Posted: 3/8/2007


    They have been setting up stalls at a market in the main square in the small town of Knaresborough in North Yorkshire, 4 miles from Harrogate, since 1310 AD and now its held every Wednesday.  I bought 5 kinds of my favourite Wensleydale cheese today at a small vendor's stall. The town has a spectacular setting, 130 feet above the gorge of the River Nidd, with a great view from the castle grounds high above. Built in the 12th Century by Baron Sergio de Burg, it was mostly destroyed by Parliamentary forces in 1646. It was Hugh de Morvil, Constable of the castle that despatched 4 knights to murder Thomas a Beckett, Archbishop of Canterbury, on the steps of his altar in 1170 AD.  Richard II was imprisoned in the castle in 1399 then taken to Pontefract Castle in 1400 and murdered there. Guy Fawkes of the Gunpowder Plot also lived in Knareborough for a time, and Edward II and Oliver Cromwell also stayed a while.

    Getting there is usually a delight. Harrogate & District owned by the big Transdev Company, operate what is probably THE best bus service in the whole of Europe. Its called 36 and runs between Leeds-Harrogate-Ripon every 20 minutes, and then change to the 101 from harrogate bus station every 8-10 minutes.The upper deck has spacious high back leather seats for great sightseeing. I  could close my eyes and think of when I used to travel on the Pan-Am Clipper across the North Atlantic and the South Pacific in style.  You pass the stately home of Harewood House, with its  herd of deer, pheasants munching away in the grass, some racehorses resting between training,and lots of flocks of sheep with new born lambs frolicking and enjoying their short life . I love little lambs! Six months from now BAM !! and delicious lamb chops, shoulder of lamb, rack of lamb, leg of lamb, lamb sausages, all with mint sauce and new potatoes. No sentiment here where my stomach is concerned!!

    I was chatting with the 3 gardeners who were raking leaves on the crown bowling green that will open again around Easter time and complementing them on the fields of white, yellow, purple and  violet crocuses that were all over ,and the displays of yellow daffodils that were blooming early.  There are even more spectacular displays in the large spa town of Harrogate along the rich green lawns of The Stray as you approach that town.

  'Blind Jack' Metcalf was born here 1n 1717 and contracted smallpox as a child and lost his sight. It didn't prevent him from building lots of roads in Yorkshire and being a great violinist, a swimmer and a smuggler. He died in 1810 age 93. In the market square THE BLIND JACK is one of many fine pubs I can recommend. I had a great pub lunch of roast lamb, mint sauce, potatoes, carrots and cauliflower plus a dessert of apple crumble and hot custard sauce at THE OLD ROYAL OAK, and on a previous visit I had roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and all the trimmings at THE HART. You can rent a row boat on the river below next to one of two spectacular stone bridges and every June they have the Bed Race, with a team of six pushers and 1 passenger racing through the narrow streets and across the river. Not all of them make it to the other bank.

   Nearby is Mother Shipton's Cave. where, if you leave an umbrella, hat coat etc it will petrify due to the limestone residue.  Mother Shipton was born here in 1488 and became a famous prophetess, predicting the Great Fire of London, The Great Plague and even her own death, to the day and to the hour.

    Also in the tiny market square is the oldest chemist's shop in England YE OLDE CHYMIST SHOPPE open since 1760. You can still see The bleeding couch, used for dental work and they still sell the famous lavender water. A few years ago THE LAVENDER ROOMS, a restaurant was opened upstairs.