Situated in the small town of Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, Mother Shipton’s Park is a woodland that spans over a mile long and is all that remains of the Royal Forest of Knaresborough. However, the main attractions of the park are Mother Shipton’s Cave and The Petrifying Well. For a fun-filled family day out, be sure to stop by if you are in the area.
Who was Mother Shipton?
Mother Shipton, also known as Ursula Sontheil, was a prophetess who was born in 1488. Legend has it that she was born in a cave during a thunderstorm to her fifteen-year-old mother, Agatha. Agatha spent two years caring for Ursula in the cave by herself until a local family decided to look after her. Ursula’s mother was taken to a nunnery where she died a few years later. Due to her looks, Ursula was teased for resembling a witch and so she spent a great deal of time by herself near to the cave where she was born. She took on the name Shipton when she married a man named Tobias. Then known as Mother Shipton, she began making traditional remedies and predictions about the future.
Visit the park to see the cave where Mother Shipton was born and the surrounding forest where she spent most of her childhood.
The Petrifying Well
This ancient well, also known as the Dripping Well, is the only one of its kind in the whole of England. Many years ago, the local people of Knaresborough believed the well to be magical and so steered clear from the site. Some believed that the water would turn them to stone. This legend, however, does bear some truth! The falling water has such a high mineral content that anything that lies under the flowing water will slowly be ‘petrified’. Rather than instantly turning anything to stone, however, it can take three to five months for petrification to take place. Visitors to the site can see everyday objects that have been turned to stone by the falling water, including teddy bears. Petrified teddy bears can be purchased from the gift shop as a souvenir.
Behind the Petrifying Well, you will find a wishing well which is filled with the same magical water. Make a wish here and keep the 300-year-long tradition going.
Access and Directions
Both the cave and the well are natural rock formations which can only be accessed by 75 steps. There are handrails, but it may be difficult to navigate for those with mobility issues. The path around the woodland area is also uneven and may not be suitable for wheelchair access. The park does not wish to discourage visitors, so if you are unsure whether a visit would be worthwhile, it is advised to contact them beforehand.
The park is open every day between March and November, opening at 10 am and closing at 4.30 pm. Last admission is one hour before closing. Mother Shipton’s Park is located on the A59 next to High Bridge in Knaresborough. Parking costs £2 in addition to the admission price.