Mother Shipton is England’s most famous prophetess. As well as making traditional remedies she had the gift of foretelling the future.Known to locals as a witch, because of her rather large crooked nose and bent back, she earned her living by telling the future of those that paid for her words.
Ursula (Mother) Shipton was born, on the night of a terrifying storm, in a cave on the banks of the River Nidd in Knaresborough in 1488. As Ursula grew up she studied the forest, the flowers and herbs that were growing around her and she began to make remedies and potions with them.
Mother Shipton foretold many predictions, some of them more famous than others are as follows:
Carriages without horses shall go,
And accidents fill the world with woe.
Around the world thoughts shall fly,
In the twinkling of an eye.
Said to predict cars, telephones, internet, satellites and planes.
Under water men shall walk,
Shall ride sleep shall talk:
In the air men shall be seen,
In white, in black and in green.
Said to predict, submarines, hot-air balloons or planes.
She is also said to have foretold the Black Death of 1665 and the Great Fire of London.
Whether she existed or not is perhaps not really important, but she leaves behind a cave and one of England's oldest tourist attraction, which people have been visiting since 1630.
Mother Shipton’s cave is a wonderful place to visit. With a children’s play area, beautifully landscaped areas to picnic in, wonderful carvings among the trees and of coarse the cave and petrifying well, there is plenty of things to see and do for all ages.
The park is unique and unspoilt. As you enter through the visitors entrance you are instantly drawn to how beautiful the landscape is and drawn into the natural beauty of the surroundings. Once you pay your entry fee, you are given a wristband. This entitles you to entry into Mother Shipton all day long, so if you exit at the end of the walk and go across the bridge to visit the Castle, you can gain entry again with the wristband. Before visiting the cave and petrifying well, you walk along the mile long Sir Henry Slingsby’s Walk, which runs along the bank of the River Nidd.
Witches and Wizards
Throughout the year Mother Shipton’s attraction runs events and we were lucky enough to visit whilst they were holding the Witches and Wizards; a transformation into a mystical and magical event for all of the family. Where we visited the Wuthering Woodland, got sorted into a school house and met magic teachers. The boys got given a trail to follow and had to tick off certain things that they did along the route. The best of all had to be the sorting hat, where the boys got sorted into a house. Once all of the lessons that included Flying and Potions were completed they were awarded with a certificate of graduation to be a qualified Wizard!
Apart from the Witches and Wizardry event there are plenty of sights to see along the route.
Sir Henry Slingsby Walk
The first would be the first bridge that you come across. This is the bridge that Mother Shipton had said “The world shall end when the High Bridge is thrice fallen” It has already fallen twice! eek!
Carrying on you will pass by the oldest building in Knaresborough, just across the River, The Old Manor House. You will then pass under the magnificent Viaducts which was built for the Railway.
As you walk along you will hear the roaring of water as you pass by the castle mill and weir. This place once made the finest linen in the country, but now it is luxury riverside apartments.
The pathway leads up to an adventure playground on the right and some fallen down tree trunks that people can hammer in their pennies for good luck.
Surrounding the Sir Henry Slingsby Walk are some magnificent tall trees that are possibly over three hundred years old. As you walk through the tree lined pathway you get the sense of mystery but calmness. Although these spiders are quite creepy.
It’s not long until you pass by the natural underground lake, this is the spring that provides the well with its magical waters.
The natural lake is about a mile underground. As the water comes to the surface it travels along a narrow and of porous rock called ‘aquifer’ and a huge amount of minerals are dissolved. Which is just right for turning objects into stone. Following some steps down and passing through some doors we soon stood in amazement as we saw the petrifying well doing its magic by turning everything it touches into stone.
For many centuries people believed that the well had healing powers and they used to carry their sick/dying relatives across the water in order for the magical, mystical waters to miraculously cure them.
The boys and I spent most of our time here, just watching the water fall down into the well. We were mesmerised by the natural beauty of it. I think we saw every shade of green going.
Behind the petrifying Well there is a wishing well, that is said that if you place your right hand into the water and make a wish then it will come true. We placed our hands into the cold, fresh water and made our wishes. You can not wish for money and obviously if you tell it to anyone it won’t come true.
To the right of the wells is the cave itself. Looking around the cold, grim cave Its hard to believe that once a young woman gave birth to a baby in it and that baby would then make this place her home and sanctuary.
At the back of the cave is Mother Shipton herself
Could imagine what it was like to spend your days in the dark, surrounded by the cold stone?
Once exiting the cave and well area, you can go back the way you came in or continue to end of the walk which is where the Museum and gift shop is located. Inside you can see a selection of items that have been petrified by the well and turned into stone.
I visited Mother Shipton cave and well as a child with my family and it has always been a place that, if visiting Yorkshire, I would take my boys back to experience. Mother Shipton’s is situated along the banks of the River Nidd in Knaresborough. The town is a beauty in itself and really makes a great day out for all ages. The area is unique and unspoilt and I have never seen anywhere so picturesque as here.
It is definitely a place that, hopefully, we will be visiting again.