Wonderful walk full of history and natural art

A map of the route. Walk courtesy of The Walking Englishman
A map of the route. Walk courtesy of The Walking Englishman

There is much to see in all of the three miles of the walk from quirky old shops to a small chapel built into rock, to exquisite woodland playgrounds and much, much more.

After a mile you’ll be stopped in your tracks by excellent wood carvings which were designed and constructed by chainsaw sculptor Tommy Craggs.

After the wood carvings there is still more, including a visit to a hermit’s cave and then a walk up from the river level through more sublime woodland before following roads to the town centre, to see Blind Jack and then to complete the walk by visiting the castle.

Start off by making the short steep descent to Low Bridge.

Walk on from the main road into Abbey Road and track south.

It is not long along Abbey Road before you come to the first interesting point on the walk. Up in the cliff face to the left stands a small building built into the rock. It is the Shrine of our Lady of the Crag, a small chapel with a carving of a knight on the right hand side of the chapel door.

The chapel was built in 1408 by John the Mason and to this day remains a very special sacred site.

Continuing on the walk on Abbey Road you will come across lovely well kept houses, some grand and some humble but all remarkably managed with much loved gardens to admire.

Every homeowner seems to have pride on Abbey Road and quite appropriate for they are charmed to live in such a wonderful setting.

Walking on further you will be stopped in your tracks by the first wood carving.

Within strides you will be dumbstruck by the second carving on offer, a brilliant depiction of a tree man, much like Tolkein’s living trees in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The tree man is set above Abbey Road to the left as you walk south along the road. He is amid a lovely woodland setting, is was the third and final wood sculpture - that of a dragon stretching his long neck out as if sensing the air.

The sculptures are the work of Durham-based sculptor Tommy Craggs and he has done a wonderful job of making what is already a great walk much the more enthralling.

Tommy will only work on trees that are diseased or felled for conservation purposes. What were magnificent trees keep some stature in the legacy of the artwork.

After completing the tour of the new art gallery in the most natural surroundings, there is still much beauty to be seen from all sides.

To the right the River Nidd flows and to the left the trees, plentiful rock outcrops and fresh spring green on the ground keep your attention.

Then without really noticing you will have arrived at the site of the old abbey (or friary).

The site was home to the Trinitarian Friars of Knaresborough, founded in the 13th century. It is now vacated by friars and managed by home dwellers.

On the opposite side of the road to the abbey there still stands a fruitful orchard.

You continue further southwards along Abbey Road until you reach your end goal. You come to the site of St Robert’s Cave which is reached by following a stepped path to a flat area about 10 feet above river level.

Sitting snugly beside the River Nidd on the outskirts of Knaresborough, Saint Robert’s Cave is a rare survival of a medieval hermit’s home. This site once attracted thousands of pilgrims to this North Yorkshire town.

Robert of Knaresborough lived on this site in the late 12th and early 13th centuries.

Pilgrims flocked to Robert in his lifetime, and they continued to come to the cave in large numbers for centuries after his death in 1218. Pilgrims came to be healed of physical ailments, for spiritual direction, or simply to be in close proximity to the home of a revered holy man.

The small cave is carved into the face of the limestone cliff, and the remains of a chapel and Robert’s living area survive. The site retains a remarkable atmosphere of distant times

From St Robert’s Cave, make your way back up the steps to Abbey Road which you follow back this time northwards before turning off to head up a woodland track to above the limestone rock cliffs.

The walk at a height of about 20 metres above Abbey Road is very good along tracks lined by trees

There are two highlights yet to come on the finale as you leave the wooded tracks to follow street footpaths into the town centre.

The first is in the town square itself as you make the acquaintance of Blind Jack of Knaresborough.

Blind Jack was John Metcalf, who lived a long life from 1717 until 1810. He was the most interesting of men, living a life without sight and yet achieving national fame as a road-maker and surveyor during the Industrial Revolution.

After spending time at the statue of Blind Jack, walk back further in time from the Industrial Revolution to the Norman Conquests and Medieval Barons by visiting the ruins of Knaresborough Castle.

The view over Nidd Gorge in Knaresborough is stunning and a fitting end to this short walk.