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England's oldest tourist attraction reopens

by Jay Stelling of Mother Shipton's Cave and Petrifying Well

Storms, flooding, and a global pandemic. It’s safe to say that this wasn’t quite what we were expecting on our 390th anniversary! If only Mother Shipton had warned us…


It has certainly been challenging year for us here at England’s Oldest Tourist Attraction. We had been working hard preparing to reopen after the winter and planning for our Easter adventure trail when we were hit by horrendous storms – namely Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis.

These storms flooded the attraction, tore down ancient trees, caused two landslides, and washed away the fences and signs around the Petrifying Well. Our audio boxes, which tell the story of the prophetess who was born in a cave, were silenced by the overflowing river.


Then along came the virus, and we made the decision to close our gates to keep everyone safe from the 20th March. When usually we would be encouraging visitors and tourists to explore the town of Knaresborough, we instead promoted the Stay at Home message.

It was so strange to see the platform under the Petrifying Well quiet, with no noise but the birdsong and trickling of water over the lonely stone bears, when it would usually have been buzzing with the chatter of visitors who have travelled from all over the globe to see this unique geological phenomenon.

The cave where the famous prophetess Mother Shipton was born in a thunderstorm in 1488 has stayed eerily empty while the country stayed home and stayed safe for almost three months.


We used lockdown as an opportunity to fix the problems caused by extreme weather earlier in the year and to prepare to make the space safe for visitors when they would be able to return. We installed signage, introduced one-way systems, and organised a time-based booking system for cars only to reduce contact upon admission. We had to cancel our Easter and May Half Term events, but arranged a Pixie Village Trail for our reopening to span throughout the Summer with clues and photo opportunities hidden in the woodland.


Our first weekend with these new restrictions in place was a great success, with visitors flowing steadily through the park throughout the day. There has been space for visitors to feel confident and safe, with lots of picnics on the grass, couples having a peaceful stroll and kids getting some good old fresh air with our Pixie Village trail. We have had many families visiting for their first outing since the start of lockdown!

We are continuing to open for pre-booked tickets only. For £20 per car (max 7 people per car), visitors can explore the historic woodland, see the Cave and the Petrifying well, explore the Pixie Village trail and visit the gift shop. The adventure playground will remain closed until the government allows for play parks to reopen. Visitors receive a guidebook with information about the attraction and the legend of Mother Shipton.

Proof of the Pudding

Here’s just some of the great feedback we have received via Facebook this weekend:

“Thank you for a lovely day, our first family day out since lockdown. Really well organised and not overbooked. Impressed to see the toilets being cleaned after each person and the staff were really friendly. Recommend to anyone, definitely felt safe and lovely to go back to such a magical place.”

“Thank you so much. We had a lovely time. The pixie village is delightful. We really enjoyed our first day out since March!!”

We are delighted to finally be back open, and to be able to offer a safe and fun day out for families (and their dogs too!).

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