Mother Shipton’s Cave and the Petrifying Well is a fabulous tourist attraction in my hometown of Knaresborough. This unique site opened its doors for the first time this Christmas revealing the Christmas Experience attraction. I was lucky enough to be invited along with my family to experience for myself what was on offer. I have to say I usually have to travel for anything like this so it is great that this was in my hometown and close to all the fabulous local amenities that Knaresborough has to offer.
To be honest, the actual location of the attraction lends itself to the magic of Christmas. Situated on the banks of the River Nidd with the iconic Knaresborough Castle in the background, it is easy to be drawn into a world of magic and make believe. We arrived at Mother Shipton’s around 2pm on a dark, gloomy and very cold day, but to be honest this only made the attraction more welcoming. We were greeted by a vast array of twinkling fairy lights and friendly staff which suddenly made the poor weather all the more irrelevant.
Before you enter the main part of the attraction there is a small Christmas shop located at the entrance full of decorations and unique gifts. You can visit the shop without entering the main Christmas Experience. On entering through the main gates we were welcomed by the lovely staff who explained what the Christmas Experience was all about. I had taken my three year old grandson who was mesmerised by the whole set up as soon as we entered the gates. My grandson was given a red envelope which contained our suggested activities for our visit. More about the red envelope later! I know we all say Christmas is for the younger generation but I do think grown ups need this type of activity in our lives too. We all need to escape from the real world and retreat to our childhood when things were simple. So, for me I love attractions that appeal to the adults too and this certainly did.
After a quick look round the site, we headed for the heated marquee style tent, of which there are two. The heated tent was a welcome relief from the bitter cold weather which was getting worse by the minute, I have to say. The inside of these heated tents had been beautifully decorated with fairy lights, Christmas wall pictures and lots of rustic style seating. Each table had a lovely centrepiece of a wooden twig style tree and it was lovely to see families sat at the tables chatting and relaxing.
And so, back to the red envelope. My grandson Rory opened his envelope and inside he had a letter to Santa, a small plastic bag labelled reindeer food and a tag entitled ‘Christmas Wish’. His first activity was to write his letter to Santa (with help of course) and then pop it in the red envelope provided. Then we chatted to him about what wish he wanted to make. All the adults said for our wish we wanted ‘peace on earth’ and an end to the political squabbling going on at the moment. But Rory said he just wanted some Lego for Christmas. So we wrote on the card Rory’s wish and he went to hang it on one of the wish trees that were located inside the tent.
After warming up nicely we then headed for the Post Office which is just opposite the tent. This is the nicest and cutest Post Office I have ever seen ( and I have been in a few!) Designed inside a small log cabin ( but big enough for adults to get in to) this was beautifully decorated and gave a real authentic feeling. Inside Rory stamped his letter (to make sure it got to Santa at the North Pole) and then we headed outside to post the letter in the cute post box.
With the most important job done, Rory then took his empty plastic bag and filled it with reindeer food which was provided in a wooden crate. This is then for the child to take home and scatter on the garden on Christmas Eve so the reindeers have food for when they visit. This is such a lovely idea and Rory was very excited to do this.
It was then time for the most important activity of the afternoon – meeting Santa ! The meetings with Santa are all timed so there is no huge queue or large crowds for you to contend with. We were greeted by a lovely young man dressed in costume who was fabulous at interacting with visitors. He even got us doing a little elf dance which yours truly enjoyed very much. And so into Santa’s grotto which was lovely and warm and snug. The grotto was beautifully designed and was so successful of portraying a grotto in the North Pole just as you would imagine. We all sat around Santa on white fur lined seats and it really was magical. I have been in grottos where the adults stand around awkwardly, but this one was so well done. It felt unrushed and personal and the atmosphere was cosy and authentic. It was one of the best grottos I have been in. We had a long chat with Santa who was also a fabulous Santa. He was very much as I would imagine Santa to be and was friendly, kind and jolly.
Following our chat with Santa, Rory was given a key from Santa and we left the grotto to go next door to the Toy Shop. This was inside a beautifully decorated wooden log cabin filled with toys and helped by a jolly elf, Rory was able to choose his own toy. As we came out of the Toy Shop I noticed that the light had dropped and it really made the attraction even more realistic. The twinkling fairy lights looked just magical set against the decorated tents and log cabins. A smattering of real snow was all that it needed to make you think you were actually in the North Pole. Sadly it was raining, not snowing, but to be honest that didn’t spoil our visit. After all it is December in the UK so it is to be expected.
There was also an activity where the children could decorate their own gingerbread men which they can eat or take home. This was priced at an extra £2 but was worth the extra cost as it looked like a fun activity.
So, my final thoughts on this new Christmas attraction at Mother Shipton’s? Well, I was very impressed. A lot of hard work and thought had gone into the design of the event to try make it as attractive to both children and adults. The organisers had tried to create a little village in the North Pole and I really think they achieved this. The tiny details that went into the design were so well thought out and this was obvious. The bag of reindeer food, the stamp in the Post Office and the heated tents were just a few of the details that helped make this a success. I especially loved the relaxed atmosphere ( which is probably due to the timed ticket process.) I have been to similar events where is it utter chaos with long queues to see Santa which is no fun for the children or the adults. I am glad to say the Mother Shipton’s Christmas Experience is free from all this hassle and is problem free, which was a joy to be honest.
Everyone at Mother Shipton’s should be proud of themselves for a fabulous event, especially as it is their first year at doing this. The event is running until the 23rd Dec and there are still tickets available online. Parking is available in Conyngham Hall Car Park which is just over the road from the Christmas Experience. Drinks and snacks are also available at the Christmas Experience. Public toilets are also available within the site.
For more information please pop over to the website on http://www.mothershipton.co.uk/
Hope you all have a lovely Christmas.
Until next time dear friends
** Thank you to the lovely folk at Mother Shipton’s for inviting me and my family to the Christmas Experience. All words, photos and thoughts are my own **