Nottingham, England, in the heart of the East Midlands about 125 miles northwest of London, is famous for the legend of Robin Hood. Historians cannot say for sure if this outlaw champion of the poor did live in the Sherwood Forest of Nottinghamshire, or even whether he actually existed. However, they have uncovered ballads and chronicles written in Middle English dating back to 1440 making reference to Robin, Maid Marian, Friar Tuck, Will Scarlet, Little John, and the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Tales From Nottingham Castle
Nottingham Castle was built in 1067 by William the Conqueror upon Castle Rock, with natural cliffs of 130 feet. It was an important castle in a strategic position on the River Trent at one time, but later fell into disuse and disrepair. Some say the Sheriff of Nottingham moved into the castle while Richard the Lionheart was away on the crusades at the end of the 12th century, and that here, he had a showdown with none other than Robin Hood. The Galleries of Justice are open to visitors.
Ghosts in the Caves
A series of underground caves is built into the sandstone of Castle Rock. Visitors can discover the secret tunnel where Roger Mortimer was captured by supporters of King Edward III, accused of being lover to the king’s mother, Queen Isabella. Did they conspire to murder her husband, Edward II? There are tales of regular ghost sightings here. The Ghosts, Guts, & Gore Tour from the Cross Keys Pub is a must for those who want to hear all the horrid details. A museum and art gallery are open in Nottingham Castle for which the admission ticket is combined with the Museum of Nottingham Life at Brewhouse Yard and the maze of manmade caves built into Castle Rock.
Oldest Pub in England
You can set out on tour from the oldest pub in England, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, established in 1189. Join a costumed Robin Hood tour guide here on Wednesday or Friday afternoon to hear the whole story, see the Old County Gaol (jail), and wind up sampling some fish and chips and a half-pint of real local ale. More than 800 years of stories await.
Capital of Lace
Jumping ahead through the centuries, during Britain’s Industrial Revolution, Nottingham was the center of lace-making. The Lace Market is the name of the historic part of the city where visitors can see how the lace was made and enjoy restaurants and pubs, tea rooms and bars, theaters and clubs. You may see lots of students, for Nottingham is a popular university town.
Where to Stay, Eat
While visiting the University of Nottingham, we stayed at the Lace Market Hotel, a former Georgian townhouse located at 29-31 High Pavement with 42 rooms (singles from £59, doubles from £79), a well-known restaurant called Merchants, and Cock & Hoop, a pub. Also in High Pavement is Pitcher & Piano, a good and reliable British chain of restaurants. We liked the stunning Nottingham location, housed in a former church, complete with cavernous ceilings and stained glass. Or, in Maid Marian Way, try a curry at MemSaab, named as one of the U.K.’s best Indian restaurants by the Observer.
Getting to Nottingham
Avoid the drive. Traveling from London to Nottingham by an East Midlands train is recommended.
Queen Elizabeth II visited Nottingham on June 13, 2012, as part of her Diamond Jubilee celebration, and even she arrived by train to be met at the station by her grandson, William, and his wife, Duchess of Cambridge. Depart from St. Pancras or Kings Cross Station. Journey times range according to train but are generally under two hours.