Knaresborough, UK, is a quaint market town in the picturesque county of North Yorkshire. Some of the best things to do in Knaresborough include exploring the historic landmarks and visiting England’s oldest official tourist attraction.
This small town is perfect for either a weekend or a day trip. Although, if you choose to base yourself in Knaresborough for longer, you can explore things to do near Knaresborough such as Harrogate, York, and the Yorkshire Dales.
Read on to find out exactly what to do in Knaresborough.
Is Knaresborough, UK, worth visiting?
Knaresborough is one of the most beautiful towns in North Yorkshire. The pretty market town is perfect for a leisurely day trip or weekend away from the larger British cities.
As this article is about to demonstrate, there are Knaresborough tourist attractions to cater to all ages, walking abilities, and interests. It’s romantic and family-friendly in equal measure. And, Knaresborough is not as high on the radar as other nearby Yorkshire towns.
Plus, there is a decent number of free things to do in Knaresborough that will appease budget explorers!
How to get to Knaresborough
You can reach Knaresborough by road or rail. The A59 passes through the town centre and links with the A1 and other prominent motorways and A-roads. Ample pay and display parking in Knaresborough centre makes it easy to drive to the city and secure your vehicle while you explore.
Knaresborough Train Station is centrally located and served by Northern Rail. Direct trains connect with York, Leeds, and Harrogate – making it easy to connect to Knaresborough from the South or the North. Check times and fares on thetrainline.
How to get around Knaresborough
Once your feet are on the ground, you can get around Knaresborough on foot. Most of the Knaresborough tourist attractions are walkable from the town. There’s no need to rent a bike but if you want to explore further afield, this is a fun way to get around.
If you have a car, you can leave it at your hotel or in the public car parking in Knaresborough.
Best time to visit Knaresborough
You can visit Knaresborough all year round. The town is at its warmest and sunniest during July and August, with highs pushing 30°C. However, this is the peak season and the town is at its busiest. Visit in May, June, or September for comfortable temperatures in the high 20s and fewer crowds.
Autumn is a special time to visit as you’ll catch the beautiful foliage. Meanwhile, November and December see the town erupt with Christmas activities and fairs. Snow isn’t typical in Knaresborough but temperatures sink to single figures.
Note that some Knaresborough things to do are not possible in winter.
Where to stay in Knaresborough
Knaresborough is one of the most romantic getaway destinations in the UK. The town features cute bed and breakfasts, inns, and self-catered apartments.
Kirkgate House is located in Kirkgate and offers budget-friendly rooms with en suites. Breakfast is included in the rate and paid parking is available.
Teardrop Cottage offers boutique bedrooms with period furniture, bath robes, and bathrooms. Splash out on the Deluxe King Room which comes with an outdoor hot tub for your exclusive use! The cottage provides free parking in Knaresborough.
If you struggle to find a suitable place to stay in Knaresborough, check out the rooms in the nearby town of Harrogate on Plumguide.
- Spa Town: Cozy little apartment with a plush bed, comfortable couch, and a full and modern kitchen with everything you need to self-cater. Book a stay at Spa Town here.
- Fancy Free: If you’re traveling with kids or two couples, this is the ideal 2-bedroom apartment with a stunning outdoor patio to enjoy warm mornings in Bath. Book a stay at Fancy Free here.
- The English Spa: This gorgeous Harrogate apartment is housed in a beautiful building from 1901 but with a modern and clean interior. Book a stay at the English Spa here.
Things to do in Knaresborough, UK
Now, over to exactly what to do in Knaresborough! Read on for our tips on where to go and what to see – locations are linked for easy planning.
1. Knaresborough Town Centre
Find your feet with a stroll around Knaresborough. The heart of this tiny town revolves around the High Street and Market Place. There is a generous spread of chain shops and independent boutiques where you can pick up unique souvenirs or enjoy a spot of window shopping.
Pick up a portion of fish and chips from Drake’s or an ice cream from the Castle Creamery. In true British spirit, there are pubs and tea rooms aplenty.
Blind Jack’s Pub has a fabulous stock of beer, ale, and spirits where you can kick back after a day exploring the sights of Knaresborough.
2. Knaresborough Viaduct
The Knaresborough Viaduct is the star attraction of the town. This Grade II listed structure flies 80 metres over the River Nidd and has been in action since 1851. In fact, if you travel to Knaresborough by train – the railway line passes over the viaduct.
One of the coolest things to do in Knaresborough is to chase the viewpoints and find your favourite perspective as the light changes. The castle and riverside grant wonderful (and photographic) views.
Try to visit first thing in the morning as well as at sunset.
3. Knaresborough Castle
Knaresborough Castle is one of the other emblematic Knaresborough tourist attractions. It dates back to the 14th century when it was a stronghold for medieval kings. The castle sits atop a knoll and grants views over the river, town, and viaduct.
You can visit the castle ruins and grounds for a closer look while listening to the audio guide.
Admission to Knaresborough Castle includes a visit to the Courthouse Museum. This brings to life the story of Knaresborough and its notable residents.
4. Bebra Gardens
The Bebra Gardens back onto Knaresborough Castle and are a peaceful spot to mull over your learnings.
These gardens are beautifully tended with a variety of flowers, plants, and trees. There’s plenty of space to sit and reflect or kick back with a book. Plus, if you’re wondering what to do in Knaresborough with kids – the paddling pool is always a hit during summer!
The gardens are free to visit.
5. Mother Shipton’s Cave
Mother Shipton’s Cave is England’s oldest paid tourist attraction. It’s the birthplace of the prophetess, Ursula Southeil, who was known for her skills as a soothsayer and herbalist. She foretold the fates of multiple rulers within and shortly after her lifetime, predicted the invention of iron ships, and foresaw the Great Fire of London.
The cave is buried in a lush patch of woodland that is worth the visit alone. As well as exploring the cave, you can visit the Petrifying Well. The waters turn objects to stone – with smaller items taking as little as 3 months. You can purchase petrified teddy bears from the gift shop.
The cave is one of the best Knaresborough tourist attractions for families or curious adults. Advance booking is advised at weekends and during school holidays.
6. Hire a Boat
Renting a boat is one of the best things to do in Knaresborough during summer. Head down to the waterside between mid-March and late October and you can hire wooden rowing boats from Marigold Cafe and Boating.
Once you’ve got your boat you can enjoy a leisurely paddle down the River Nidd and experience views of the viaduct, riverside, and local wildlife.
Marigold also has a lovely tea room where you can pick up scones, cakes, ice cream, and hot drinks.
Payments are taken by card only – no cash. At the time of writing, the rate is £8 per adult.
Life vests are provided on request and dogs are welcome to join you in the boat.
Spending a day in Harrogate is one of the best things to do near Knaresborough.
This handsome city is 4 miles west of Knaresborough and offers a comparably tranquil vibe. As a spa resort, one of the best things to do in Harrogate is to indulge in a treatment at the Turkish Baths.
You can also enjoy afternoon tea or a toasted teacake at Bettys Café Tea Rooms and a stroll through the RHS Garden Harlow Carr.
You can drive to Harrogate in 15 minutes or take a 10-minute train ride over the Knaresborough Viaduct.
8. Robert’s Cave
Robert’s Cave is one of the more obscure Knaresborough tourist attractions. Born to the Mayor of Knaresborough in 1160, Robert Flower briefly studied as a monk before adopting a hermit lifestyle.
He earned a reputation as a philanthropist who aided poor and unwell residents in Knaresborough. Robert also worked to reform men released from prison.
Robert’s efforts led to the constable of Knaresborough granting him a 40-acre plot of land on the riverside with a cave-dwelling. He lived in the cave for 30 years until his passing in 1218.
Robert’s Cave is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Grade II Listed Building. You can follow the course of the river on foot (or bicycle) – each way takes around 30 minutes from the base of the viaduct.
Admission is free.
9. Ripley Castle
Ripley Castle is one of the best things to do near Knaresborough for history fans. The Grade I Listed 14th-century mansion sits on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It’s privately owned by the 6th Baronet Ingleby and his wife.
The garden and grounds are open daily with adult tickets costing £5. If you want to explore the interiors of the residence, guided tours cost £10 and include admission to the grounds.
Check the website for the latest schedule as per your dates. Online booking isn’t required; just arrive in decent time as they are sold on a first-come, first-serve basis.
As mentioned, you can hike to Ripley Castle via the Nidd Gorge. Alternatively, buses connect via Harrogate – take the 1A, 1B, or 1C and then swap to the number 36 at Harrogate Bus Station.
10. Nidd Gorge
Nidd Gorge is a patch of ancient woodland that runs alongside a valley where wildlife such as blue tits, green woodpeckers, tawny owls, roe deer, wood mice, and foxes live.
It spans 46 hectares (114 acres) and is sited 1.5 miles west of Knaresborough. In fact, five separate woodlands make up Nidd Gorge.
Walking to the Nidd Gorge is one of the best things to do in Knaresborough in all seasons.
If you have enough time, you can tackle the Castle to Castle Walk. This connects Knaresborough Castle with Ripley Castle. It passes through the Nidderdale Greenway, Nidd Gorge Viaduct, and hugs the River Nidd. The 6.5-mile hike takes an average of 4 hours to complete. You can return on foot or return via bus (requires a change at Harrogate).
Otherwise, you can walk for as long as you feel like and then turn back.
11. Knaresborough Market and Farmer’s Market
Knaresborough is, after all, a market town! Subject to when you visit, one of the classic Knaresborough things to do is swing by either of the markets that occupy Market Place on a regular basis.
Knaresborough Market takes place every Wednesday from 7.30 am – 3 pm. Stalls serve everything across the board, including clothing, accessories, flowers, and food items. This is a great shout if you want to buy unique souvenirs or get ahead with your Christmas shopping.
Knaresborough Farmers Market occurs on the third Saturday of every month between 10 am – 3 pm. Besides fresh organic produce, you can stock up on pantry essentials (and luxuries!), cheeses, baked goods, and locally made beers.
12. Yorkshire Dales National Park
You will need to plot out exactly what you want to see and do in the Dales. Choose to tackle some of the best walks in the Yorkshire Dales or spend the day cruising around the viewpoints and mooching around the villages.
Visiting this captivating region of moorland and waterfalls is one of the top things to do near Knaresborough if you have a car. Without a vehicle, you will struggle to make the trip worthwhile when using public transport. But, as a guideline, you can reach Malham (home of Malham Cove) in a mere hour when driving from Knaresborough.