A historic Knaresborough Castle walk, exploring the old town of Knaresborough with options to visit local attractions. The route then heads off along the Harrogate Ringway into the surrounding countryside before cutting back to the River Nidd to make a circuit around the south and west of the town.
River Nidd & Knaresborough Castle Walk Overview
Distance: 7.4 Miles (12km)
Total Ascent: 858ft / 261m
Time: 3hr 30m
Map: Ordnance Survey Explorer 289 (Leeds)
Get this route on the OS maps website & app
The time is loosely based on Naismith’s Rule and will vary depending on the walker.
Park in the York Place Long Stay Car Park on the A59, on the eastern edge of the town (HG5 0AD) – Pay & Display parking with toilet facilities
The easiest way to get to Knaresborough by public transport is by train. From the train station follow information signs to the castle to pick up the walk from there. Knaresborough is also served by local buses, although this is most likely to involve traveling via Leeds, a bus to Harrogate, and then a local service to the small bus station by the Knaresborough Market Place.
York Place to Knaresborough Castle
From the York Place car park, turn right onto the main road and walk up to the traffic-light-controlled junction. Continue in the same direction, crossing over to The Board Inn, and make your way through the Knaresborough bus station.
After the bus station, turn half-left down Silver Street, signposted to “Market Place”. The market square in the centre of the town is filled with interesting shops, including the “Oldest Chemist Shoppe” which is now a tea room. However, it was, up until modern times, a Chemist’s shop.
Leave the marketplace by Castlegate (as if walking straight ahead from Silver Street) and pass Green Dragon Yard on your left. Green Dragon Yard, tucked away through the driveway boasts an art gallery, vintage tea room (coeliac and vegan friendly), traditional sweet shop, and more.
After Green Dragon Yard, turn right at the T-junction and bear left into Knaresborough Castle grounds. The 12th-century Norman castle stands atop the crags overlooking the River Nidd, and it is from here that you can find the iconic view of the Knaresborough Viaduct and the Nidd, the feature of many a postcard before heading to the keep itself, a focal point on this Knaresborough Castle walk.
Knaresborough Castle and Courthouse
The castle is well worth a visit with a reasonable entry fee which also gains you entry to the Tudor Courthouse museum. The museum is small but interesting with displays of local and English Civil War history together with the old magistrate’s court.
The courthouse sits only a stone’s throw from the modern police station, and it is for the justice system that the ruins of Knaresborough Castle Keep still stand. Following the Parliamentarian victory, it was decreed that the Royalist castle should be destroyed. Much of the castle was torn down with the stone re-used to build much of the town. The keep was allowed to remain because it contained the dungeon, conveniently sited across from the courthouse. This is where those accused of petty offenses would be held, then taken across the green for trial.
Walking around Knaresborough Castle itself doesn’t take too long as there is not much left although the dungeons and the throne room allow you to imagine the structure before its demolition.
Whilst exploring, don’t forget to take a look from the cliff top at the Nidd and the viaduct, a view that has not changed noticeably for decades. When you are finished investigating the castle, it is time to continue on, down to the riverside.
Knaresborough Castle Walk to Gallow Hill
From the castle grounds, take the path down to the left of the castle, which heads clockwise around the keep. Turn left at a path junction and follow the steps and sloping path as it winds its way down to the river.
Head right along Waterside drive, passing a riverside cafe and boat hire, and under the iconic viaduct. Continue along the minor road all the way to the end at the Worlds End Inn. Cross the road by the crossing and turn left, over the road bridge and then turn right opposite the entrance to Mother Shipton’s Cave
Pass through the gate and walk along this section of the Beryl Burton Cycleway along the left bank of the Nidd. On reaching a path junction turn half-left (signposted Starbeck/Bilton), then, immediately before the barriers, bear half-right up the footpath. Continue along the unsurfaced path to reach another junction, then bear half-left on a graveled bath towards a bench.
After passing the bench keep straight ahead through a gate beside a narrow cattle grid and follow this surfaced path until it meets a road, with the gates of Bilton Hall to the right. Turn left along this minor road (Bilton Hall Drive) and follow it until it emerges at the main A59 road.
Turn right and follow the path beside the A59 as far as the traffic lights. Cross the main road at the lights before turning left onto Forest Lane. Along Forest Lane pass the entrance to the recreation ground on your right, and continue straight ahead crossing Moorland View. Pass two houses after Moorland View and then turn left onto a gravel track, signed as a Public Footpath.
Follow the obvious footpath route as it heads right then left behind the golf course. Cross the railway line with care where the clear path leads over the crossing. Pass through a gate and down the left side of a field. You can see the spire of the Holy Trinity Church in Knaresborough to the left.
At the bottom of the field, turn left, passing between two metal gates. Walk up the field which gently ascends with a hedgerow on your left. Cross a stile and continue straight ahead. After passing another stile the path bears slightly right. (at the time of writing, October 2022, the stile was redundant and collapsed). The steeple can be clearly seen over the treetops to your left.
Gallow Hill to Gimbal Bridge
Continue into a narrow field and over a stile at the far end. Follow the narrow path which descends through scrub between houses and emerges at a road. Head left down the road towards Mother Shipton Inn at Knaresborough Low Bridge. Before reaching the inn, turn right down Spitalcroft, a private road/public footpath. Follow Spitalcroft to the very end then follow the public footpath which passes right of Eden Roc.
Go through two squeeze gates and keep straight ahead, signposted “Grimbald Bridge”. The woodland path climbs briefly then bears left and descends again with the River Nidd below on your left. Keep generally left along the riverside path.
The path leaves the riverbank for a while as it passes to the right of Stepping Stones House. After passing the house walk along the drive briefly then keep straight ahead on the footpath with a fence on either side. The path soon rejoins the riverbank. Keep following the riverside path. After an old wooden jetty, stay left, stepping over a fallen tree to follow the bankside path. Cross an unusual plank bridge that squeezes between two tree trunks and ascend the steps.
Follow the footpath beside a static caravan park – the path then enters the park. Bear slightly left along the drive as you briefly pass through the end of the park. At the end of the drive, head up the steps to the footpath which climbs up above the weir. Walk along the narrow path which soon descends to another caravan park.
Keep straight ahead beside the river through Lido Caravan Park, passing a cafe on your left. Stay straight ahead on the drive passing behind farm buildings on your right and follow this drive, passing beside a gate to reach the main road.
Grimbald Bridge & St Robert’s Cave to The Chapel
Turn left alongside the road, crossing Grimbald Bridge. Just after the bridge turn left up Abbey Road. After a short while at a small layby on your left, look for the gate heading left down to St Robert’s Cave. Turn left through the gate to explore the cave beside the river, where Robert of Knaresborough lived as a hermit.
After exploring the cave, return to Abbey Road and continue left along the lane. Follow Abbey Lane for a little more than half a mile. A little after the road sweeps right then slightly left, keep a lookout for a footpath on your right with steps heading upwards. The path is roughly opposite the driveway gates of a property named “The Abbey”
Climb the steps then follow the path above the crag. Keeping close to the fence on your left, join a parallel path behind houses and continue straight ahead. The path meanders behind houses on your right with a fence and hedge to your left. At a path junction with a fingerpost pointing left (Public Footpath) turn left and descend the steps.
On reaching another signposted junction continue straight ahead. Cross a driveway and continue ahead, following the Public Footpath signage up 2 steps. The path descends across the slope and emerges back on Abbey Road.
Follow Abbey Road with the cliffs overhanging to reach the Chapel of Our Lady of the Crag, a Marian shrine cut into the sandstone. The chapel is open as a visitor attraction in the summer months.
Pass the chapel and head to the end of Abbey Road, at the junction with the B6163 on the north side of Low Bridge. If you look to the left you can see the Mother Shipton’s Inn that you passed the other side of earlier.
Low Bridge & Bebra Gardens Return Through Knaresborough
Cross the road and continue ahead onto Waterside for approximately 1/4 of a mile. Pass the Waterside car park on your left, then as the road turns slightly right, turn right to climb the steps signposted to Bebra Gardens.
At the top of the flight of steps, turn left into Bebra Gardens to explore the small park of mature trees and conifers. As you walk through the park, work your way up however you choose, to the top right corner.
Exit Bebra Gardens onto a side road. Go straight ahead up Brewerton Street before turning right onto Wellington Street. At the junction turn left up Gracious Street to pass the Holy Trinity Church, the spire of which you could see earlier as you walked across fields.
Continue along Gracious Street to the traffic lights. At this point, to conclude the walk you can turn right and follow the main road back to the car park to conclude your Knaresborough Castle Walk.
If you wish to explore more of the town of Knaresborough, turning left and walking along the main shopping street eventually takes you to signposts to the railway station, where trains arrive over the well-known viaduct. Next to the station is the 12th-century Church of St. John the Baptist. Cafes, tea shops, and pubs are plentiful in and around the town centre if you wish to turn your walk into an all-day visit.