Published on April 2nd, 2017 | by Brussels In View0
Nottingham: The land that claimed Robin (and made Marian famous)
Martin Banks explores ‘Robin Hood country’ for Brussels in View
As the Brexit process starts to kick in, happily, at least one British region is keen to retain close relations with the EU.
Situated in the heart of England, Nottingham is the epitome of a modern hub city and the Nottingham Event Team helps to promote the area.
The project as well as Experience Nottinghamshire has in the past received EU funding and, while there’s no new money this year, both are still doing splendid work promoting the ‘land of Robin Hood’.
It’s a region that’s sometimes overlooked by overseas visitors, drawn to more heavily promoted UK destinations such as Oxford and the Cotswolds. But that’s a shame because this delightful and fascinating part of England is well worth a visit.
Nottingham never ceases to surprise. It’s a city built on a maze of more than 450 tunnels and is where British ice skating legends Torvill and Dean learned their craft.
Traces of Ice Age man can be found nearby and, of course, this is where the late, great football manager Brian Clough won not one, but two European Cups for local team Forest.
Found in a quiet area of the centre adjacent to Nottingham Castle, the St James Hotel makes the ideal base for any leisure or business traveller.
The hotel has recently completed a full refurbishment programme which has transformed it into a contemporary
boutique-feel property. This even included moving a baby grand piano up six floors (it’s one of only two UK hotels to have a piano in a guest room).
One of the city’s few premier hotels, the independently-owned venue supports local crafts and trades wherever possible – from its sofas to sausages.
The hotel, which boasts a variety of rooms ranging from the youth ‘crash pads’ (bright and cheerful rooms and perfect to crash for the night) to The Penthouse, is within walking distance of restaurants, bars, shopping and attractions such as the Galleries of Justice Museum. This offers actor-led guided tours of Nottingham’s old courthouse and gaol.
Performances, audio tours and exhibitions spread over five floors bring Nottingham’s grisly history to life. You can put your family on trial in the Victorian law court and venture down below street level into the cells and
dungeons below to hear of the conditions in which prisoners suffered.
Nottingham Castle nearby is situated on a high rock, with spectacular views over the city. Its history is chequered with sieges, murders and intrigue and this was the starting point of the English Civil War, after which the castle was totally destroyed. Its award-winning cave tours tell this history and take you down into the passageways and tunnels beneath the building, used as shelters in World War II.
The tour finishes next to Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, England’s oldest pub, built into caves beneath the castle.
On a similar theme, the City of Caves attraction takes you through caves used in medieval times, through to their more recent uses such as beer cellars and air- raid shelters.
You can’t leave Nottingham without having your photograph taken with the world-famous Robin Hood statue, which has been standing in the shadow of the castle since 1952.
Culture vultures will have plenty to keep them entertained at the splendid Nottingham Playhouse whose line-up for this year includes the 40th anniversary production of Stephen Lowe’s Touched, starring two of the city’s own, BAFTA award-winner Vicky McClure and Mr Selfridge star Aisling Loftus.
After exploring the city’s fascinating past (and present), you’ll have worked up an appetite and there’s no certainly shortage of terrific places to sate your hunger.
The Cock & Hoop pub, offering wholesome food and excellent local beers, is across the road from the Galleries of Justice Museum, where Lord Byron used to hire rooms to get a good view of the hangings outside.
Nearby is The Oaks, a restaurant opened just 18 months ago, which prides itself on an innovative and highly commendable partnership with Nottingham Wildlife Trust. This ensures that all the wood used to produce its grills is sourced locally.
A local butcher also supplies all the meat for its very tasty steaks and sausages. Its quail Scotch eggs, which beat a Michelin-starred London restaurant in a recent competition, are also well worth a try.
If you like Asian cuisine then the adjacent Zaap Thai Street Food restaurant is for you. Part of a rapidly-growing new chain, this wonderfully atmospheric place really does transport you to Bangkok and even sports a couple of “tuk tuk” rickshaws for diners.
The dishes served in this bustling diner are authentic Thai street food and are also top notch.
Nottingham has something for all tastes and, if Indian food is your thing then The Cumin won’t disappoint. Located on the city’s Curry Mile, it’s run by two brothers, one running front-of-house operations, the other creating some fantastic culinary creations in the kitchen.
The food is authentic, flavoursome and excellent value for money. Incidentally, It’s on Maid Marian Way – another reminder of the area’s Robin Hood links.
A short drive takes you to Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve at Edwinstowe, the legendary home of Robin Hood and an awe inspiring nature reserve of ancient oak trees.
The reserve was once part of a royal hunting forest, covers an area of 450 acres and incorporates some truly ancient areas of native woodland. But don’t leave without a walk to see Robin Hood’s hideout, the famous Major Oak tree.
Check out, too, the Tropical Butterfly House, Wildlife and Falconry Centre at North Anston where you can meet snakes, owls and meerkats. There’s free flying bird of prey and parrot displays, a Farm Barn and a rainforest paradise (home to butterflies, tropical birds, bats, snakes, lizards, and creepy-crawlies from around the world).
Also explore ‘Lemur Heights’, a state-of- the-art walk-through enclosure, home to ring-tailed and red-ruffed lemurs.
No visit to this area is complete with a guided tour of Creswell Crags, a historic limestone gorge and caves (including one named after Robin Hood) and home to Ice Age Art.
Its award-winning visitor centre and exhibitions bring to life the site’s history. This is where mammoths used to roam and Ice Age man (and woman) once constructed some amazingly-clever instruments.
For those travelling to the UK from Belgium it really is hard to beat Eurotunnel. Fast and flexible (you can often get an earlier or later train than the one booked), it is a particularly quick and efficient way to cross the channel. It
operates 24 hours-per-day, 365 days-per-year and, a few years ago, was voted one of the seven wonders of the modern world by the highly respected American Society of Civil Engineers.
They first talked about a Channel Tunnel at the beginning of the 19th Century. Napoleon liked the idea but the Brits didn’t fancy the prospect of being invaded from a giant hole.
Formal Brexit talks will most likely start in May but, however long it takes for the UK to leave the EU, Nottingham is one British region that’s always well worth exploring. Its motto is “One Day in Notts is Never Enough” and never a truer word was spoken.