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Nottingham, England

Updated on September 21, 2011

Nottingham, England - My Home Town

Although I wasn't born in Nottingham, and have lived, worked and travelled in many different places, Nottingham is undeniably my home town. And what a great place it is. I wasn't born here because my father was in the Royal Air Force, and I was born out in Hong Kong when he was posted there for a few years in the early 1950s. But I have lived in and around Nottingham for most of my life so here's a quick guide.

Where Is Nottingham?

About 120 miles, or two hours north, up the M1 motorway from London is the short answer. At the heart of the East Midlands and often called the Queen of the East Midlands, the population of the city is just under 300,000, with another 500,000 living in the "travel to work area". This makes it about the 14th biggest city in the UK. From London you can catch a frequent train service, or you could fly into East Midlands Airport from various European cities. It's about a twenty minute bus or taxi ride from the airport into the city. There are plenty of places to stay, to suit all budgets and styles - here's some help for you in choosing a Nottingham hotel.

For sporting fans, Nottingham will most probably be linked with the world famous Trent Bridge cricket ground; and just a few yards from Trent Bridge you'll also find the City Ground, home of the Nottingham Forest football team which enjoyed fantastic European success under the legendary Brian Clough in 1979 and 1980. There are plenty of other reasons to visit Nottingham, though, so read on for a few suggestions.

Nottingham, Ancient and Modern

Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem

Built into the Castle Rock, upon which Nottingham Castle stood, is the Trip To Jerusalem pub. With half the rooms carved out of the sandstone it is very unusual, and has stood on this spot for centuries. Originally opened in 1189, or thereabouts, it took it's name from the knights, or Crusaders, who would stop here before setting off to fight in Richard the Lionheart's crusades in the Holy Land. Nottingham Castle was one of King Richard's strongholds where the knights would gather and the would have "one for the road" at the inn before setting off.

It wasn't that unusual for castles to have a brewhouse nearby because the brewing process was the easiest way to sterilise large quantities of water to make it safe for drinking. And pleasantly alcoholic in the process! The Castle Rock, in fact the whole city, is riddled with caves which interconnect with the Trip so it would also be easy to get ale up to the castle in times of seige.

These days you will find a good selection of wines, beers and spirits on offer, including a good range of traditional real ales befitting of such a historic pub. Put the Trip to Jerusalem high on your list of priorities when visiting Nottingham.

Nottingham Trams - 21st century transport

Contrasting with the ancient pub, is the Nottingham tram system. Only a few years old, and still only with one route, this very European mode of transport runs from the railway station, just south of the city centre, right through the heart of the city and out through the suburbs to Hucknall in the north. To get a "feel" for the city, just take a ride along the entire length of the line. A day ticket to go anywhere including travelling on the buses will only cost about £3.

More practically, the tram passes close by the door of several hotels, so it's a good way to get from the station. Or if you're a poetry fan, Hucknall at the northern end of the line is where you'll find St Mary Magdalene Churchyard with the grave of Lord Byron, poet, philosepher and probably the first celebrity, as we know them today.

If you're visiting Nottingham in early October, the tram is the best way to get from the city centre to the Goose Fair -  nothing to do with geese these days, but probably the largest travelling fair in existence, with thrilling rides that would be at home in any theme park. Visit at dusk to avoid the crowds and yet enjoy the thousands of coloured lamps that light up all the attractions.

Nottingham - City of Caves

The soft sandstone upon which the city is built was not only carved away for some of the Trip to Jerusalem's rooms. Many, many of the buildings in the city centre have caves underneath them - some of them lost during building work but others preserved and accessible by the public. There are thought to be up to 400 caves going back to the Dark Ages meaning that Nottingham has more man-made caves than any other city in the UK.These days the whole system has ancient monument status.

According to the City of Caves website:

The area was originally known as Tiggua Cobaucc, meaning ‘Place of Caves’, and the first reference to Tiggua Cobaucc was in The Life Of King Alfred, by Welsh monk and historian, Asser, the Bishop of Sherborne, who visited Nottingham around 900 AD. The caves were likely used for housing as early as the 11th century, and troglodytes were certainly recorded in the 17th century. Many were inhabited until 1845, when the St. Mary’s Enclosure Act banned the rental of cellars and caves as homes for the poor, though the practice doubtless continued underground!

These days you can visit the cave complex by going to the City of Caves tourist attraction, which a bit surprisingly has it's entrance in the Upper Floor of the Broadmarsh Shopping Centre - a bland concrete shopping mall. You will find an award winning, interactive tourist experience and it is well worth the time and money to visit.

Shopping For Retail Therapy

The city is renowned for its shopping and in 2007 Nottingham was positioned fifth in the retail shopping league of England behind London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

The two main shopping centres (malls) are the Victoria Centre and Broadmarsh. The Victoria Centre stands on the site of the former Victoria Railway Station. Built in the 1960s, with parking for up to 2,400 cars, and two levels of shopping, the major stores include House of Fraser, John Lewis, Boots and WH Smith with a brand new TK Max just across the road as part of the Trinity Square redevelopment. Additionally there are many of the usual fashion outlets and plenty of places to sit with a coffee. In comparison, the Broadmarsh Centre is lacking any major stores since TK Max moved out, but still has a reasonable selection of stores, and the pedestrianised walk from the Market Square in the centre of the city takes you past Marks and Spencer.

There are interesting shops to be found in the The Bridlesmith Gate area and not far away on Low Pavement, is Willoughby House, the flagship outlet for Nottingham based international fashion designer, Paul Smith. The building is listed and you can browse around the five floors taking in the architectural features, as well as admiring the latest fashions.

Wollaton Hall
Wollaton Hall

Nottingham - some more suggestions

Here's a few more ideas to consider while in town:

Visit Wollaton Park - just a few miles from the city centre, crowned by Wollaton Hall, a grade one listed Elizabethan mansion, with deer roaming the park. Car parking will cost you £2 but there is free access to Wollaton Hall and the Industrial Museum in the old stable block.

Track down Robin Hood - Nottingham's most famous legendary son. See the statue just up the hill from the Trip to Jerusalem and also go into the "castle" grounds for excellent views over the city. The "castle" long since disappeared and there is now a 17th century mansion on the site which is a museum and art gallery with a collection of silver, glass, paintings and other items of local archaeological or historical interest.

Take a longer trip out to Sherwood Forest where so many of Robin Hood's adventures took place. Just outside Edwinstowe you will find the Major Oak, thought to be around 800 years old and in 2002 voted “Britain’s favourite tree”. According to folklore, the hollow trunk of this massive oak tree was used as a hideout by Robin Hood’s men. The world famous tree is estimated to weigh 23 tonnes, the trunk circumference is 10m and its branches spread over 28m.

Enjoy Thrilling Watersports - at the National Watersports Centre a few miles south east of the city centre. Nottingham has one of the few artificial white-water courses in the UK and although originally built to train white-water canoeists, it is now busy with rafting activity. There is also an international standard rowing lake and a water ski facility. Just walk and watch, or plan ahead and join in.

Walk by the River Trent - the Watersports Centre is along side the River Trent, so it's possible to just take in the wildlife along the river, or watch the boats travelling through the lock that bypasses the weir at this point. Nearer to the city centre, is the Victoria Embankment, immediately upstream from Trent Bridge. Again, just enjoy a walk by the river, or through the pleasant gardens; or if you're with children there's a good play-park, and paddling pool open in the summer months.

Nottingham Playhouse - mainly modern plays
Nottingham Playhouse - mainly modern plays
Interesting Architecture - near the Castle
Interesting Architecture - near the Castle

Nottingham - Comments

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  • bigmikeh profile image

    bigmikeh 5 years ago from UK

    Thanks Connie. Hope you have a great time in Nottingham.

  • connieread profile image

    connieread 5 years ago from England

    Thanks, voted interesting - I'll be studying at Nottingham next year, so this is a big help!