Mother Shipton’s Cave and Historic Park

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Mother Shipton’s Cave is England’s oldest attraction (1630) and is not far from Harrogate, just across the River Nidd from Knaresborough. From the main entrance, there is a lovely walk along the river through stately Beech trees that are reputed to be some of the tallest in the country. They are quite tall and majestic. It was a lovely sunny day when we were there and the light dappling through the tops of the trees was magical. It is called the Long Walk and has been there since 1739 when it was created by Sir Henry Slingsby as an access for people to walk or ride to the Petrifying Well. It is a great spot for a picnic (tables provided) and to watch the peaceful waters run by. Across the river you can see the castle ruins and the town of Knaresborough, including an old cotton mill that has been converted into luxury apartments.

The calcium carbonate in the water that runs into the caves from an underground spring is the reason behind the Petrifying Well – it causes objects to turn to stone. You will see various objects that have been hung up at a Dripping Well to catch the dripping waters and calcify – teddy bears, tennis rackets, shoes, etc. The amazing properties in the waters were known as far back as the 1500s. There are storyboards along the river and audio boxes that you can press to hear about Mother Shipton’s life and to hear the stories of her prophesies. If you believe in wishes you can make a wish at the Wishing Well of Good Fortune. Follow the instructions and be prepared to get your hand wet. Legend has it that Mother Shipton was a seer who was born in 1488 and lived with her mother in the caves, drinking the special waters. She is said to have prophesized the Great Fire of London. There is a little museum at the far end of the park. After a quick look around the museum we headed across the river and walked through Knaresborough then back across the river to the car park. There is a lovely view of the River Nidd and the castle as you cross the bridge. Entrance fee for the Caves was £6 and parking was £2. The caves were at times spooky and at other times, a bit hokey, but the walk along the river was well worth the visit.

If you have more time to spend in the area, the castle ruins are worth seeing. I spent a day there on another visit and took an interesting tour of the castle. There has been a castle on the sight since the 12th century. The 40-minute tour of the ruins culminates in a walk through the secret tunnel via the Sallyport that was used when the castle was under siege. There is also a little market in town and a number of nice cafés and lots of boats to rent to ply along the river.

We, however, had Harrogate in our sites that day and a late lunch at Betty’s Café and Tearooms. A must for anyone in the area!

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