There is so much to do in Yorkshire, it’s almost impossible to know where to begin! Besides the big cities like Leeds and Sheffield, smaller cities like York and Harrogate, there are so many small towns begging to be explored. Knaresborough, in the Vale of York, is a picture perfect, quaint little town and easily accessed from York by train in less than 30 minutes. There’s just enough here to keep you busy for a day!
Your first stop in Knaresborough should be the Market Place, the center of things in most small towns. Don’t miss the statue of Blind Jack, one of Knaresborough’s most famous residents! He was born in the town in 1717, blinded from small pox when he was 6, and became a notable road builder in the area—he lived to be 92.
Knaresborough Castle today stands in ruins at the top of a cliff, but it has some of the absolute best views of the town. You can walk around the castle grounds year-round, but unfortunately the museum part of the castle is only open April-September. The castle was built in the 14th-century, and ended up on the losing (Royalist) side of the Civil War in 1644. The victorious Parliamentarians ordered that the Royalist castles should be “slighted” (ruined to a degree that they were defensively useless), and the castle was demolished in 1648. The Courthouse Museum was closed when I visited, but supposedly still has the original Tudor courtroom.
The railway viaduct is one most iconic symbols of the town. It was built in 1851, and has four arches that are a maximum 80 feet in height. You can’t miss this on a visit to Knaresborough!
Unfortunately, Mother Shipton’s Cave was also closed when I visited (it’s closed November-February). The cave is supposedly where Mother Shipton, a wise woman/prophetess who could predict the future, was born in 1488. The complex includes walking paths along the river, as well as the Petrifying Well (which gets its name due to its high mineral content, allowing it to petrify items immediately). The place claims to be England’s oldest tourist attraction, having opened in 1630!
You can spot the Old Manor House from anywhere along the river—it’s one of the most famous black-and-white-checkerboard style buildings in town. Built as a hunting lodge for King John, the Old Manor House is supposedly where Oliver Cromwell received the surrender from the Royalist forces after their defeat at the Battle of Martson Moor in 1644, during the English Civil War.
There are plenty of other checkerboard buildings across town as well!
St. John the Baptist Church is a beautiful church, which sits on the top of the hillside, overlooking the town, the river, and the railway viaduct. It was unfortunately also closed when I visited (for remodeling), but I think would be well worth a visit!
On the opposite end of town, right along the river past the Low Bridge, is the Chapel of Our Lady of the Crag. This chapel is tiny (13ft x 8ft!) and is carved right into the rock face. It was supposedly built in 1408 by a mason, to give thanks for his son being saved from falling rocks. The chapel itself has very limited opening hours (usually just Sunday afternoons), but it’s definitely worth visiting just to see the dramatic cliff it’s built in to, and to take a peek through the window.
Probably Knaresborough’s biggest natural attraction is the River Nidd, which flows through the town. I absolutely loved walking along the river, and if I had had better weather I definitely would have hiked along out of town! The town is based (for the most part) between the High Bridge and the Low Bridge. In the summer months, you can rent boats from the Marigold Café—they also do great ice cream.
Knaresborough is a quaint little town, and there’s enough that it merits visiting for a day. It’s definitely one small town to explore if you’re spending time in Yorkshire!
Have you ever been to Knaresborough, or another small town? What did you think of it?