Explore Robin Hood’s Home on a Day Trip to Nottingham

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by Brittany Scott-Gunfield

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Just under 2 hours on the train from London, Nottingham is an often overlooked destination in the UK, despite having a wonderful vibrancy and a great number of activities to fill a Nottingham day trip.

From the historic streets, marketplaces and castles, to the nearby cricket ground and country parks, there’s plenty to see and do over one day in this historic city.

Getting To & Around Nottingham

If you’re visiting Nottingham from abroad, you can fly into the East Midlands Airport from many different European cities and take a 45-minute bus to the city centre, but it may be easier to fly into London Heathrow or Gatwick, Birmingham Airport or Manchester Airport.

From London or Manchester, each journey takes around 2 to 3 hours by bus, or 1 to 2 hours by train, while Birmingham is much closer, at just over an hour’s drive or train journey.

Bus travel is much more cost-effective in the UK than trains, but if you’re just visiting Nottingham for the day, spending a little extra to save an hour or two on your journey can be beneficial, especially if you have a railcard in the UK and can get a third off your train ticket. You can view bus & train schedules here.

Robin Hood Statue in Nottingham
Robin Hood Statue in Nottingham

Driving to Nottingham is the best way to reach the city from further afield as you can go at your own pace and travel at your chosen times, however, you don’t need a car within Nottingham centre, so it’s not worth renting a car just for the day.

Most of the activities and sights in Nottingham are within walking distance, so you can enjoy your day perusing the historic buildings on foot.

However, if you want to travel slightly further out of the city – such as to Wollaton Hall and Park or to see the cricket at the Trent Bridge Ground – there’s an excellent bus system taking you all over the area very easily. Single tickets cost just £2 thanks to a government scheme, while you can also buy a day ticket for £5.30.

You can also buy a day ticket for £6.40 that covers transport by bus or tram all around the city, or simply pay with contactless card or exact cash when you get on your chosen method of public transport.

Nottingham Railway Station
Nottingham Railway Station

1-Day Nottingham Itinerary

The second largest city in the Midlands after Birmingham, Nottingham has a great deal to offer visitors; with a long history of lace-making and tobacco production, the city is sprawling with quaint areas, a variety of architectural styles and natural areas, making for an excellent day out.

If you want to learn more about the history of the city, you can book a group walking tour or a private tour.

Nottingham Castle

Arguably the most important stop on any trip to Nottingham is Nottingham Castle, so it should be first on your to-do list so you can be free for the rest of your day to explore the streets, museums and parks.

Before you enter the castle, you can see the 70-year-old statue of the legend Robin Hood surrounded by some of his Merry Men – an iconic monument in Nottingham celebrating the folkloric anti-establishment hero, pointing his arrow towards the castle.

Once in the castle, you can immerse yourself in the adventures of Robin Hood, brought to life through an interactive exhibit, although there’s plenty of art and history for adults to enjoy too.

Nottingham Castle is home to an art gallery and museum with an extensive collection of fine and decorative arts, with exhibits ranging from classical paintings to contemporary art, alongside historical artefacts that chronicle the rich heritage of Nottingham and its people.

The castle also hosts temporary exhibitions, so you can guarantee there is always something new and intriguing to discover with each visit.

Perched on a prominent sandstone outcrop, Nottingham Castle also provides visitors stunning panoramic views of the city and its surroundings, making it a perfect spot for photography and soaking in the landscape.

Originally built following the Norman Conquest, the site has witnessed numerous key events in British history, including its role in the English Civil War. The current structure, a grand 17th-century Ducal Mansion, sits on the site of the original mediaeval fortress, offering a fascinating glimpse into the architectural evolution over the centuries.

You can also explore some of the city caves from the castle, although these can be best enjoyed elsewhere in the city, so once you’ve perused the castle, you can walk around the beautifully landscaped grounds, featuring ornate gardens and sculptures, before heading to the next stop, just a stone’s throw away.

Nottingham Castle Grounds
Castle Grounds

Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem

Built into the rocks beneath Nottingham Castle is one of the oldest pubs in England, Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem, which first opened its doors in 1189 CE and is well worth a stop for a quick drink or a pub lunch after your visit to the castle.

With its atmospheric rooms carved into the sandstone, and classic historic pub decor with wooden beams and open hearth, the interior won’t disappoint – though nor will its great selection of ales and pub menu, serving everything you’d expect from steak and ale pies to fish and chips.

But more than the wonderful atmosphere and the menu, the pub has numerous historical stories and myths surrounding it, due to its lengthy lifespan.

It was supposedly one of the favourite stopovers for the Crusaders, and was once visited by Richard the Lion Heart. Most intriguing of all, however, is the ghost story of the Cursed Galleon.

Hanging from the ceiling in the Rock Lounge is a dusty model galleon said to hold a curse. No one will clean the model ship as supposedly the last few who tried ended up dying in mysterious circumstances.

These mystical tales enhance the pub’s unique charm and are a great topic of conversation over a pint with the bartenders before moving on around the city.

Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem
Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem

The Park Tunnel

Towards the north of the city is the stunning Park Tunnel, which is well worth a quick stop as you wander around the city on your day trip to Nottingham.

Built in 1855, the tunnel was initially constructed to provide a more convenient access route for horse-drawn carriages travelling to The Park Estate, a prestigious residential area, built in a pleasing symmetrical formation of roads in ever-increasing rings.

The tunnel itself is carved out of the natural sandstone rock that Nottingham is famous for, creating an impressive and atmospheric passageway with detailed brickwork that seamlessly integrates with the surrounding landscape.

Its unique, sloping design and the combination of natural and man-made elements make it a captivating sight for architecture enthusiasts and photographers alike, so stop by for some amazing photos.

Wollaton Hall and Park

Just 20 minutes on the bus from Cathedral on Derby Road, lies the incredible Wollaton Hall, surrounded by 500 acres of luscious green landscape filled with grazing deer.

This beautiful Elizabethan mansion is home to Nottingham’s Natural History Museum which makes for a great visit with the family, however, the highlight of any visit is the peaceful walking trails all over the deer park where you can glimpse the free-roaming deer.

Whether you pack a picnic, bring a takeaway coffee or simply stroll around the parkland taking in the sounds and smells of nature, the park offers a unique and serene experience in Nottingham, contrasting with the busy city life.

Wollaton Hall itself is an incredible building designed in the 16th century with magnificent Tudor-style facades, halls and ceilings showcasing the opulence and elegance of Elizabethan England.

You can visit the hall and wander through the ornate and stylish rooms, or visit the Natural History Museum located in a separate wing and displaying 750,000 artefacts.

Whether you’re with your family, enjoying the fossils, playgrounds, and wildlife encounters, or out as a couple to enjoy a romantic walk amidst the picturesque surroundings, the historic charm and natural beauty of the hall and park create a magical atmosphere that appeals to visitors of all ages and interests.

Wollaton Hall
Wollaton Hall

Old Market Square

Towards the end of your afternoon in Nottingham, it’s time to head to the iconic Old Market Square. Located in the heart of the city, this square is surrounded by the impressive pillared Council House, with large stone lions on either side, reminiscent of London’s Trafalgar Square.

Adorned with striking statues and intricate details, the Council House serves as a proud symbol of Nottingham’s civic pride and heritage and is the perfect backdrop for the bustling square, where locals and visitors mingle.

In the square, you can enjoy the busy outdoor farmer’s market, where vendors offer everything from local produce to artisan crafts throughout the year, or visit the inner city beach that comes to the square in summer, or have fun at the ice rink in winter.

Surrounding the square are an array of cafes, restaurants, and bars, each displaying its own unique charm and character. From quaint tea rooms to chic cocktail lounges, there’s something to satisfy every palate and preference.

The Old Market Square promises an immersive and unforgettable experience that captures the essence of Nottingham’s vibrant soul.

Old Market Square
Old Market Square

City of Caves

The City of Caves is an underground attraction showcasing Nottingham’s extensive network of man-made caves spread out beneath the city streets. You can take a guided tour which gives a unique perspective on the city’s history, from mediaeval times to the present.

Explore hand-carved passageways dating back to the 13th century, which have been utilised over the centuries as dwellings, tanneries, and even air raid shelters during World War II.

The eerie atmosphere of the ancient rock formations and architectural remnants are illuminated by flickering torchlight, allowing you to fully experience the magical atmosphere of the subterranean city.

Not for the faint-hearted as it can be quite claustrophobic, the City of Caves is an amazing location if you can manage.

Whether you’re a group of history enthusiasts eager to unearth Nottingham’s secrets, a family seeking an educational adventure, or curious travellers keen to delve into the city’s hidden depths, you can happily spend an hour or two in this subterranean odyssey unearthing a more hidden aspect of Nottingham’s history.

Underground Nottingham
Underground Nottingham

Lace Market

The final stop on is to experience the lively nightlife of the city in one of the most vibrant yet still historic districts of the city, in-keeping with the theme of the city.

The Lace Market is popular with locals and visitors as it’s home to a variety of restaurants, bars and even galleries, showcasing the city’s diversity and culture.

Renowned for its role in the lace-making industry during the 19th century, the area is filled with beautiful Victorian and Georgian architecture, displaying the city’s industrial heritage.

So don’t forget to look around and enjoy the views as you head to grab a bite to eat in any of the bustling upmarket restaurants or cafes, offering a huge variety of flavours. Alternatively, head over to the adjacent neighbourhood of Hockley which has a lot of bohemian shops and great restaurants to enjoy.

Have More Time?

You can’t see all of Nottingham in a day, so it’s a great place for a weekend break or to spend a few days relaxing and enjoying different activities. If you’re lucky enough to have more than one day in Nottingham, there are a couple of museums that are well worth your time, that wouldn’t necessarily fit into a tight day schedule.

One such museum is the National Justice Museum. From mediaeval torture devices to real-life courtrooms, the National Justice Museum has plenty of artefacts and immersive experiences within its walls to teach you about the history of crime and punishment in the UK, so you can happily spend a few hours being entertained here.

Nottingham is also home to the ‘World Famous The Museum Of Curiosities’, an incredible museum hosting a bizarre collection of the most odd and mysterious items you can imagine.

Each exhibit offers a fascinating glimpse into the extraordinary and the unexplained, with shrunken heads and taxidermy wonders to ancient relics and unusual artworks. Engage with interactive displays, delve into the histories behind each curiosity, and let your imagination run wild as you uncover the secrets of the unknown.

Perfect for curious minds, families, and anyone with a taste for the extraordinary, a visit to The Museum of Curiosities promises an unforgettable experience that will leave you pensive and greatly perplexed.

And those who are interested in modern art may also love a visit to Nottingham Contemporary. This art gallery has several exhibitions that are worth checking out.

If you’re not from the UK and want to experience something that you can’t match anywhere else in the world, then try to time your visit to Nottingham with a cricket match at the Trent Bridge Cricket Ground.

Witnessing a cricket match at Trent Bridge is an unmissable experience for sports enthusiasts and casual fans alike. As one of England’s most iconic cricket venues, Trent Bridge hosts many matches with its historic pavilion and lush green outfield.

While popular matches may sell out quickly, tickets are generally available through the venue’s website or ticketing outlets, making it relatively easy to secure entry and enjoy a memorable day of cricket action.

Plus, its in-house restaurant with stunning views over the ground and back over the city of Nottingham provides a stunning, up-market treat to any foodies.

And those who want to walk in the footsteps of Robin Hood, then consider heading out to Sherwood Forest in the countryside of Nottinghamshire. This natural area is full of plenty of beautiful walks where you can enjoy being out in nature.

Trent Bridge
Trent Bridge

Where to Stay in Nottingham

Bentinck Hotel – Located just 10 minutes from the castle, this hotel is a great mid-range option. There are several comfortable and bright rooms on offer, en suite or shared bathroom options and breakfast available each morning.

Heritage Mews Nottingham – This upmarket hotel is a great choice for those after a bit of luxury. There are lots of chic rooms, suites, and apartments available and the location is unbeatable.

Igloo Hybrid – An excellent budget option, this hybrid hostel offers lots of options for private rooms along with more budget-friendly dorms. They are well-located in the city and have good common areas.

Although often overlooked, Nottingham is a vibrant and historically and culturally important city that has much more to offer visitors than its well-known association with Robin Hood. From architectural wonders to green areas and bizarre and fun exhibitions, Nottingham offers up a wonderfully varied day trip.

Do you want to visit Nottingham? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

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Brittany Scott-Gunfield

Brittany is a writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from Colchester, England, she is slowly but surely travelling the world as a digital nomad. She loves to hike around different landscapes and has a deep love for travelling around France (and elsewhere in Europe).

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