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TRAVEL NORTH - 25: MOTHER SHIPTON'S HOME TURF - Lower Nidd Valley Knaresborough Walk

Updated on November 30, 2017

History was forged here, predictions made that none dares challenge...

Knaresborough Viaduct in the evening - the old Low Bridge is beyond, below the castle
Knaresborough Viaduct in the evening - the old Low Bridge is beyond, below the castle | Source
1930s London & North Eastern Railway poster advertises railway trips to Knaresborough - then in the West Riding
1930s London & North Eastern Railway poster advertises railway trips to Knaresborough - then in the West Riding | Source
The cave entrance. Take a walk through the riverside woodland, step inside to meet...
The cave entrance. Take a walk through the riverside woodland, step inside to meet... | Source
Mother Shipton. A passable stone carving. Speaking of stone, take a look at the petrifying well
Mother Shipton. A passable stone carving. Speaking of stone, take a look at the petrifying well | Source
A few of the petrified teddies and a hat hanging under the rim of the Dropping Well. The nature of the limestone in the water over time brings about a change in the outer composition of the items, but eventually the whole 'body' will be ossified
A few of the petrified teddies and a hat hanging under the rim of the Dropping Well. The nature of the limestone in the water over time brings about a change in the outer composition of the items, but eventually the whole 'body' will be ossified | Source

Who's heard of Ursula Southill? No? All right, who's heard of Mother Shipton? (more hands shot up there). Right, for an extra point, what's she known for?

Right again. It was her predictions that she became famous for. She was known as a 'sooth-sayer'. She foresaw that "Carriages without horses will go, and accidents will fill the world with woe". Doesn't that send a shiver down the spine? Modern communications:"Around the world thoughts shall fly, in the twinkling of an eye". Phones, Internet etc... Is that enough for you? There might even be something about 9/11 in there somewhere. That got you going, didn't it. Her 'home', Mother Shipton's Cave has been open - with the petrifying well - to the paying public since 1630.

One prediction she made that was really taken seriously was that, should the bridge (the Low Bridge) ever fall into disrepair, it will herald the end of the world. His lordship did not wish to be held answerable for that, whatever other misdemeanours he might have been responsible for! On the strength of her other forecasts, this was indeed a hefty threat to heed. The bridge has been well maintained ever since, naturally.

That's enough for the history punters. We're here for a walk, aren't we. Start at the Conyngham Hall car park entrance, crossing the road and following the street to the right of The World's End. Go under the substantial viaduct built to take the railway in 1851, and follow on along the road, taking the left fork.

On the gillside to your left is Knaresborough Castle, dating mostly from the early 14th Century. Mother Shipton's Cave and Well are across the river from here, over the road bridge. From here, at the Low Bridge, the road rises to the crossroads at the 11/2 mile point. Pass along Abbey Road, by the late 18th Century House in the Rock cut into the crag. To the left here is also the Chapel of Our Lady of the Crag originating in 1407/8. The Nidd Gorge widens and the road parts company with the river edge. A little further after it joins the riverside again, watch out to the right for the path down to St Robert's Cave, where a hermit monk died in AD1218. You may wish to take a look into the cave... Pushing on now, go back to the lane and follow it to a 'T'-junction. Take a right turn and cross the bridge.

Here is the two mile point, where you turn right again at the end of the bridge way-signed to Knaresborough Round. Follow the path to a caravan park, keeping the caravans on your left keep on to another way-marked footpath. Pass more caravans and after the first one on the right turn right and the path takes you down to the River Nidd, leaving the woodland. At the right-hand way-marked track where it splits near a house take the left of the gate and take the riverbank. Keep to the path as it follows between walls. It turns into a metalled way before long and leads to a main road where you turn right. Cross the road by the Mother Shipton Inn to the 3 1/2 mile stage.

You have a choice now. You might wish not to pay the 'toll' for the Mother Shipton's Well walk. If so cross the bridge and turn left opposite Abbey Road to follow the way back to the start. Should you wish to see the petrifying well and Mother Shipton's Cave follow to the left of the inn to the pay desk. Follow the path beyond, climb the steps and go down to the well and cave. The dripping water eventually turns objects to limestone. Some items, such as one of Queen Mary's shoes, are in the museum close by. The cave is aptly dark, damp and gloomy (or mysterious if you like). Mother Shipton was born in the cave, her mother having been seduced by his lordship at the castle - who naturally denied the liaison - and they dwelt together until the mother died some time after. The lord of the castle relented and allowed for food supplies to be delivered. He was suitably impressed by her many long-term forecasts, according to the history information at the museum. She died in AD1561, having foreseen the precise time of her own death.

Climb the stairs, following signs for the main entrance and follow the path below the railway viaduct, leaving by the turnstiles. Cross the High Bridge and turn left to the car park, 4 1/2 miles (7.2kms). Easy pace, about 2 1/2 hours' duration.

The first part of the walk, on the north bank of the river runs along surfaced lanes. Following the river crossing there are riverside footpaths that at times will be muddy. The metalled roads on the north side of the river are all accessible. Care is needed on the narrowest sections, however. South of the river and in most of the cave area and car park has no wheelchair access.

Getting there by car: the cave is at the heart of the town, on the A59 from Harrogate, and west of Junction 47 of the A1(M). The public car park is at Conyngham Hall by the High Bridge.

By public transport: Northern Rail's York-Leeds link, alighting at Knaresborough on the east side of the viaduct. Take the Yorkshireexpress X54 Harrogate-York bus (not Sundays/Bank Holidays).

Refreshment can be taken at The General Tarleton on the Boroughbridge Road, Ferrensby, Knaresborough, HG5 0PZ, 01423 320284, www.generaltarleton.co.uk

Use the Ordnance Survey Explorer 289, Grid reference SE 344573.

Mother Shipton's Cave, Prophecy Lodge, High Bridge, Knaresborough HG5 8DD, 01423 864600, www.mothershiptonscave.com Open: Feb-Mar, Sat-Sun 10am-4.30pm; Easter-October daily 10am-5.30pm; Nov Sat-Sun 10am-4.30pm; closed Dec-Jan. Admission: adult £6, child £4 (free for under-4's), concessions £5, family £17.

Yorkshire Tourist Board: www.yorkshire.com


A Look Around Knaresborough's Riverside

Knaresborough Castle etching shows the ruin in the 18th Century
Knaresborough Castle etching shows the ruin in the 18th Century | Source
Knaresborough Castle keep now. The site includes a museum worth a look-in
Knaresborough Castle keep now. The site includes a museum worth a look-in | Source
The River Nidd at Knaresborough - Bond actor Daniel Craig lives in the area
The River Nidd at Knaresborough - Bond actor Daniel Craig lives in the area | Source
Nidd Gorge walk from Knaresborough riverside upriver to Scotton car park
Nidd Gorge walk from Knaresborough riverside upriver to Scotton car park | Source
The riverside path near Ursula Southill's cave, showing the steps leading up the the entrance
The riverside path near Ursula Southill's cave, showing the steps leading up the the entrance | Source
Shipton Inn near the entrance to Ursula Southill's - Mother Shipton's -  Cave by Immanuel Giel's Low Bridge
Shipton Inn near the entrance to Ursula Southill's - Mother Shipton's - Cave by Immanuel Giel's Low Bridge | Source
Also in the vicinity, the entrance to local hermit St Robert's Cave
Also in the vicinity, the entrance to local hermit St Robert's Cave
The riverside at Knaresborough with rowing boats and the 19th Century railway viaduct behind
The riverside at Knaresborough with rowing boats and the 19th Century railway viaduct behind | Source

Knaresborough, North Yorkshire

A markerKnaresborough, North Yorkshire, England -
Knaresborough, UK
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Situated astride the Nidd Gorge between Harrogate and York, Knaresborough offers history, pleasant riverside walks, fine food in restaurants and pubs

Secrets and prophesies. Mother Shipton foresaw - in a way - the coming of self-propelled vehicles and flying machines, mechanised warfare... Within her own lifetime her contemporaries saw prophesies made come true. One prophecy foresaw the neglect and collapse of Knaresborough's bridge leading to the destruction of the known world. They maintained that bridge as though their lives depended on it.

Where to find Knaresborough

Where to find Knaresborough? Take the wider view - by rail from Leeds via Harrogate or from York; by road, motorways and dual carriageways are close at hand to the east and south (A1M and M1)
Where to find Knaresborough? Take the wider view - by rail from Leeds via Harrogate or from York; by road, motorways and dual carriageways are close at hand to the east and south (A1M and M1)

A friendly relaxed neighbourhood

Knaresborough Forest Cricket Club - every Yorkshireman's relish
Knaresborough Forest Cricket Club - every Yorkshireman's relish | Source
Market Cross in Knaresborough's town centre
Market Cross in Knaresborough's town centre | Source
The Old Royal Oak in the town centre
The Old Royal Oak in the town centre | Source
The quaint listed signal cabin at Knaresborough Station looks like an 'add-on' to the end of a neighbouring building
The quaint listed signal cabin at Knaresborough Station looks like an 'add-on' to the end of a neighbouring building | Source
Knaresborough Station. The signal cabin above is to the left behind the camera in this view, taken from the end of the viaduct (Harrogate end) towards the tunnel (York direction)
Knaresborough Station. The signal cabin above is to the left behind the camera in this view, taken from the end of the viaduct (Harrogate end) towards the tunnel (York direction) | Source

If you'd like to go exploring upriver from here...

See also TRAVEL NORTH - 27: Follow The Infant Nidd (Around The Caves And Upper Dale) gives you some more energetic, adventurous walking, great scenery and a few watering holes to rest your weary bones for good Yorkshire fare... and the beer's good! Try out the page and get yourself kitted out - don't forget the camera. Seeing's believing.

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