Knaresborough and the largest church in the town, located on Church Lane, near the North bank of the River Nidd.
St John the Baptist Church was originally dedicated to St Mary, but was changed to its current name in the 16th century after the English Reformation.
The bells were hung in 1774 and the clock was erected in 1884. In 1952, the church was designated as a Grade I listed building. It is part of the Archdeaconry of Richmond and Craven in the Diocese of Leeds and serves as the seat of the suffragan Bishop of Knaresborough.
Walk to Ripley Castle
Take the Nidd Gorge path all the way to Ripley Castle, a must-see attraction when visiting Knaresborough.
Ripley Castle is a beautiful 14th-century country house in Ripley, open to the public for guided tours. It has a rich history and has been the seat of the Ingilby baronets for centuries.
The house is built of coursed squared gritstone and ashlar with grey slate and stone slate roofs, and features a central two-storey block that is flanked by a tower at one end and a three-storey wing at the other. The castle is surrounded by beautiful grounds and gardens that are listed at Grade II.
Local Tip: Don't miss the world-famous Ripley Ice Cream, made locally to a secret recipe. The ice cream is extremely creamy and delicious. The shop is run by husband and wife Jon and Kirsty.
Take a trip to Allerton Castle
Allerton castle is a Grade I listed 19th century Victorian Gothic house. It is just 10-minute drive away from centre Knaresborough. Allerton Castle has a heritage spanning back hundreds of years, and it's located right in the heart of Yorkshire's rural heartland.
Explore the 200 acre of beautiful grands, then admire the gorgeous stately home, which can be hired for weddings or special events. To visit the castle, you will need to a guided tour, which is available throughout the year.
After your tour, which gains you exclusive viewing of the rarely seen bedrooms and suites, enjoy an afternoon tea in the ballroom.
Tours at Allerton Castle are taking place most Wednesdays, but it's best to plan your visit in advance.
Knaresborough is so well-connected, that it makes it easy for you to visit the nearby tourist destination, such as the popular town of Harrogate. From Knaresborough, you can easily take a quick train to Harrogate to enjoy an astounding day in the well-known spa town.
While in Harrogate, make sure to enjoy a traditional afternoon tea at Betty's and take a leisurely stroll around the impressive Valley Gardens. Don't miss my favourite, the RHS Garden Harlow Carr which is the perfect place to unwind, grab a gin tonic and explore the green paths.
Also in Harrogate, I recommend visiting the Spirit of Harrogate for a unique gin experience. It's also the perfect place to grab a local souvenir. Go shopping on Oxford and Cambridge street and finish off the excursion with a delicious dinner at the Ivy restaurant. For cocktails, I wholeheartedly recommend Lucia.
How to get to Knaresborough
Knaresborough is a market and spa town in North Yorkshire. Knaresborough has a train station right in its centre and since the town is so walkable, you won't have issues reaching attractions from the station itself. Here's how to get to Knaresborough.
Harrogate to Knaresborough:
It takes just 18 minutes to make your way from Harrogate to Knaresborough by train. Trains go every 10 minutes or so.
York to Knaresborough
From York, the train to Knaresborough takes just 32 minutes and goes every 30 minutes or so.
Leeds to Knaresborough
From Leeds, the train journey to Knaresborough takes just under an hour and the trains go every half an hour.
Knaresborough is easily accessible by car whether you come from Harrogate, York or Leeds. Well-connected by the A59 you'll be able to zoom all the way to the city centre. There are several car parks in the town, although most of them are paid for.
We normally park at the Castle Car Park and pay for 4 hours. Alternatively, you can park at the Conyngham Hall car park, which allows you to stay up to 10 hours.
There is free parking available on Park Row, although spaces are limited.
The closest airport to Knaresborough is Leeds-Bradford airport. It takes 1 hour to get from the airport to the centre of Knaresborough by A2 Flyer. Alternatively, you can get a taxi that takes just 30 minutes from the airport to Knaresborough.
Where to stay in Knaresborough
You'll love all the fun things to do in Knaresborough and some people love it so much, they decide to extend their stay by a few days. We know we love it so much, we always take family and friends to see this superb market town. The town is so traditional and lovely, you'll be able to find great cottage accommodation options for you and your loved ones.
Here are our top recommendations for places to stay in Knaresborough.
Situated 2 minutes' walk from the train station, Kirkgate House is a 17th century property offering an outdoor seating area and rooms with free Wi-Fi.
Each room at Kirkgate House boasts a spacious en suite shower room. A hearty breakfast is served daily and it includes locally sourced, award-winning sausages from Elite Meat of Harrogate, scramble eggs with salmon, vegan and vegetarian food. Click to book Kirkgate House
Some rooms include a seating area to relax in after a busy day. We recommend the luxury king size room because it is the only room to include a private outdoor hot tub hydro pool. Pretty fantastic after a busy day exploring. Click to book Teardrop Cottage
Bed and breakfast The Old Smithy
A stunning bed and breakfast, The Old Smithy provides accommodation with a garden and free WiFi. A traditional house with lovely English gardens and great connection to the centre. Click to book The Old Smithy
You now know all the fun and unique things to do in Knaresborough and are ready to embark on a fun visit to the English countryside. You'll love this wonderful market town and will want to keep on coming back for even more of Knaresborough.