Mother Shipton's Cave

Useful Information

Location: In Knaresborough, near York. 6,5 km east of Harrogate, 27 km west of York, 29 km north of Leeds. A1(M) exit 47, turn west on A59, 6,5 km to Knaresborough.
(54.008713, -1.474846)
Open: APR to OCT Mon-Fri 10-16:30, Sat, Sun, Hol 10-17:30.
School Holidays daily 9-17:30.
Last entry 30 min before closing.
Fee: Car (-5) GBP 25, Adults GBP 8, Children (0-2) free.
School Holidays + Term Time weekdays:
Car (-5) GBP 30, Adults GBP 10, Children (0-2) free.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave SpeleologyTufa Cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: self guided, V=65,000/a [2008]
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Diana Windsor (1990): Mother Shipton's Prophecy Book - The story of her life and her most famous prophecies, Knaresborough 1990
Address: Mother Shiptons Cave Ltd, Prophesy Lodge, High Bridge, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire HG5 8DD, Tel: +44-11423-864600, Fax: +44-11423-868888. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1488 Ursula Sontheil born in a riverside cave at Knaresborough, who became known as Mother Shipton.
1538 first written mention of the Petrifying Well.
1630 Petrifying Well first opened to the public.
1641 first book with Mother Shipton's prophecies published.
2001 bought by Adrian and Liz Sayers.
SEP-2009 put up for sale for GBP 1.8 million.


Mother Shipton's Cave and the Petrifying Well are both very similar geological features. The water leaving the limestone at the well is loaded with dissolved limestone. This solution works, as the water contains small amounts of carbon dioxide CO2, which makes it a (very weak) acid. When the water leaves the rock, the carbon dioxide leaves the water and the water is no longer able to keep the limestone in solution.

The result of this chemical process is obvious: anything placed in the water of the well is coated by calcite very quickly. This is often called petrifying. Every karst spring shows this effect, but depending on the size of the spring and the chemistry of the water, the effect is sometimes, like here, much more obvious.

The cave itself is a result of the same process. The limestone deposited around the spring forms plateaus, rims and waterfalls and is called tufa or sometimes travertine. The tufa grows forming overhanging cliffs, and in very rare cases the cavern below this cliff remains as a so called primary cave, a cave formed at the same time as the surrounding rock.

Mother Shipton's Cave is a small tufa cave. Legend says, it was the birth place and the home of Mother Shipton, who actually was a woman called Ursula Sontheil who was born in 1488. Her birth and her life where rather extraordinary, she predicted several important historical events, like the Spanish Armada, the Great Fire of London and the Great Plague in 1665. So the place today focuses on Mother Shipton and not on the geological situation. To read more about this topic, please follow the links below.