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The town lies around 30 minutes outside the centre of York and close to towns such as Harrogate and Ripon. It’s the perfect day trip option when in Yorkshire with some beautiful things to see and do. I found its history fascinating so this post aims to tell Knaresborough’s story through 3 main themes – the Royals, the River and the Railway.

The Royals

The first stone castle in Knaresborough was built in 1066 after the Norman conquest. In the 1200s it was extended by King John and used as his Yorkshire base. The castle was a very important centre in the 1200s and King John even made the first known Royal Maundy presentation here – clothing 13 paupers in the town.

The castle that stands today was built in the 1300s by Edward II, and John of Gaunt (a famous Duke of Lancaster) inherited the castle in 1372 and it has belonged to the Duchy of Lancaster ever since. This means it’s ultimately Crown property and owned by the King.

Another Royal link in the town is St John the Baptist Church. Records of a church on this site date back to at least 1114 when records show that King Henry I granted the “Church at Cnaresburgh” to the canons at Nostell. Today the church is beautiful inside and out, perched high above the River Nidd.

The River

Knaresborough lies alongside the River Nidd, in the Nidd Gorge – carved out of sandstone by nature over 16,000 years ago. Nidd comes from the Celtic word meaning hidden – because up the valley a little, the river disappears underground.

Water has always been central to Knaresborough, being a source of food and drink, a transport route and a vital part of the economy once waterwheels had been invented and mills were up and running. Mills here powered paper mills, cotton mills and enabled linen making too. In fact, so good was the linen made here, the local company (Waltons) was appointed by Queen Victoria to supply all the royal households in 1838. The historic Dye House is virtually all that’s left now of the industry, although you can still explore the river by hiring a boat.

The Railway

The most famous landmark in Knaresborough is its mighty Viaduct, erected in 1851 (after its first attempt in 1848 fell in to the water and caused the river to rise by 12ft!). The Viaduct was open as a railway line from 1862 which ran to Harrogate. Trains still go over it today, and it’s a feat of engineering that’s for sure.

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