Skip to content


About Knaresborough

Click Here to Visit Nidderdale

The information below I have researched on the internet and hopefully correct it, however, things sometimes differ or change. Should you find any errors, anything I might have missed or indeed anything  I can include or research please email

The History of Knaresborough

Knaresborough is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Chenaresburg, meaning “Cenheard’s fortress in the wapentake of Burghshire, renamed Claro Wapentake in the 12th century. Knaresborough Castle is Norman; around 1100, the town began to grow. It provided a market and attracted traders to service the castle. The parish church, St John’s, was established around this time. The earliest identified Lord of Knaresborough is around 1115 when Serlo de Burgh held the Honour of Knaresborough from the King. Hugh de Morville was granted the Honour of Knaresborough in 1158. He was constable of Knaresborough and leader of the group of four knights who murdered Archbishop Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral on 29 December 1170. The four knights fled to Knaresborough and hid at the castle. Hugh de Morville forfeited the lands in 1173, not for his implication in the murder of Thomas Becket, but for “complicity in the rebellion of Henry the Young King”, according to the Early Yorkshire Charters. The Honour of Knaresborough then passed to the Stuteville family. When the Stuteville line was broken with the death of Robert the 4th (son of Robert 3rd) in 1205, King John effectively took the Honour of Knaresborough for himself. The first Maundy Money was distributed in Knaresborough by King John on 15 April 1210. Knaresborough Forest, which extended far to the south of the town, is reputed to have been one of King John’s facourite hunting grounds. Although a market was first mentioned in 1206, the town was not granted a Royal Charter to hold a market until 1310, by Edward II. A market is still held every Wednesday in the market square. In Edward II’s reign, the castle was occupied by rebels, and the curtain walls were breached by a siege engine. Later, Scots invaders burned much of the town and the parish church. In 1328, as part of the marriage settlement, Queen Philippa was granted “the Castle, Town, Forest, and Honour of Knaresborough” by Edward III, and the parish church was restored. After her death in 1369, the Honour was granted by Edward to their younger son, John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster and since then the castle has belonged to the Duchy of Lancaster. After the accession of Henry IV the castle lost much of its importance in national affairs but remained a key site in regional administration for another century. In the English Civil War, following the Battle of Marston Moor in 1644, the castle was besieged by Parliamentary forces. The castle eventually fell and in 1646 an order was made by Parliament for its destruction (but not carried out till 1648). The destruction was mainly done by citizens looting the stone. Many town centre buildings are built of castle stone. The railway age began in Knaresborough in 1848 with the opening of a railway station on Hay Park Lane; this was replaced with the current one three years later in 1851. The town had a railway line to Boroughbridge until it closed to passengers in 1950; it was dismantled in 1964. Historically in the West Riding of Yorkshire, Knaresborough became part of North Yorkshire in 1974.

In 1158, Hugh de Morville was granted the Honour of Knaresborough. Notably, he was the constable of Knaresborough and part of the group of four knights who were responsible for the tragic murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral on December 29, 1170. The four knights sought refuge in Knaresborough Castle. Hugh de Morville’s forfeiture of the lands in 1173 was not due to his involvement in Becket’s murder but for his alleged “complicity in the rebellion of Henry the Young King,” as documented in the Early Yorkshire Charters.

Subsequently, the Honour of Knaresborough passed to the Stuteville family, but this lineage was disrupted with the death of Robert the 4th (son of Robert 3rd) in 1205. King John took control of the Honour of Knaresborough. It was during his reign that the first Maundy Money was distributed in Knaresborough on April 15, 1210. Knaresborough Forest, stretching to the south of the town, was believed to be one of King John’s favoured hunting grounds.

Although references to a market in Knaresborough date back to 1206, it was not granted a Royal Charter to host a market until 1310, under the rule of Edward II. A tradition that continues today, a market is still held every Wednesday in the market square. The town’s history includes instances of conflict, such as the castle’s occupation by rebels and its partial destruction by a siege engine during Edward II’s reign. The town also endured the ravages of Scots invaders who burned much of it, including the parish church.

In 1328, as part of a marriage settlement, Queen Philippa was granted “the Castle, Town, Forest, and Honour of Knaresborough” by Edward III. This led to the restoration of the parish church. After her death in 1369, the Honour was given to their younger son, John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster. Since then, the castle has been under the ownership of the Duchy of Lancaster. While the castle lost some of its national significance after Henry IV’s accession, it remained a pivotal site in regional administration for another century.

Knaresborough also played a role in the English Civil War. After the Battle of Marston Moor in 1644, the castle was besieged by Parliamentary forces and ultimately fell. In 1646, Parliament ordered its destruction, although this wasn’t carried out until 1648. Much of the destruction was attributed to local citizens looting its stone. Notably, many buildings in the town centre were constructed using stone from the castle.

The advent of the railway era in Knaresborough began in 1848 with the opening of a railway station on Hay Park Lane, which was later replaced with the current station in 1851. The town had a railway line to Boroughbridge until it ceased passenger services in 1950 and was dismantled in 1964.

Knaresborough, which was historically part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, became a part of North Yorkshire in 1974.

Knaresborough is a town teeming with history, art, and natural beauty. With a growing list of attractions and activities, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Here are some of the highlights:

1. Art in the Mill
Visit this contemporary art gallery showcasing a diverse range of artworks by local and international artists.

2. Bebra Gardens
Escape the hustle and bustle of the town center in Bebra Gardens. This hidden gem features lush greenery and a paddling pool, offering a serene retreat. Originally known as ‘Moat Gardens,’ it was renamed in 1969 after twinning with the German town of Bebra.

3. Beryl Burton Cycleway
For cycling enthusiasts, explore the newly surfaced track from the Yorkshire Lass to the Gardeners Arms at Bilton. You can continue your journey on the Nidderdale Greenway to Ripley and back.

4. Blind Jack Market Place
Take a seat beside the statue of Blind Jack, a legendary historical figure known for his many talents, including road building and fiddle playing.

5. Chapel of Our Lady of the Crag
Visit this charming chapel hollowed out of solid rock in 1408. Legend has it that it was built to thank the Blessed Virgin for saving John the Mason’s son after a rockfall. Officially recognized as a chapel by the Vatican, it’s maintained by St. Mary’s parish.

6. Conyngham Hall & Grounds
Enjoy the beautiful grounds and riverside walks, as well as picnic areas and sculpture trails. If you’re feeling active, you can make use of tennis courts, pitch and putt, and a crazy golf course.

7. Farmers’ Market
On the third Sunday of every month, Knaresborough hosts a vibrant farmers’ market. Explore local stalls offering bread, honey, meats, plants, cheeses, and more.

8. Frazer Theatre
Knaresborough’s Frazer Theatre, run independently, hosts a variety of events throughout the year, from pantomimes and musicals to plays and concerts.

9. Gallon Steps
Climb the 96 steps connecting Waterside with Kirkgate, named after Mr. R. N. Gallon. As you ascend, enjoy panoramic views of Knaresborough and its rich history.

10. Goldsborough Hall
Explore Goldsborough Hall, a historic house with stunning gardens. While it serves as a 5* wedding venue, the gardens are open to the public twice a year in March and July as part of the National Garden Scheme. Learn more at Goldsborough Hall.

These are just a few of the wonderful attractions in Knaresborough. Whether you’re interested in history, art, nature, or local events, Knaresborough has something special to offer. Keep exploring this charming town and uncover more hidden gems.

Town Windows (Trompe l’oeil Painted Windows)

Sponsored by Renaissance Knaresborough, the ‘Town Windows’ holds a unique historical charm. During the Georgian era, many windows were bricked in to evade window tax, leading to the creation of these painted windows in the trompe l’oeil style, designed to deceive the eye and mimic reality. If you’d like to explore these intriguing windows, be sure to pick up a leaflet guide available at the Tourist Information in Castle Courtyard. Notably, two new windows were unveiled on May 4th, 2014, in celebration of the Tour de France, featuring cycling legends Beryl Burton and Brian Robinson.

Tug of War

Every Boxing Day at 12:00 noon, an annual event unfolds between The Half Moon and Mother Shipton’s pub, a spirited Tug of War contest that adds a festive touch to the holiday season.


The stone viaduct gracefully spanning the River Nidd was completed in 1851 to facilitate the Leeds Northern Railway branch. Standing 78 feet above the river with its four majestic arches, it’s an architectural marvel well worth admiring and capturing from various angles.

Scenic Views

While strolling through Knaresborough, savor the breathtaking views that evolve with the changing seasons. The Castle grounds provide the most iconic perspectives, overlooking Waterside and the meandering River Nidd.

The War Memorial

Perched on Castle Top, the War Memorial, erected in 1921, stands as a poignant tribute to the town’s 156 fallen heroes from the First World War and 55 from the Second World War.

Waterbag Bank

Waterbag Bank, a steeply cobbled street leading from the station down to Waterside, derives its name from the water bags once carried from the River Nidd to the town. As you explore, you’ll come across Manor Cottage, the last thatched dwelling in Knaresborough, a charming piece of history.


A leisurely stroll along the River Nidd from High Bridge to Low Bridge offers rowing boats, delightful ducks, picturesque weirs, and a selection of riverside cafes and ice-cream parlors, creating a picturesque riverside experience.

Wednesday Market

The Wednesday market in the Market Place is a bustling weekly attraction. It boasts fresh fruits and vegetables, fine cheeses, local products, clothing, health foods, plants, and much more, making it a vibrant hub of activity.

Wood Sculptures (Abbey Road)

A walk along Abbey Road by the River Nidd is a tranquil escape, where you’ll encounter exquisite wood carvings by the renowned Tommy Craggs, a chainsaw sculptor from the North East. Keep an eye out for his masterpieces, such as a dragon, kingfisher, and more.

Ye Oldest Chymist Shoppe in England

Steeped in history, this shop, dating back to the 1720s, is reputedly England’s oldest chemist shop. Today, it houses the Lavender Tearooms and a delightful array of confectionery, herbal remedies, and unique gifts.

Jacob Smith Park

Jacob Smith Park, a 30-acre haven of idyllic parkland, was a generous gift to the Knaresborough community from Winifred Jacob Smith MBE in 2003. Her vision was to provide a space for people of all ages to enjoy the beauty and freedom that public parks offer. Managed by Harrogate Borough Council, this tranquil wildlife sanctuary holds significant historical value, offering a place for reflection, recreation, and fostering connections with nature. It’s a cherished community asset, where visitors can find solace and joy within the embrace of ancient trees and historic stone walls.

Knaresborough Today:

Knaresborough boasts the picturesque remains of its historic castle, which are open to the public, with an admission fee required for exploring the interior. The castle grounds provide a delightful public leisure space, featuring a bowling green and putting green available during the summer months. Moreover, the castle serves as a charming performing venue, with live music performances on most afternoons throughout the summer. The castle also plays host to a variety of events, including the annual FEVA (Festival of Visual Arts and Entertainment). It’s important to note that the property is part of the Duchy of Lancaster holdings but is administered by Harrogate Borough Council.

The castle, although now largely in ruins, comprised two walled baileys, one behind the other, with the outer bailey facing the town and the inner bailey perched on the cliffside. The enclosure wall featured sturdy towers along its length, with a pair forming the main gate, which can still be seen today. At the junction of the inner and outer baileys, a tall five-sided keep once stood, although some of its eastern parts have since been dismantled. The keep featured a vaulted basement, at least three upper stories, and served as a residence for the castle’s lord over the years. The castle baileys also included residential buildings, with some of their foundations surviving to this day. In 1789, historian Ely Hargrove noted that the castle had “only three rooms on a floor” and measured just fifty-four feet in width.

The Courthouse’s upper storey houses a museum with a remarkable collection of furniture from the original Tudor Court, as well as exhibits detailing the history of the castle and the town. Some parts of the castle keep wall still bear the scars of bullets fired during the Civil War siege.

In terms of retail, Knaresborough features a large Lidl supermarket, located on the site of a former Co-Op store in Chain Lane, as well as smaller supermarkets in the town center. The St. James retail park on the town’s outskirts offers several well-known retail chain units. The town also boasts 15 public houses, a wine bar, two working men’s clubs, and numerous restaurants. National retailers have a presence in the town center, primarily around the High Street, Market Place, and Castle Courtyard, an attractive shopping arcade situated in the former town hall building. Additionally, there is a modest public swimming pool for residents and visitors to enjoy.

Knaresborough primarily functions as a commuter town, while also serving as a local hub for the surrounding rural villages. The town supports a modest tourism industry and a service sector. There is a small industrial estate located on Manse Lane in the eastern part of town. Local news is covered by the Knaresborough Post, a weekly newspaper specific to the area.

Education in Knaresborough includes five primary schools and one secondary school, King James’ School. For further education, students can turn to a college in nearby Harrogate. The town is equipped with a two-story library located on the Market Place, offering valuable resources to the community.

Knaresborough’s diverse religious landscape encompasses two Church of England churches, one Roman Catholic church, one Methodist church, one United Reformed church, and one Mormon congregation, providing a range of worship options for its residents.

Sports enthusiasts will find several options in Knaresborough. Knaresborough Town F.C. is based at Manse Lane and competes in the Northern Counties Eastern League Division 1. Youth football is well-supported, with Knaresborough Celtic offering junior teams for both boys and girls, while Scotton Scorchers caters to young footballers. Knaresborough Rugby Club, formed in 1982, plays in the Yorkshire Leagues, and their home ground, Hay-a-park, opened in 2014. Unlike many Yorkshire towns, Knaresborough doesn’t have a rugby league club, with the closest option being in Wetherby.

Cricket enthusiasts will find two clubs in town. Knaresborough Forest Cricket Club achieved success in Nidderdale League Division 3, winning in 2005 and earning promotion from Division 2 as runners-up in the following season. Meanwhile, Knaresborough Cricket Club plays its matches on Aspin Lane, with adult teams participating in the Airedale & Wharfedale Senior Cricket League and junior teams in the Nidderdale Junior Cricket League.

One of Knaresborough’s most famous events is the annual bed race, which has been a beloved tradition since 1966. Ninety teams of six runners and one passenger race to complete a 2 1/2-mile course around the town. The race begins at Knaresborough Castle, where teams are judged for their bed designs. After a parade through the town center in fancy dress, the decorations are removed in preparation for the race itself, which even includes a short swim across the River Nidd. This event not only brings the community together but also raises an estimated £100,000 for charity.

On July 6, 2014, Knaresborough was a part of the excitement as Stage 2 of the 2014 Tour de France, from York to Sheffield, passed through the town, marking a memorable moment in the town’s history.

Accommodation in and near  Knaresborough

  1. Goldsborough Hall Discover opulence at its finest in the historic Goldsborough Hall.
  2. The Knaresborough Inn – The Inn Collection Group Experience hospitality excellence with The Inn Collection Group at The Knaresborough Inn.
  3. Teardrop Cottage Bed and Breakfast Immerse yourself in cozy charm at Teardrop Cottage, where comfort meets a warm, inviting atmosphere.
  4. The General Tarleton Indulge in luxury at The General Tarleton, proudly in partnership with Visit Abu Dhabi for a world-class experience.
  5. Newton House Bed and Breakfast Enjoy a delightful stay at Newton House, where comfort is complemented by a delicious breakfast included with your stay.
  6. Byways Boutique B&B Knaresborough Unwind in style at Byways Boutique B&B Knaresborough, offering The Kestrel by Innkeeper’s Collection Double room for a truly memorable stay.
  7. The Kestrel by Innkeeper’s Collection Explore the allure of The Kestrel by Innkeeper’s Collection, where exceptional service meets unbeatable prices.
  8. The Old Smithy Bed and Breakfast Experience the charm of The Old Smithy, combined with the comfort of Kirkgate House and a delectable included breakfast.
  9. Kirkgate House Bed and Breakfast Revel in the homely atmosphere of Kirkgate House, where a warm welcome and a delightful breakfast await.
  10. The Mitre Inn Immerse yourself in the rich history and inviting ambiance of The Mitre Inn, a perfect blend of tradition and comfort.


Back To Top