I visited England's oldest tourist attraction and it ticked all the boxes

-Credit: (Image: deadmanjones/Flickr)
-Credit: (Image: deadmanjones/Flickr)


The six week holidays are just around the corner and if you're on the hunt for days out and ways to entertain the kids this summer then this one is certainly not to be sniffed at.

I have two boys one ten (going on 25) and a four-year-old so it can often be difficult to find days out that tick all of the boxes for both of them.

Often places my youngest enjoys my eldest finds "baby-ish" or "boring" and visa versa - places my eldest enjoys tend to go over the head of the little one at the moment - the struggle is real.

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So I'm always on the look out for days out that keep both of them happy. After reading the glowing reviews online we decided to give Mother Shipton's Cave in Knaresborough a go and I'm so glad that we did.

For those that don't know, as I didn't, Mother Shipton's Cave is England's oldest tourist attraction. I had seen various adverts for the attraction online but I had no idea of the story and the history behind it until we arrived.

The attraction, which has been open since 1630, is the legendary birthplace of England's most famous prophetess. The small cave where she was born tells the story of her life and legacy, she was said to have predicted the Great Fire of London and Blind Jack, a pioneering 18th century road builder.

The small cave sits alongside the unique geological phenomenon of the petrifying well which ‘freezes’ objects in a mineral crust.

'I took my kids to England's oldest tourist attraction in Yorkshire and they were fascinated'
'I took my kids to England's oldest tourist attraction in Yorkshire and they were fascinated' -Credit:Yorkshire Live - Megan Shaw

We arrived at Mother Shipton's Cave and parked in the allocated car park after showing the helpful staff our tickets that I'd pre-booked online. The setting is stunning as you set off on the woodland walk along the riverside which boasts scenic views of Knaresborough.

The walk is fairly flat and easy for all ages, my four year old had no problem with it and it was enjoyable for us too. There's lots to keep them entertained along the way, from the big coin trees fit with hammers to knock your own coins in to the huge adventure playground about half way round.

The adventure playground is great and has plenty for all ages including a giant ship, sand pit, climbing frame, slide and zip wire - which was a huge hit.

As you continue the walk there are lots of child-friendly information signs along the way as you follow the story of Mother Shipton and the history of the cave before you get to it, the boys were both fascinated by the story of how she was born in a cave and couldn't believe it was a true story.

We reached the cave after about an hour (this includes stopping to play at the park, the walk itself is fairly short), there are quite a lot of steps to get down to the cave so it wouldn't be ideal for those with prams. We passed the petrifying well first, the boys were fascinated by the items that were hanging ‘frozen’ such as a teddy and children's clothing, before we went inside the cave.

Inside the dark and eerie cave there is a statue of Mother Shipton, there are two buttons inside one that reads 'adults' and one that reads 'children', the boys pressed 'children' and we were greeted by the sound of thunder, my youngest ran straight back out initially but he soon came back - too intrigued by what was being said.

The voiceover is that of Mother Shipton as a child as she tells the story of how she was born in a cave during a thunderstorm and how people called her ugly as she was born deformed with a hunchback and bulging eyes - so people labelled her a witch.

The story is fascinating for both adults and children alike and they were both completely compelled with the mysterious tale. We continued the woodland walk to the little museum and gift shop at the end that is full of many little treasures and oddities. The boys each had some pocket money to spend and decided to chose some gems to take home.

We finished the day with a Mother Shipton's ice-cream!
We finished the day with a Mother Shipton's ice-cream! -Credit:Yorkshire Live - Megan Shaw

There is also a Zoltar fortune telling machine that is £1 to operate that they both loved, we made our way back to the car but not before stopping off at one of the well-placed woodland huts for an ice-cream - which was delicious.

Overall we spent around two hours there, it cost £36 for four of us and that included parking as well, the attraction has often been criticised for being too expensive, but I thought it was a reasonable price to pay to preserve a fascinating piece of history.

The attraction is unique, enriching and educational as well as being fun and entertaining, both the boys really enjoyed the day, as did myself and my partner and we can't wait to go back again.

There are a whole heap of events on throughout the year from Easter to Halloween and Christmas, so perhaps next time we will try one of those. The next themed event coming up is Finding Neverland, which runs throughout the school holiday from Saturday, July, 20 to Sunday, September, 1. You can book online here.

Knaresborough itself is a really lovely little market town with plenty of other things to do, you could quite easily extend your visit and make a full day of it.

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