Rain or shine, with its spectacular viaduct and labyrinth of cobbled streets and stone-flagged steps, Knaresborough is one of my favourite day trips from Leeds. A stone’s throw from the spa town of Harrogate – and a direct train away from Leeds – this picturesque market town was the perfect pick-me-up after my brain-draining French speaking exam (une discussion sur l’immigration et le «Brexit», je me suis éclatée!).
When we arrived, we ventured straight down the steep hill to the waterfront, which is lined with rowing boats, charming buildings from the 19th century and a handful of independent cafés. We continued wandering along Waterside, until we reached the shoreline of the river – which we had all to ourselves, grâce à la pluie.
Leaving the sound of birdsong and rushing water behind, we continued on towards Low Bridge. After crossing the bridge we wandered around Low Bridge Gardens, a peaceful patch of greenery with swathes of tiny white flowers right by the riverbank, also featuring an old boat filled with flowers in bloom.
We then continued along Abbey Road until we reached the House in the Rock and the Chapel of Our Lady of the Crag. The House in the Rock (also known as Fort Montague) more closely resembles a castle turret or miniature fortress poking out of the cliff and, unfortunately, is not open to the public – though I suspect the views from it would be nothing short of spectacular! If you want to learn more about this centuries-old curiosity, click here. The Chapel of our Lady of the Crag is open in the summer months, though only on Sundays (2pm-4pm).
A brisk walk back towards the viaduct and a lot of steps later, we reached Bebra Gardens – formerly Moat Gardens, and subsequently renamed after Knaresborough’s twin town in Germany. The trees provided some light relief from the rain, and unsurprisingly we were virtually the only people wandering round the park! The seemingly grassy slope was definitely on the verge of becoming a slippery mudslide . . .
After wandering around the compact town centre, and its olde-worlde courtyards, we decided to escape the rain in Drakes (3-5 Silver Street). A couple of years back, we’d opted for a take-away fish and chips and eaten in the castle grounds – but this time we chose to stay inside and warm up with several cups of tea alongside our fish and chips!
Stomachs satisfied, we set off to explore the castle grounds which overlook the river. They were beautifully landscaped, with pristine flowerbeds filled with tulips, strawberry-and-cream coloured daisies and other brightly-coloured plants. The real highlight, however, is the incredible postcard-perfect view of the River Nidd and the railway viaduct from the viewpoint in front of the medieval castle’s remains.
We ended our day with a wander along the river – towards High Bridge – and through Mackintosh Park (which in fact is more like Mackintosh Woodland) before catching the train home. Knaresborough is a quintessentially British day out – and if you haven’t yet been, I hope this post has convinced you that you should! If you need an excuse to go, how about the prospect of viewing the annual Great Knaresborough Bed Race on Saturday 11th June?