If you’ve visited Mother Shipton’s Cave – one of England’s oldest tourist attractions – you’ll know that it’s an intriguing and quirky place that children love. If you’ve visited during the school holidays, you’ll also know that they run engaging activities for families too. We headed over to Knaresborough to check out the Mother Shipton’s Christmas Experience and we’re pleased to report that it’s another enchanting offering for kids.
We arrived just as the lights started to twinkle against the darkening skies: a warm and festive welcome. Each of the children received a red envelope as we entered, containing a template for a letter to Santa, a bag for reindeer food and a decoration for them to write their Christmas wish on. Being bang on time for our meeting with Santa, we headed straight down the fairy-lit parade to his cosy grotto. After a very funny encounter with an elf (this guy has a career in stand-up comedy), we went in to see Father Christmas. Beardy and chatty, he was just as you’d imagine, asking questions about what the children like to find in their stockings on Christmas Day and requesting mince pies and carrots for the reindeer.
He then gave the children a key each to open the door to the toy shop next door to choose their own gift. This is a great idea that should avoid disappointment in all but the hardest to please child (our children’s only disappointment was that the toy shop door was already open so they didn’t get to use the key!). The real challenge is choosing from what’s a pretty good selection of elf- and Christmas-related gifts, from soft toys to spinning lights and dancing reindeer. After what felt like an age, two of our children chose invisible ink magic pens, while the other chose a stenciling set.
We then headed to the cosy marquee where the children put their Christmas wishes on the trees and wrote their letters to Santa before stamping and posting them off to the North Pole at the ‘post office’. The kids then nagged us into buying them each a gingerbread decorating kit decorating (£2) which kept them occupied while we enjoyed a hot chocolate and a few minutes’ peace. Gingerbread decorated and eaten, and hot chocolates enjoyed, we filled our bags with reindeer food and then headed on our way. We had a lovely time at Mother Shipton’s Christmas Experience – it’s fantastically festive, very friendly and has a fun selection of hands-on activities. The grown-ups’ Christmas wish was that we’d had longer to combine it with a wander along the river and a mooch around Knaresborough, but that’s a good reason to return. New Year’s walk anyone?
Top tips: There’s no car parking at Mother Shipton’s this Christmas, so park over the road in the Conygham Hall car park (very good value at 80p for two hours). Visit in the late afternoon/evening for a really sparkly experience. It’s worth knowing that the rest of the attraction is not open during the Christmas Experience. Christmas at Mother Shipton’s runs until 23rd December. Visit the Mother Shipton’s website for the times and dates. Pre-booking is essential. Adults £5, children £12.50, under 1s free (no gift)