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Member Name: SWSt
Mother Shiptons Cave & Petrifying Well (Knaresborough)
Date: 20/08/13, updated on 21/08/13 (49 review reads)
Advantages: Interesting and different, nice use of audio with informative information boards
Disadvantages: Not brilliant value for money, pressure selling from staff, very poor facilities
For those of you who have never heard of her, Mother Shipton is essentially the Yorkshire equivalent of Nostradamus. Like Nostradamus, she was a 16th Century prophet who wrote her predictions in verse, which had to be interpreted before they could be understood. Like Nostradamus, many of her prophecies (predicting the motor car, space travel and submarines) have come to pass; others remain shrouded in mystery. And, like all good prophets, she has also predicted when the world will end.
I Predict This Paragraph Will Tell You About Mother Shipton
Legend says that Mother Shipton was born out of wedlock to a mother who refused to name the father. To escape persecution, she fled to a cave in the woods, where locals feared to go, believing the woods to be cursed. There she gave birth and raised her daughter in a cave for two years. As she started to prophesy, her fame spread and people came from far and wide to learn the future from her, including Henry VIII who sent some of his counsellors to meet with her.
Find The Path and You Will Find Yourself (at Mother Shipton's Cave)
Mother Shipton's Cave and Petrifying Well sits on the very edge of the village of Knaresborough in North Yorkshire. There are two ways into the attraction: a main entrance which includes a car park, or a pedestrian only entrance at the opposite end of the attraction. We used the latter, although we actually missed it first time around because it's not all that obvious. The entrance sits right on the corner of the main road out of the village and really doesn't look like the entrance to a tourist attraction at all. In fact, it looks more like the entrance to a garage than a tourist attraction!
A Fool and His Money Are Soon Parted
The biggest downside to Mother Shipton's Cave is the cost. Admission at 2013 prices is £6 per adult, plus a further £2 parking fee if you approach via the drive-in entrance. This made the cost for Mrs SWSt and me £14, which is quite a lot for what we got. In fairness, the car parking charge is cheaper than you would pay in Knaresborough itself and you can always leave the car where it is once you've finished and pop into the village, which is handy.
For that price you do get admission to two different attractions, the Petrifying Well and Mother Shipton's Cave, but whilst both are interesting, neither will detain you for more than about 45 minutes in total. Elsewhere, facilities are very limited. There is just one set of toilets in the whole attraction (at the drive-in entrance) a small, rather uninspiring museum (mainly containing items left in the Petrifying Well by famous people) and a very understocked gift shop that had nothing to tempt me. There was nowhere to buy refreshments either. There was a café but it was shut when we went and didn't look like it had been open for quite some time.
We also got the feeling that visitors to the park are seen as little more open chequebooks, with staff trained to pressure people into giving more money. As we drove into the park, the man who took our entrance fee asked if we would like a guide book. We said "no thank you" and he asked if we had been there before. When we replied no, he sarcastically said "Good luck finding your way then". As a result, we decided perhaps we had better buy one.
In fact, finding your way round is very easy. There's only one major path through the venue and everything is well signed posted, so it's virtually impossible to go wrong. This led us to the conclusion that the main was simply saying that in order to get us to buy a book.
In fairness, it was actually quite a good book, packed with interesting information and easy and fun to read. It also only cost £1, so it didn't exactly break the bank. Still, when we realised we had effectively been lied to, it did leave a slightly sour taste in the mouth.
The Gift of Foresight (well, two sites actually)
As noted above, there are actually two attractions at the site (or three depending on how you count): the Petrifying Well - a rocky overhang down which drips water with such a high mineral content that it turns things to stone within 3-6 months, a wishing well (where, if you follow precise instructions, your wishes will come true) and Mother Shipton's Cave itself.
These are all located together within a few hundred metres of each other and, in different ways, are all really interesting to look at, although in themselves, none of them will detain you for more than about 10 minutes. Each one is accompanied by either some well written information boards (although the writers had real problems with apostrophes) or an audio track that tells the story of that particular part. The audio tour in particular is well-written and nicely narrated. There's the option to listen to the adult version (which contains more facts and figures) or a children's version ("narrated" by Mother Shipton herself). Each lasts for about 5 minutes (the cave one is slightly longer) and manages to give a lot of information without making the visitor read lots and lots of text.
After you've seen each of these three, you do rather feel like you're at a bit of a loose end. You'll only have spent around 30-45 minutes at the attraction, but will feel you should spend longer there to get your money's worth. The trouble is, there's not really anything more for you to do (although you can go for a walk through the woodlands) so you find yourself heading for the exit by default, feeling somehow a little short-changed, even though you have enjoyed what you have seen.
Whether you approach the attraction from the pedestrian entrance or the car entrance, you have to walk to the cave and the well. It's not particularly long (around a quarter of a mile) and uses well-defined woodland paths so it should be possible to get pushchairs, wheelchairs or mobility scooters along it. However, there are half a dozen or so steps leading down to the well and the cave itself. Again, these are not particularly steep or tricky, but you do need to have at least some mobility to get down them.
According to someone we spoke to, Mother Shipton's Cave was recently voted "worst tourist destination" in Yorkshire, which I think is a little harsh. Yes, it's rather expensive with few facilities and it won't detain you for very long; yes, the welcome we got was a touch unfriendly but we enjoyed our visit overall. It's not somewhere we are ever likely to return to, but neither do we regret going. If you're in the area and have an hour to kill, it's interesting enough.
Mother Shipton's Cave
Prophecy Lodge, High Bridge
(c) Copyright SWSt 2013
Summary: Well worth a visit, although you're unlikely to return
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