Knaresborough is a beautiful little town located in North Yorkshire. It's just 15 minute drive from the stunning Harrogate town and not too far from the Yorkshire Dales and Yorkshire Moors. There are many unique things to do in Knaresborough, and you'll definitely fall in love with this place. There are plenty to do and see, with numerous accommodation options as well as fantastic places to eat.
Knaresborough feels authentic with its stone cottages by the river Nidd, cobbled alleys and a lively town centre with so much going on. Walk along the river, visit the impressive castle and marvel at the Knaresborough viaduct. With as many things to do in Knaresborough, you'll want to keep coming back.
Spend at least a day visiting Knaresborough, or make it as a great base for further exploration nearby. Knaresborough is renowned for its Knaresborough viaduct, Knaresborough Castle and Mother Shipton's Cave which is England's oldest attraction.
Knaresborough is a year around destination but whenever you visit, remember that you're still in the UK, so it's wise to bring some waterproofs and a nice sturdy umbrella.
Are you ready to visit Knaresborough? Let's see all the things to do in Knaresborough and discover all the places you must visit in this stunning little town.
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Close to the town centre, you'll find Knaresborough's most famed attractions: the gorgeous Knaresborough castle, a romantic ruined fortress dating back to 1100.
The Knaresborough castle is perched on a green clifftop with incredible views. See the Knaresborough railway viaduct and take the most stunning pictures of the town. This is an important attraction for those with a historic interest.
Start your adventure with a walk around the castle grounds and read about its history. We know that the castle was built by a Norman baron sometimes in 1100.
In 1204 King John (1199-1216) took possession of the Castle and the Forest of Knaresborough. Once in his possession, he turned Knaresborough Castle into a military fortress.
During the Civil War, following the Battle of Marston Moor in 1644, the Castle was besieged by Parliamentary forces. They ordered the destruction of the castle, which was mainly done by local citizens, who looted the castle stone and used it for many of the buildings within the town.
Once you took all the best pictures from the grounds, make your way to 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.
Best seen from the Knaresborough castle, the viaduct is a main attraction in the town. It looks majestic from pretty much every angle, imploring the visitors to photograph its glory.
The viaduct carries the Harrogate train line over the River Nidd. 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.
Go and see the viaduct for yourself and form your own opinion. 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].
The viaduct is a grade II listed structure.
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.
Also, one for the adventurous, Nidd Gorge is a fantastic thing to do in Knaresborough. It's a great walk for the whole family who want to enjoy a path perfect for bikes and prams. There is a forested path too, a bit steeper but perfectly easy to follow.
Nidd Gorge is a woodland area with history dating back to the Iron Age. Stroll along the banks of the river Nidd and enjoy a relaxing afternoon in nature. Along the path, you'll come across the gorgeous Nidd Viaduct, which is part of the walking path. It offers lovely views of the river and woodlands below.
Mother Shipton's Cave
Plan your visit to the riverside walk within historic woodlands along River Nidd to see Mother Shipton's cave, the famed prophetess. See the petrifying well, which is England's oldest tourist attraction.
The forested path that leads to Mother Shipton's cave is a lovely remnant of the Royal Forest of Knaresborough. Be enchanted by its natural beauty, an ideal place to bring the kids for a fun day out.
According to legend, in 1488 a baby was born in this cave called Ursula Sontheil who later became known as Mother Shipton. She was a soothsayer and prophetess.
Next to the cave is the petrifying well which give objects a stone like appearance. Objects are placed on the well and within a few months or years they get a stone like exterior. 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.
Visit the attractive Bebra Gardens, a cute hidden gem tucked away below Knaresborough castle. Bebra gardens are free to visit at any time. The gardens are on a steep slope, with several paths leading you through mature trees. Relax in these ornamental gardens and sit down for a quiet moment on one of the wooden benches dotted throughout the park.
At the lowest point of the gardens, there's a paddling pool, which is open from Spring Bank Holiday to the first week in September.
St Robert's Cave
St Robert's Cave is a rare example of a medieval hermitage, previously a pilgrimage site, now an open tourist attraction.
Around 500 hermitages are recorded and the St Robert's Cave is a very rare surviving example of a medieval hermitage, that includes a living area. St Robert of Knaresborough, born Robert Flower, was a Holy Man who lived in the cave by the river Nidd. 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. Access to the cave is free and well worth seeing it when you walk along Abbey Road. It's interesting and well signposted. It's a beautiful and secluded location with plenty of information for the keen visitors.
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.
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.
Beryl Burton Cycleway
Add Beryl Burton Cycleway to the best things to do in Knaresborough. This fully surfaced cycle path connects Knaresborough to Harrogate and beyond, connecting to the Nidderdale Greenway which goes to both 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.
As well as providing a traffic-free path, this route 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.
St John's the Baptist church
St John the Baptist church is the largest church in Knaresborough, dating back to at least 1114. The church was originally dedicated to St. Mary but was changed in the 16th century because of English reformation.
This church is a Grade I building, so it's well worth a visit when you are exploring the beautiful town of Knaresborough.
Knaresborough Town Windows Trail
The best thing to do in Knaresborough for art lovers is to take the Town Windows trail. Admire the collection of public art works which illustrates all sort of characters and events from the town's long history.
See the trompe l'oeil technique, which is meant to make the paintings more realistic. You'll find these on blank windows on Georgian buildings. Back in the days, windows were blocked to avoid a window tax.
Walk around the town and take in all the architecture of your surroundings. Knaresborough is such a remarkable place to visit.
When you visit Knaresborough, you must go to the historic market. 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. A market is still held every Wednesday in the market square.
There is also a farmer's market held on the third Sunday of every month. 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.
If you arrive on a non market day, don't worry, Knaresborough is a fantastic place for shopping as there are many independent boutiques scattered all around the town. Knaresborough has many interesting and diverse local products sourced from lovely locals.
Hire a boat
Now that you've seen Knaresborough from above and also from the river banks, it's time to see it from the Nidd itself. Hire a boat and row on the Nidd like locals have done for over 100 years! The red and green boats are an iconic image of the town.
Prices start from just £10 per hour, so it's well worth it for something so historical and fun to do in Knaresborough.
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.
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.
Note: There is only one entrance to Jacob Smith Park. There are talks about creating a new one, but the council has not got around to doing it just yet.
Great Knaresborough Bed Race
The Great Knaresborough Bed Race has been held every year since 1966, on the second Saturday in June. You know what's great about this? There's a similar bed race happening in Ottawa, Canada! We've been there, and we've seen it with our own eyes.
The Bed Race is essentially a fun mixture of an athletic contest with a fun and eccentric pageant of decorated beds. It's a lot of fun to come and see something so unique and special.
The Ugly Duckling Tearoom
Feeling a little peckish? Head to the Ugly Duckling Tearoom located just by the river banks and indulge either in a fantastic British lunch or order a lovely afternoon tea. It's a relaxing place with a tranquil setting.
We also recommend it for a traditional English breakfast if you wish to start the day bright! The service is wonderful and the food is great.
Quick Day Trip
Knaresborough is so well-connected, that it makes it easy for you to visit the nearby incredible towns of cities too. From Knaresborough, you can easily take a quick train to Harrogate to enjoy a astounding day in the well-known spa town. 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.
If you love walking, take the aforementioned Nidd Waterside Walk all the way to Ripley to see the wondrous Ripley castle. You can also visit the historic city of York and meander around its shambles or listen to its glorious ghost stories.
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.
It takes just 18 minutes to make your way from Harrogate to Knaresborough by train. Trains go every 10 minutes or so.
From York, the train to Knaresborough takes just 32 minutes and goes every 30 minutes or so.
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.
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.