Knaresborough Viaduct, Yorkshire

27 Best Things to Do in Knaresborough: Touristy Stuff & Hidden Gems

Grey Globetrotters contains affiliate links and is an Amazon Services LLC Associates Program member. If you make a purchase using one of these Amazon links, I may receive compensation at no extra cost to you. See my Disclosure Policy for more information.

Pretty little Knaresborough is a medieval gem in beautiful North Yorkshire. As I live moments from this enchanting town, I share my favourite things to do in Knaresborough in this guide.

View of the railway viaduct across the River Nidd at Knaresborough in Yorkshire

I’m a North Yorkshire resident who knows Knaresborough well, as it’s just down the road from my home! I love how compact and easy it is to walk around 🙂

Knaresborough is also very easy to get to, as it’s on the train line between the major Yorkshire cities of Leeds (via Harrogate) and York.

Let me show you how to enjoy all the top Knaresborough attractions even if you spend only one day there.

Beyond all the fun things to do in Knaresborough, I’ll also show you how to get to this picturesque market town. You’ll also find Knaresborough travel Tips and FAQs with answers to people’s questions about Knaresborough.

Ready to get started? Let’s dive in!

The Best Things to Do in Knaresborough England

There is so much history to discover in Knaresborough! The town was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, played an essential role in British Civil War history and was painted by Britain’s greatest landscape artist, JMW Turner (1775-1851).

1. Explore Knaresborough Castle

Knaresborough Castle
Knaresborough Castle is so atmospheric to explore!

High above the River Nidd, Knaresborough Castle is a mighty 12th-century fortress built shortly after the Norman conquest. It was the stronghold of medieval kings and has incredible views across the Nidd Gorge far below.

Knaresborough Castle was one of the royalist castles loyal to King Charles I in the English Civil War. As a result, it was ruined by the victorious Parliamentarians of Oliver Cromwell as punishment when the war ended.

Fun Fact: In true thrifty Yorkshire style, homeowners in the town centre reused much of Knaresborough Castle’s stone to build their houses.

I love that it’s free to stroll around the castle grounds and enjoy the sweeping views of the River Nidd far below. You can also take the castle tour for just £3.50 to peer into the dungeon, scale the King’s Tower and discover the secret underground exit known as a sally port.

2. Meet the Knaresborough Castle Ravens

Black Ravens pictured Knaresborough Castle with a Victorian viaduct in the background
The Knaresborough Castle Ravens are hilarious

Meet His Majesty’s Keeper of the Ravens and the castle’s ravens, which might greet you with a surprising, Yorkshire-accented “y’alright luv”!

3. Discover History at Knaresborough Courthouse Museum

The 14th-century Courthouse is the only part of Knaresborough Castle still in good repair. Originally the “House of Records“, it became a court for “The Honour of Knaresborough”. In the 19th century, a prison was added to the building.

In the Courthouse Museum, you’ll find the original Tudor courtroom and its original fittings, including a set of stocks. You can also learn out about 18th-century Knaresborough local “Blind Jack” (John Metcalfe), who built more than 180 miles of roads across Yorkshire and Lancashire despite losing his sight to smallpox.

Tip: Knaresborough Castle and the Courthouse Museum are open from Easter to September. At other times, you can visit by appointment.

4. Marvel at Knaresborough Viaduct

Beautiful Knaresborough Viaduct pictured from high up, with a lovely view of the rowing boats on the River Nidd
Beautiful Knaresborough Viaduct

The Victorian railway viaduct at Knaresborough is one of Yorkshire’s most iconic landmarks. Constructed in 1851 to connect the town with Harrogate and York, the 330-foot-long, four-arch viaduct stands nearly 80ft above the River Nidd.  

With castellated walls and piers, the viaduct was designed to blend in with the ruined walls of Knaresborough Castle.

5. Stroll Along the River Nidd Waterside Walk

Stunning riverside reflections along Knaresborough Riverside
Knaresborough England riverside reflections

The Nidd riverside in Knaresborough is a firm favourite with photographers and walkers alike. Cheery little independent cafes dot the waterfront beneath the castle’s cliff, some with terraces where you can sit and enjoy the view of the viaduct and the river.

In the summer months, one of the loveliest things to do in Knaresborough is a stroll along the riverside with ice cream. A meander under the viaduct gives a different perspective of the bridge and the castle.

6. Go For a Row on the River

Man with a family rowing a red and green boat on the peaceful River Nidd at Knaresborough
How good will you be at rowing when you visit Knaresborough?

Rowing one of the pretty little red and green boats beneath the iconic viaduct is one of the most fun things to do in Knaresborough. Boat hire is available from the Marigold Cafe on the waterfront from March until October.

7. Discover the Knaresborough Checkered Houses

One of the most famous houses in Knaresborough is the 11th-century Old Manor House on the Nidd Waterside. This black and white checkerboard house was a hunting lodge for King John.

Fun Fact: According to local legend, the king would hunt in Knaresborough Forest, leaving his men under a great oak by the River Nidd. The tree’s trunk is said to still be inside the house today!

This historic house was also a key location in the English Civil War! The Parliamentarians (also known as “Roundheads”) defeated the Royalist forces (known as “Cavaliers”) at the Battle of Marston Moor. The Royalists signed the Treaty of Capitulation at the Old Manor House in the presence of the Roundhead leader Oliver Cromwell, who was a guest in the house’s main bedroom!

8. Commune with Nature in the Nidd Gorge

The River Nidd has carved a 37-metre-deep ravine into the soft sandstone between Bilton and Knaresborough. Ancient woodland borders the river, providing a haven for 30 types of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, plus more than 80 species of birds.

Top Tip: If you’re quiet, you might see roe deer, herons by the water, or green woodpeckers in the trees. 

Peaceful scene of the soaring stone pillars of the Nidd Valley Viaduct, high above the Nidd Valley and river
I love walking along the Nidd Valley beneath the old Nidd Valley Viaduct

The now-defunct 104-foot-high Victorian Nidd Gorge viaduct was built to carry trains to Ripley, Ripon, and Thirsk. Today, it carries part of the Nidderdale Greenway Cycleway and provides a spectacular view of the river far below in the ravine.

9. Visit Mother Shipton’s Cave and the Petrifying Well

England’s oldest paid tourist attraction is Mother Shipton’s Cave. According to local lore, Ursula Sontheil was born in this cave in 1488. She grew up to become a witch/prophetess, known as Old Mother Shipton and made her living telling the future.

Legend suggests that Old Mother Shipton predicted key events, including the Great Fire of London in 1666, the defeat of the Spanish Armada, and the invention of iron ships.

Just outside the cave, a “petrifying well” turns items to stone thanks to the amount of carbonate and sulphate in the water. It’s fascinating to see the display of items suspended beneath the cascade soon form a crust of “stone”.

Visiting Mother Shipton’s Cave is one of the most fun things to do in Knaresborough. Check current Mother Shipton’s Cave prices.

Location: Mother Shipton’s Inn, Low Bridge HG5 8HZ

10. Discover St Robert’s Cave

On the south side of the town, discover the cave where Robert of Knaresborough lived as a hermit early in the 13th century. Born into a wealthy family, Robert left home to become a monk at Fountains Abbey before he moved to Knaresborough.

The cave contains a shelf believed to have been used as an altar. Outside the cave, the foundations of a chapel built to hold Robert’s tomb are visible.

11. While Away Time at Bebra Gardens

The town’s Moat Gardens have been renamed Bebra Gardens to honour Knaresborough’s German twin town. It’s an attractive small park with swirling paths, mature trees, well-tended rockeries, and herbaceous borders on a steep hill on the castle grounds. Young children love the paddling pool in this garden!

12. Spot Ye Oldest Chymist Shoppe in England

Black and white timber frontage of the oldest chemist shop in England in the marketplace at Knaresborough
The oldest chemist shop in England – something you must see in Knaresborough!

One of the independent shops in Knaresborough Market is the oldest pharmacy in England, located at 16 Market Place. Records show a chemist shop (drugstore) here in 1720, but it’s widely believed that the pharmacy could be at least 200 years older.

13. Ride the Beryl Burton Cycleway

Avoid the busy road between Knaresborough and Harrogate. Take a leisurely cycle along the scenic and traffic-free Beryl Burton cycleway – from the River Nidd to Harrogate and the Nidderdale Greenway.

14. Step Back in Time at the Church of St. John the Baptist

One of the best things to do in Knaresborough in the rain is to explore this enchanting old church.

The impressive stone facade and bell tower of the ancient church in Knaresborough, with beautiful mullioned windows
St John the Baptist Church in Knaresborough

“A large and rewarding church built of Magnesian limestone, set in a spacious tree-lined churchyard.”


The church has soaring arcades in the nave supported by 15th-century octagonal piers. The Slingsby Chapel has remarkable 17th-century family memorials. In contrast, St Edmund’s Chapel has some of the oldest Gothic masonries.

Don’t miss the 18th-century paintings of Moses and Aaron and the beautiful 19th-century stained glass by renowned Victorian Arts and Crafts designer Morris & Co.

15. Follow the Knaresborough Town Windows Trail

Paintings by local artists on ancient bricked up windows, known as the Knaresborough painted windows
Some of the Knaresborough Windows

When King William III introduced window tax as a property tax in 1696, people across the country bricked up windows to avoid paying the hated tax – you can still see this in Georgian houses today.

Knaresborough has a dozen of these bricked-up windows in the old town centre, and the town has commissioned artists to create Trompe-l’œil paintings of people and events from the town’s history in these windows. 

Various artists have completed Knaresborough Windows (known as Knaresborough Town Windows). See if you can spot Mother Shipton and King John, who conducted the first-ever Royal Maundy in Knaresborough in 1210.

16. Browse Knaresborough Market

Knaresborough Market has been open for business every Wednesday since 1310. Today, the 100+ stalls trade from 08:30 until 16:00, selling fresh local seasonal meat, seasonal fruit and vegetables, fish, sweet treats, and delicious Yorkshire pork pies.

You’ll also find cheese, beer, household goods, decorative crafts, plants, pet products, clothing, and more. It’s a thriving, local hub with a proper taste of Yorkshire and plenty of shops for a good browse.

Top Tip: Get to the market just before 11 am or 1 pm to hear the “oyez, oyez” of the Knaresborough town crier proclaiming all the local news.

Look for the bronze statues of Blind Jack and Mother Shipton (the mystic who lived in a Knaresborough cave).

17. Stroll in Jacob Smith Park

North of Knaresborough, this 20-acre public park is encircled by a stone wall and planted with ancient trees. It’s a serene place to wander the many footpaths.

18. Tackle the Knaresborough Round Walk

Keen walkers and hikers love the 21-mile Knaresborough Round Walk challenge, which takes an average of almost 9 hours to complete. It’s one of the most beautiful Knaresborough walks and a great dog-friendly activity.

19. Check Out Our Lady of the Crag

Don’t miss a stroll along the riverside to the Chapel of Our Lady of the Crag, a tiny medieval chapel excavated from sandstone. Just 13ft x 8ft, it was reputedly built by a grateful stonemason to thank God after his son was saved from falling rocks.

While it’s only open on Sunday afternoons, it’s worth a visit to see the dramatic cliff it’s built into and to peek through the chapel window. 

Top Tip: Look out for the “House in the Rock” (the Cliff House Knaresborough) on your walk. It’s a curious family house with turrets built into the rock!

20. Photograph The Old High Bridge

Capturing the Knaresborough high bridge and it's rowing boats is one of the best things to do in Knaresborough
The very Instagrammable Knaresborough High Bridge and rowing boats. © Copyright habiloid 

To the northwest of Knaresborough, you’ll find a double-arched stone bridge with narrow arches worth visiting. It’s considered medieval and was rebuilt when a network of turnpike roads was completed in 1777.

For the best view, walk past the rowing boats at Blenkhorn’s boat hire and snap your shot with the boats in it! Then you can buy ice cream for a short stroll back along the riverbank to the town.

Relax and Refresh

21. Eat at the Best Cafes & Restaurants in Knaresborough

Eating out is one of the top things to do in Knaresborough! The town has excellent independent coffee shops and tea rooms for light snacks, teas, and coffees.

Try the delightful Cafe di Lucca, quirky little Number Thirteen, riverside Ugly Duckling Tearoom, or the atmospheric Old Ticket Office at the train station.

My top pick is the 1940’s 1940s-themed Scarlett’s Vintage Tea Rooms. It’s tiny but cosy, with eccentric mismatched furniture and china. I can confirm that the homemade cakes, scones and tiffin are heavenly!

22. Check Out the Independent Pubs in Knaresborough

Try some of the pubs Knaresborough has to offer for a substantial meal., as they are some of the best value places to eat in Knaresborough. Mother Shipton’s Inn and the Guy Fawkes Pub are comforting eateries serving excellent meals.

Pro Tip: Make sure you’re hungry if ordering fish and chips at the Guy Fawkes: the servings are huge! Before my ever-hungry teenager went off to uni, it was his favourite of all the Knaresborough places to eat 🙂

  • Six Poor Folk Knaresborough serves a whopper of a Sunday roast. It’s a dog-friendly pub moments from the high street, and it’s very cosy.
  • The Half Moon Free House serves a fine pint, and the cheese and meat platters are excellent.
  • The characterful World’s End pub has good beer and great home-cooked food in a blissful setting next to the River Nidd. it’s one of the places to have a wee drink on a summer’s day 🙂

Enjoy Local Events in Knaresborough

23. Watch the Knaresborough Bed Race

Six runners and one rider ran with a bed through the streets of Knaresborough in the town's famous bed race
Competitors in the Great Knaresborough Bed Race

If you’re looking for what’s on in Knaresborough, you can’t beat the eccentric Great Knaresborough Bed Race. It’s been an annual event since 1966, raising money for worthy local causes with 90 teams participating.

Racers parade through the town in fancy dress before the start of the race. Then, the teams set off at ten-second intervals, pushing a wheeled bed along a challenging 2.4-mile course around the town. The race ends with a chilly traverse of the fast-flowing River Nidd.

teams competing in the Knaresborough bed race, running through the narrow street pushing a bed on wheels
The Bed Race – one of the best things to see in Knaresborough, Yorkshire

Crowds line the streets, and nearby pubs burst at the seams with cheering spectators. It’s peculiarly British, totally bonkers and utterly magnificent.

24. Knaresborough Festival (FEVA)

FEVA, or the Knaresborough Festival of Entertainment and Visual Arts, brings a wide selection of art exhibitions, workshops, music and spoken word events to the town for 10 days in mid-August each year. It’s very popular, with plenty to entertain the whole family 🙂

25. Knaresborough Christmas Market

Small, quaint, and utterly charming, Knaresborough’s is one of my favourite Yorkshire Christmas markets.

What it lacks in size, this popular market makes up for in spades with atmosphere and local character. It’s perfectly located in the medieval streets, where the smells of roasted chestnuts and mulled wine will lure you in to browse and explore.

And the cosy pubs are close when you’re shopped out and hungry!

Explore The Local Area

While this is an enchanting market town, you’ll likely want to explore more of what Yorkshire offers nearby. Here are some things you shouldn’t miss:

26. Marvel at Fountains Abbey

Ruins of medieval monastery known as Fountains Abbey. North Yorkshire on a sunny day

The vast ruins of Fountains Abbey and the water gardens at Studley Royal form one enormous UNESCO World Heritage site that should be on your UK bucket list.

27. Luxuriate in the Harrogate Turkish Baths

Inside the ornately tiled Harrogate Turkish Baths

For a spot of luxurious pampering with a fascinating historical twist, you can’t beat a trip to the magnificent Turkish baths in Harrogate – once a favourite of European royalty!

How to get to Knaresborough, North Yorkshire

It’s easy to visit Knaresborough by road, rail and bus.

By Private Car: To drive to Knaresborough from London or Edinburgh, leave the A1 motorway at junction 47 and follow the A59 straight into the town. From Leeds, follow the A61 and the A658. There is plentiful car parking in Knaresborough; however, the car parks near the town centre are all payable.

By Bus: The comfortable number 36 bus from Transdev takes you from Leeds to Harrogate in around an hour, and then you’ll need to change buses and catch the 1C onwards to Knaresborough. Check Knaresborough bus times here.

By Train: Knaresborough train station is almost at the midpoint of the branch line running from Leeds to York. Trains from York to Knaresborough take around 30 minutes, while the journey time from Knaresborough to Leeds is 45 minutes.

The Harrogate to Knaresborough train is a short but scenic 15 minute journey – across the Knaresborough Viaduct!

Leeds Bradford is the closest airport to Knaresborough, while the nearest international airport is Manchester.

map of Knaresborough North Yorkshire
Map of Knaresborough, North Yorkshire

Where to Stay in Knaresborough

📍 Newton House Knaresborough is a charming and friendly 300-year-old B&B, allegedly built with stone from Knaresborough Castle.

📍  Renting a cosy riverside cottage is a lovely way to stay in Knaresborough. Pretty Teardrop Cottage is in the perfect place for visits to Mother Shipton’s cave and walks along the river banks!

📍 Goldsborough Hall is a 400-year-old private historic stately home and gardens. It’s ideal if you’re looking for a luxurious Yorkshire treat.

How to Get Around Knaresborough

Knaresborough is a compact town. Most attractions are within an easy (albeit hilly) walk of the train station. Expect to find steep steps up and down between the riverside and the town.

Taking rowing boats out on the River Nidd is one of the best things to do in Knaresborough
Messing around in Knaresborough boats is one of the loveliest things to do in North Yorkshire

Best Things to Do Near Knaresborough

If you’re planning a trip to Yorkshire or want to find some eric places to see, take a look at what else I’ve written about Yorkshire here.

Some of the most popular spots in the nearby area include:

Ripley Castle (🚗10 min / 4.8 miles From Knaresborough)

Home to 26 generations of the Ingilby family, ancient Ripley Castle offers lovely walking trails, with beautiful grounds, lakes, a deer park, walled gardens, hothouses and a fantastic kitchen garden.

Harrogate (🚗 13 min / 3.5 miles from Knaresborough)

Harrogate is North Yorkshire’s enduringly popular Victorian spa town. Visitors love to discover the original Victorian Turkish Baths, the Royal Pump Room Museum and Valley Gardens, and to take a traditional English Afternoon Tea.

Fountains Abbey (🚗 23 min / 11.8 miles from Knaresborough)

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a must-visit tourist attraction in Yorkshire. The magnificent site includes the ruins of a 12th-century Cistercian Abbey, a Georgian water garden, a medieval Deer Park, a Victorian Church and over 800 acres of meticulously landscaped gardens.

Knaresborough Travel Tips and FAQs

I hope I’ve given you a great introduction with this Knaresborough travel guide and plenty of ideas for what to do when you visit, but if you’re still wondering, “Is Knaresborough worth visiting?”, here are the answers to a couple of questions that people sometimes ask.

When is the Best Time to Visit Knaresborough

Knaresborough is pretty all year round, but it’s glorious in late spring and summer when the riverside cafes are open, and you can hire rowing boats.

What day is market day in Knaresborough?

Knaresborough market day is on Wednesdays from 7.30 am until 3 pm, all year round (except for Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day).

Is Harrogate or Knaresborough better?

The two towns are quite different and are very worthwhile to visit. Harrogate will be easier to visit if you struggle with hills, whereas Knaresborough has unbeatable views.

What’s Knaresborough famous for?

The viaduct and Mother Shipton’s cave are the top attractions in Knaresborough.

Are there any good walking trails in Knaresborough?

The best walks in Knaresborough are very scenic. One of the loveliest is the 10 km Knaresborough, Nidd Gorge and Old Bilton Circular Walk, which takes around 2 1/2 hours at a steady pace.

Are there many shops in Knaresborough?

Knaresborough has a good selection of shops in and around the high street, with more extensive shopping available in nearby Harrogate or Leeds.

Does Knaresborough have a park-and-ride?

Knaresborough has a park-and-ride in operation for the Christmas market. At other times, there is no park-and-ride but plentiful public parking.

Does Knaresborough have a viaduct?

Knaresborough has an impressive Victorian viaduct which carries trains from Leeds via Harrogate to York. The viaduct is 78 feet (24 meters)high, and it passes over the River Nidd.

How old is Knaresborough Viaduct?

Knaresborough Viaduct opened in 1851, making it 172 years old in 2023

Does Knaresborough have a zoo?

The town no longer has a zoo. Knaresborough Zoo operated on the grounds of Conyngham Hall from July 1965 until January 1986.

Can you walk on Knaresborough viaduct?

No, the viaduct carries the train line in and out of the town; however, you can walk under the viaduct on the charming riverside footpath.

Can you walk along the River Nidd in Knaresborough?

Yes, footpaths along both sides of the River Nidd in Knaresborough make the riverside walk a pleasant experience.

How long is the river walk at Knaresborough?

The two-mile river walk starts from Knaresborough Castle.

Where can I find parking near Mother Shipton’s Cave?

The nearest public parking is a large car park located on the riverside at Conyngham Hall; however, there is also a small car park at Mother Shipton’s Cave.

Final thoughts: Best Things to Do in Knaresborough

So there you have it! Have you decided what to do in Knaresborough? Whether you love the idea of seeing Mother Shipton’s Cave and the ruins of Knaresborough Castle or strolling along the River Nidd beneath the Knaresborough Viaduct, there’s so much to enjoy in this characterful little Yorkshire town!

If you’re a Yorkshire resident, Knaresborough is also a great place to be a tourist in your hometown (or home county).

Liked it? Pin the Best Things to do in Knaresborough for later!

Related Posts

Alternatively, if you’d love to explore more quaint places in Yorkshire like Knaresborough, you may like Harrogate, Ripon, Skipton or Staithes.

Other helpful tips for visiting the UK

🏠 Need a place to stay? Browse Booking or VRBO
💃 How about fun experiences? Get Your Guide and Viator have it all
🚗 Considering renting a car in the UK? Use Rentalcars
🚂 If you need transfers, bus or train tickets, check Omio
🔒 Don’t forget about travel insurance from Travel Insurance Master

Similar Posts