Hidden in what remains of the Royal Forest of Knaresborough and overlooking the River Nidd is one of Britain’s oldest and most unusual destinations. Located between an ancient wishing well and a witch’s cave is the Petrifying Well. For centuries people have placed everyday objects in the dripping waters and been amazed to see them slowly turn to stone over just a few weeks. In fact, the object is just acquiring a hard shell of minerals in much the same way as stalactites and stalagmites form in a cave. What is truly amazing is the speed of this geological phenomena. What often takes decades if not centuries is achieved here in around three to five months although large teddy bears and clothing can take between six to 12 months. The most remarkable petrified objects are now just two bulges in the sheet of flowstone but they were one a Victorian top hat and a lady’s bonnet left at the waterfall in 1853. It is the only spring and well of its kind in the United Kingdom.
The Petrifying Well and Mother Shipton’s Cave is hidden a section of riverside forest that was once a great royal park owned by King Charles I. In 1630 it was sold to the Slingsby family and the area was later developed by Sir Henry Slingsby, 5th Baronet (1693-1763) into a mysterious Long Walk for the amusement of the family and their guests. In effect it became an extended set of follies.
Once the news of the well’s ‘magical’ power began to spread it rapidly became a ‘must see’ destination for the nobility of Britain. It is often described as the UK’s first official tourist attraction. During the Georgian and Victorian periods Harrogate and Knaresborough became popular with the gentry of England and the Petrifying well was a popular destination to visit as a part of the ritual of promenading in the afternoon.
Millions of people was visited the well over the past four hundred years and yet it still remains one of Britain’s hidden gems. The petrifying well is a stone’s throw from Mother Shipton’s cave that was once home to England’s most famous fortune teller and, some say, witch. It is a short distance down river from Knaresborough Castle and the river weir.
It’s fair to say that the petrifying well would be mysterious enough on its own but the area is also rich with tales of doomsday prophecies, cursed witches and magical money trees. For more about these please see Mother Shipton’s Cave.
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
Bar Lane, Roecliffe, Boroughbridge
North Yorkshire, England, YO51 9LS
+44 (0)1423 322 683
- Address: A59 Harrogate Rd, Prophecy Lodge, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, England, UK, HG5 8DD
- GPS: 54.0036,-1.471005556
- Phone: 0044 (0) 1423 864 600
- Part of UK: England
- Sat Nav Postcode: HG5 8DD
- Entrance Fees: Yes
- Disabled Access: Very difficult for the mobility impaired / gravel paths / steep stairs
- Visibility from Road: None
- Image Credits: Header Image: Paul Vincent