Situated in the very heart of England, the county of Nottinghamshire is known as the land of Robin Hood, the heroic outlaw famous for robbing the rich to feed the poor. The legacy of Robin Hood resonates across the county, from the ancient oak trees of Sherwood Forest to the historic city streets of Nottingham, whose Sheriff was Robin’s main adversary.
Besides originating the myth and legend of Robin Hood, the region has other literary connections. Nottingham’s oldest public park, the Arboretum Park is known to be the place that inspired J.M. Barrie’s novel Peter Pan, while beyond the city is the ancestral home of the poet Lord Byron and the birthplace of writer D.H. Lawrence. An inspirational place to these great writers, Nottinghamshire is sure to inspire you too.
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Nottinghamshire is a county in the heart of England. Its principal city, Nottingham, is 1h 40m north of London by train.
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A 17th-century former farmhouse set in three acres of private grounds to the north of Nottingham, Cockliffe Country House Hotel offers 11 luxurious bedrooms and a modern English and European a la carte menu, including a delightful afternoon tea served daily.
A converted Georgian townhouse in central Nottingham, the Lace Market Hotel is a stylish boutique option with 42 bedrooms, a smart restaurant, and its very own AA rosette pub, the Cock & Hoop for more casual drinking and dining.
Or for easy access to Sherwood Forest, The Sherwood Hideaway offers luxury lodges just a stone’s throw away from the woodlands and wildlife of the forest.
The Ducal Palace and Grounds and cave systems of Nottingham Castle are currently set to re-open in early 2021 after a £29.4 million effort to improve and restore its 1,000 years of history for future visitors. The 11th-century Norman castle was built to establish the rule of law over this notoriously rebellious city – both the city and castle are associated with the legendary outlaw Robin Hood, as well as with significant kings including William the Conqueror, Richard the Lionheart, and Richard III.
In the meantime, nearby is the largest medieval building in Nottingham, St. Mary’s Church. Or head north to another castle in Nottinghamshire, Newark Castle and Garden which has been sitting along the River Trent for nearly 900 years. Take a guided tour, learn about King John and his links to the site at the castle’s exhibition, and take a stroll through the Victorian gardens.
Deep below the city of Nottingham is a hidden world of over 500 man-made caves, many of which date back to medieval times. The soft sandstone bedrock allowed for these hand-carved caves to be excavated. Many were created for use as pub cellars or storerooms, and some have fascinating historical significance.
Take an archaeological journey through these caves under Nottingham with a City of Caves tour and learn how they were used throughout history.
Head to lunch at Curious Tavern, serving traditional tavern fare including British classics, pizzas and a weekly Sunday roast. It’s also home to a secret bar called Lost Property. Or enjoy world tapas at Bar Iberico, a casual sister venue to Iberico, a place for fine dining and Nottinghamshire’s only Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand distinction restaurant. Josephine’s Tea Room and Café serves lunch, has an ever changing selection of cakes, and afternoon tea served all-day.
The award-winning tour guide, Ezekial Bone, is best known for his Robin Hood Town Tour, visiting places throughout historic Nottingham that tell the story of the legendary outlaw. The tour concludes with a tankard of ale at Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem, an historic inn dating from 1189 that claims to be the oldest in England.
Explore the fascinating history when Nottingham was a major center for textile manufacturing during Victorian times, with the finest machine made lace in the world coming from here. This is the subject of the new Nottingham Lace Market Tour, a 90-minute tour that threads its way around the city’s fine Victorian industrial architecture.
When Nottingham’s lace industry fell into decline, so did the streets surrounding the Lace Market, a neighbourhood known as Hockley. In recent years the area and its well-preserved Victorian buildings has enjoyed a resurgence, and is now home to modern creative and digital industries.
Hockley buzzes with pavement cafes and independent shops such as Debbie Bryan, maker of individually hand cast brooches and knitted scarves inspired by British heritage – her studio has regular craft and design classes, and houses a unique Lace Archive. Grand 18th-century Willoughby House is a flagship store of pre-eminent British fashion designer and Nottingham native Paul Smith.
A city associated with the outlaw Robin Hood, it’s appropriate that Nottingham’s National Justice Museum has Britain’s largest collection relating to law, justice, crime and punishment. Interactive activities and exhibition spaces complement the museum’s grand Victorian courtrooms, 17th-century dungeon and 19th-century prison cells. It’s reputedly one of the most haunted buildings in Britain. Not normally accessible to the general public, its darkest and deepest corners are open for chilling Ghost Tours on Saturday nights at 6pm.
The Hockley area of Nottingham has many independent eateries, including Michelin Guide listed The Larder on Goosegate, whose daily changing menu is based around seasonal produce. It occupies a Victorian building that was once home to Jesse Boot’s first apothecary – he transformed M & J Boot, founded by his father in Nottingham in 1849, into one of Britain’s best-known high street retailers, and the restaurant décor retains many heritage and architectural features that echo the building’s history.
Once part of a royal hunting forest, Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve is the legendary stomping ground of Robin Hood. Located 1 hour north of Nottingham by car, the forest covers 450 acres including ancient areas of native woodland.
Legend asserts that Robin and his band of Merry Men would hide inside the hollow trunk of an enormous oak tree known as Major Oak, thus evading enemies including the Sheriff of Nottingham. Standing in the heart of Sherwood Forest, this epic tree is estimated to be between 800 and 1,000 years old. There are numerous trails through the trees and glades, and the forest is free to enter. Held each August is the annual Robin Hood Festival, with live-action re-enactments of Robin Hood’s exploits, plus medieval jousting, jesters and falconry.
Robin Hood may have been skilled at archery, but with numerous country inns and restaurants around Sherwood Forest, hunting for lunch with a bow and arrow is no longer necessary. On the edge of the forest, the village of Edwinstowe has excellent options including Launay’s, whose seasonal menu fuses English and French cuisine, and Forest Lodge, an award-winning 18th-century coaching inn.
Writer D.H. Lawrence was born in 1885 in a red brick miner’s cottage in Eastwood, 30 minutes north west of Nottingham by car. Now the D. H. Lawrence Birthplace Museum, its authentically recreated interiors offer an insight into the writer’s formative years. It’s also a fascinating snapshot of what life was like in a small mining community during Victorian times. For more literary connections, Newstead Abbey was the ancestral home of the poet Lord Byron, and is also open to the public.
If you’d prefer to pamper your body, spend the afternoon at a luxury day spa. Surrounded by countryside in the east of the county, award-winning Eden Hall Day Spa is a peaceful sanctuary set in a beautiful old mansion. Or head farther north to the historic Ye Olde Bell Hotel. This AA Rosette hotel has state-of-the-art amenities including an indoor to outdoor vitality hydropool, Sabbia Med Sunlight Therapy, and Britain’s first and only Snow Storm Walk spa experience.
Head back into Nottingham for a global smorgasbord of drinking and dining options including Nottingham’s Bavarian-style eatery and bar, The Bierkeller. For fine dining, Alchemilla is a unique, plant based restaurant with an AA Rosette award for culinary excellence. Choose from a five, seven or ten course menu, and reservations must be made in advance and is only open for dinner from Wednesday through Saturday.