Leaving once more from Manchester, we took a trip to the city of Nottingham, made famous by the legend of Robin Hood…
Status: City of Nottingham Unitary District, Nottinghamshire, City, England
Travel: East Midlands Trains (Manchester Piccadilly – Nottingham Via Sheffield)
Eating & Sleeping: Starbucks
Attractions: St Barnabas Cathedral, Sky Mirror, Robin Hood Statue, Nottingham Castle, City Hall, Workday Cross, City of Caves, Galleries of Justice Museum, St Mary’s Church etc
The train station has just undergone a long period of refurbishment and was mainly closed for a while, resulting in you having to get a replacement bus from a nearby town or city, meant that we left our trip to the city until the trains were back up and running properly, so we were quite excited when we arrived.
We started heading for the city centre, and the first place we came upon was this interesting set of caves, known as Mortimer’s Hole, which is located underneath the summit that houses Nottingham Castle. It’s an incredible site to see, as the ground around it is all flat as you approach then suddenly you get a high lattice work of caves, its quite spectacular.
We decided to go up to the castle next, so we started up the small hill that leads round to the castle entrance. On the way we spotted two important things, and the first of these was the above pub, Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem supposedly from 1189. It is one of the 20 public houses in England that claims to be the oldest place of drinking in the country. Legend tells that it’s name comes from the Knights who stopped here on the way from the Castle to the Holy Land to join the Crusades and King Richard the Lionheart in the 12th century.
The second thing we found on the way up to the castle, was the statue of local legend, Robin Hood. I visited Nottingham once as a child and saw the statue, but I don’t remember anything about it.
The earliest known tale of Robin Hood survives from around 1450, and gives the tale a Nottinghamshire setting, where he battled with the local sheriff. Curiously, Robin is dressed in Lincoln Green, but his association with Nottinghamshire grew when the legend expanded to include Sherwood Forest, a large forested area in the county, as well as the Major Oak. This was a tree near Edwinstone also in Sherwood Forest, that he is said to have used as a hideout. It still exists today and is nearly 1000 years old. If you look at the flag of Nottinghamshire, Robin Hood is featured in the centre, as part of a shield. Since the 19th century Robin has been associated with taking money from the Rich and giving it to the poor, and has been the subject of many Television Shows and Motion Pictures.
The statue has stood next to the castle since 1962, and a few plaques and other statues stand in the small square it’s located in, telling stories of some of Robin’s exploits including a quick history of his adventures.
We finally reached the top of the hill, after a rather interesting walk up. We were greeted by the large Gate leading into the Castle complex. Much of the medieval walls around the Castle were demolished in 1830’s to allow for an approach road, but the Gatehouse survived, all the way from the 1250’s until today.
Moving past the gates and into the main complex, there is a lot going on. The main building of the Castle is the Ducal Mansion, the present building having been built between 1674 and 1679, by Henry Cavendish (1630 – 1691) the 2nd Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The building is much smaller now than it was then, as it was burnt down in 1831 and parts of the mansion were demolished. It lay ruined until 1875 when it was restored by Thomas Chambers Hine (1814 – 1899, a local architect) and opened as the new Nottingham Castle Museum in 1878.
It is still a Museum today, and includes an impressive Art Gallery. It tells the history of the city and local area, and presents a variety of archaeological finds found nearby, along with a few exhibition spaces.
Also in the grounds are some fantastic flower arrangements, and when we went there were three large circular flower beds, one in the shape of a Union Jack for Armed Forces day, and the other two showed a Strawberry and the face of a Man, presumably something to do with either Armed Forces Day or the local Beer Festival.
From the Castle, we made our way to the main square in the city, the Old Market Square. There are many interesting things in and around the square, so let’s start with the tram system.
The Nottingham Trams opened in 2004, with 23 stations around the city. It was incredibly successful when it started, exceeding passenger forecasts, and becoming a great success. Tickets are cheap and it provides quick and easy transport around the city, which is more quieter and smoother than taking a bus.
The most obvious building in the square is Nottingham City Hall, a fantastic building guarded by finely sculpted stone lions around the entrance. Built between 1927 and 1929, the hall contains a bell in the central tower, which happens to be the deepest toned bell in the UK, as it weighs a hefty 10 tonnes. The overall height when including the tower, dome and a golden ball atop the dome, is 200 feet. The rest of the square had scaffolding when we went, but I think they were just doing some improvement works and should be cleared soon. It’s a great open space, right in the heart of the city and we got some hot drinks from Starbucks on the corner of the square and sat down on a wall in the square to just relax for a while.
The Tourist Information Office is located down the left side of City Hall, and going off a street across from the Tourist Info you will find a statue of Brian Clough (1935 – 2004, famous Yorkshire footballer).
After a pleasant break in the square, we moved on, to another area of the city not too far away that contains a few sights of interest. The first of these is the Cathedral Church of St Barnabus, a Roman Catholic Cathedral.
It’s a lovely furnished building, and we enjoyed looking around inside. It’s a lot newer than most English Cathedral’s (built 1841 – 1844), but the detail is no less impressive. The stained glass is amazing and it felt so calm and measured inside.
We passed through the building and out a door on the other side of it, and out to our next destination.
Just across from the Cathedral, is the Nottingham Playhouse (the front building), an ornate theatre from 1963. In 2004 the Playhouse was refurbished to the way it looked when it originally opened, after a 1980’s makeover that supposedly destroyed the unique character of the interior.
I love the Tower, which is so different to the other, mainly brick buildings in the immediate area (discounting the Cathedral). This is part of Albert Hall, a concert hall that joins on to the Playhouse. The original was gutted by fire and the new building opened in 1909.
Directly in front of the Playhouse is a modern development, which has become quite famous in the city…
This is the Sky Mirror, a large circular mirror that curves across the surface so that when you look at it the background flips and becomes upside down. It was unveiled in 2001, and was designed by Anish Kapoor (born 1954, Indian Sculptor). In 2010 it was part of an exhibition in London before being moved back to Nottingham. It is supposed to reflect the ever changing environment around it, and since I heard about it I was captivated, and find it quite fascinating.
Our last stop was on the way back towards the Station, well I should say stops. It was a street called High Pavement, and as you move onto it from Middle Hill road, you pass a stone cross. It’s known as the Weekday Cross, and used to stand outside the City Hall in the Old Market Square. It has been on the site since 1993, and is a nice little touch.
Moving on up the street, we came to the Galleries of Justice Museum, an old prison from 1449 and 14th century courtrooms. The building itself is very impressive, A Police station also once operated in the building, from 1905 until 1985. All three of these attractions can be viewed inside.
We continued even further up the road and found the church of St Mary the Virgin, pictured. It’s the oldest religious building in the city, and the 2nd largest after the Cathedral, and the largest medieval building in the entire city. It looks fabulous just from outside, so we took a look around inside to see what treasures it held. There are figures of a Unicorn and Lion inside, representing the Political and Royal Union that took place between England and Scotland in 1707.
It’s a cavernous space inside, and has lovely old stone work. We met a rather nice man inside who took us round and explained some of the history to us, which was quite fascinating. The building itself dates from around 1377 or later, with the tower being added in the 1500’s. In between these two dates other parks of the Church were completed, including the Nave and the Transepts.
On the picture, you can see a stone cross sat outside the church. This is the county War Memorial, installed in 1922.
From here we made our way back to the train station, and got a train back to Manchester Piccadilly. Nottingham is a great city, full of history and charming local legends surrounding Robin Hood. The buildings are beautifully kept, and we picked a lovely sunny day to visit. It was all just perfect.
Other attractions in the city include Museum of Nottingham Life, Green’s Mill and Science Centre (a Windmill you can see from various areas of the city including the train station) and the Broadmarsh Shopping Centre, that includes the City of Caves, a labyrinth of ancient caves underneath the city open to the public. There is also the Victoria Shopping Centre, which includes a beautiful red brick clock tower that was part of the old Nottingham Victoria Railway Station that was demolished in 1967.
By rail Nottingham is directly connected to London, Manchester, Liverpool, Norwich, Peterborough, Derby and Ely along with many others, and close by is East Midlands International Airport. The city of Derby is the closest major city by road, and you can take the A52 between the two cities.
The M1 (For London, The M6 (Scotland and North), M62 for Yorkshire and York) runs around the city, giving connections to the UK motorway network.
Nottingham is the perfect place for a day out, so if you find yourself in the fantastic county of Nottinghamshire, nip in for some target practice with Robin Hood or explore the old caves underneath the city…