10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Nottingham
Nottingham, county town of Nottinghamshire, is built on a number of hills on the north bank of the River Trent. The city has a long tradition as a trading hub and manufacturing center (noted for its lace, curtains, and stockings). More recently, it has become a popular cultural destination boasting numerous historical attractions, two large theaters, several art galleries, great festivals and events - such as the annual Nottingham Goose Fair.
Known as the "Queen of the Midlands" on account of its broad streets and parks such as the Arboretum, Embankment and Colwick Park, Nottingham is a great base for exploring Sherwood Forest, home of legendary Robin Hood. The image of this folk hero is found all over the city, and although his once enormous woodland hangout is considerably reduced, it retains its unique atmosphere.
See also: Where to Stay in Nottingham
1 City Center
Nottingham's old city center is a highlight of the city and home to several important attractions. Nottingham's Old Market Square, the largest in England, is where you'll find the Nottingham Tourism Centre, an important first stop before exploring the city. On the east side of the square is the neo-Classical Council House, crowned by an imposing dome, and the impressive Guildhall is also close by.
Location: Smithy Row, Nottingham
2 Nottingham Castle
Nottingham Castle affords excellent views of the town, and is notable for its bronze statues of Robin Hood and his merry men by Nottingham-born sculptor James Woodford. The old castle, destroyed in 1651 by Parliamentary forces, was replaced by an Italian-style palace belonging to the Duke of Newcastle that's now home to two great museums: the Sherwood Foresters Museum with its impressive collection of medals and regimental uniforms; and the Nottingham Castle Museum. Among the latter's treasures are beautiful 6th century Anglo-Saxon brooches, medieval ceramics and alabaster carvings, stoneware from the 17th and 18th centuries, and an ethnographic gallery (including New Zealand jade jewelry, Burmese bronze statues, Indo-Persian steelware). The picture collection in the Long Gallery includes works by Charles le Brun, Richard Wilson, William Dyce, Marcus Stone and Ben Nicholson.
Admission to Nottingham Castle Museum includes entrance to the Museum of Nottingham Life at Brewhouse Yard. Housed in five 17th century cottages, it portrays the history of the people of Nottingham through interesting artifacts and displays.
Location: Lenton Rd, Nottingham
3 Mortimer's Hole
Numerous caves exist in the sandstone underneath Nottingham, including the spectacular 322 ft long Mortimer's Hole located directly below the castle. The formation takes its name from Roger Mortimer, lover of Queen Isabella, the wife of Edward II. In all, over 450 caves lie beneath Nottingham and have been used for centuries for storage and defense. Fascinating public tours of the caves are available.
Location: Upper Level, Broadmarsh Shopping Centre, Nottingham
4 Highfields Park
Highfields Park is a 121-acre park (part of the University of Nottingham) that's full of magnificent trees, exotic plants and water features offering activities like boating. Other activities include lawn bowls, croquet, putting, a children's play area and a variety of events at the Lakeside Arts Centre.
Close by is the Church of St Mary, known for its 19th century glasswork. Also near the university is Wollaton Hall, an Elizabethan mansion set amidst a 500-acre deer park that now houses the Nottingham City Museums and Galleries' Natural History Collection, as well as the superb Nottingham Industrial Museum.
Location: University Boulevard, Lenton, Nottingham
5 Green's Mill and Science Centre
Green's Mill was once home of the mathematical physicist George Green (1793-1841). Built in 1807, the building was destroyed by fire in 1947 and rebuilt by the university in 1985. Today, the amazing inner workings of the mill can be seen over four floors providing an insight into the flour-making process. The science center itself is aimed at youngsters and includes a discovery zone with fun interactive displays.
Location: Windmill Lane, Sneinton, Nottingham
6 D. H. Lawrence Heritage
The D. H. Lawrence Heritage Centre in the Eastwood area of Nottingham combines three unique attractions focusing on the famous English author. The Blue Line Trail, a self-guided walking tour modeled on the Freedom Trail in Boston, links the Heritage Centre and the Birthplace Museum.
The Heritage Centre is home to a fascinating exhibition on the social history of Eastwood during the writer's lifetime, including recreations of a Victorian schoolroom, a grocery shop and a mock up of a mine that visitors can crawl through. There's also an art gallery, bistro and conference area. The Birthplace Museum offers displays about family life in the mining community that shaped Lawrence's formative years, as well as a chance to view the rooms where the family lived. Personal items and some of Lawrence's original watercolors are on display.
Location: Mansfield Rd, Eastwood, Nottingham
7 The Great Central Railway
The Great Central Railway is a heritage steam railway running on 10 miles of track between Ruddington Fields station to East Leake and Loughborough. The site includes well-preserved engines and rolling stock, workshops, vintage buses, a café and shops, as well as a wonderful miniature railway.
Location: Mere Way, Ruddington, Nottinghamshire
8 Robin Hood Way
This 104-mile trail runs from Nottingham Castle to Sherwood Forest, passing many attractions associated with Robin Hood. The trail also goes through the Clumber Country Park and past Rufford Abbey, as well as Robin Hood Hills, Thieves Wood and Fountain Dale.
9 Sherwood Forest
Sherwood Forest is most famous for its historical association with the legendary Robin Hood. This famous woodland today encompasses over 1,000 acres surrounding the village of Edwinstowe. The area attracts visitors each year through events such as the week long Robin Hood Festival, with its recreation of medieval times and characters, including knights and court jesters. Other draws include the Sherwood Forest Art and Craft Centre, the 1,000-year-old Major Oak, and Thynghowe, a medieval meeting place where people came to resolve disputes.
Location: Mansfield Rd, Edinstowe, Nottinghamshire
10 Papplewick Pumping Station
Widely considered one of the finest examples of Victorian industrial design in Britain, the Papplewick Pumping Station is a superb example of 19th century craftsmanship. It boasts a range of original features including an ornamental cooling pond and a Boiler House complete with six Lancashire Boilers, all set amidst formal landscaped grounds.
The ornate Engine House is home to the original twin beam engines, built by James Watt in 1884. Here visitors find a combination of Victorian engineering and artistic design, including beautiful stained glass windows, elaborately decorated columns and polished mahogany and brass. Another feat of engineering can be seen at Bestwood Country Park, home to the Winding Engine House, the last remaining vestige of the large colliery that once dominated the landscape.
Location: Rigg Lane, Ravenshead, Nottingham
Where to Stay in Nottingham for Sightseeing
If you're visiting Nottingham for the first time, the city center makes a great base. Here, you'll find attractions such as Old Market Square, Nottingham Castle, and Mortimer's Hole, as well as plenty of shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. Below are some highly-rated hotels in this convenient and central location:
- Luxury Hotels: On a quiet cul-de-sac, a short stroll from the city center, the pet-friendly, boutique Hart's Hotel, with compact, contemporary rooms and a popular restaurant next door, lies a six-minute stroll from Nottingham Castle. Less than ten minutes on foot to Old Market Square and the castle, Crowne Plaza Hotel Nottingham has an indoor pool, fitness center, and comfortable guest rooms, while the contemporary Park Plaza Nottingham is even closer to the castle, near fabulous shops and restaurants.
- Mid-Range Hotels: A mere five-minute walk from the city center and steps from the popular Rock City music venue, Roomzzz Nottingham City offers fresh modern apartments with full kitchens. Breakfast is included in the rates. Nearby, the glass-encased Premier Inn Nottingham City Centre Hotel has comfy, modern rooms in a quiet location. A little closer to the city center, a short stroll from Old Market Square and the castle, Ramada Nottingham City Centre is popular for its handy location, comfortable beds, and reasonable rates.
- Budget Hotels: In a fantastic location, steps from Nottingham Castle and Mortimer's Hole, the pet-friendly Travelodge Nottingham Central, with basic, modern rooms, offers excellent value, as does the nearby Ibis Nottingham Centre, a little further east. North of here, near Nottingham Trent University, the no-frills, pet-friendly Park Hotel has basic rooms and free parking and is only a ten-minute walk from the shops, restaurants, and attractions of the city center.
Newstead Abbey Historic House and Park
Nine miles north of Nottingham is Newstead Abbey, the family home of poet Lord Byron, whose tomb is in Newstead parish church. The house was originally an Augustinian abbey founded in 1170 by Henry II. Some part of the original buildings can still be seen, including the west front of the church, the refectory, the chapterhouse (now a chapel) and the cloisters.
Byron's rooms have been preserved as they were in his lifetime, with many of his mementos on display. The garden contains many old and rare trees, and the abbey grounds contain a beautiful Japanese garden, formal and tropical gardens and lakes and streams.
Location: Ravenshead, Nottinghamshire
St Wulfram's Church is the most notable local landmark in Grantham, its 282 ft high spire the tallest of its era in the country. The town's most famous daughter was the "Iron Lady", Margaret Thatcher, Britain's first female prime minister. Opposite the Guildhall Arts Centre - home to arts and theatrical events - stands a statue of Isaac Newton (1642-1727), a pupil at the local grammar school, and the Grantham Museum contains many mementos of the famous philosopher and scientist.
The 13th Century Angel and Royal Inn is one of the oldest inns in England. Its illustrious guests have included King John, Richard II and Edward VII. Grantham House, owned by the National Trust, has a 14th century room once occupied by Princess Margaret, daughter of Henry VII, during her journey north in 1503 to marry King James IV of Scotland.
Location: Castlegate, Grantham, Lincolnshire
Belvoir Castle, just seven miles west of Grantham, is the imposing seat of the Duke of Rutland and dates back to Norman times. Destroyed in the Civil War, it was rebuilt by James Wyatt in 1808. Today it houses an outstanding collection of paintings including works by Rembrandt, Rubens, Holbein, Poussin and Reynolds, as well as furniture, tapestries and Mortlake wall hangings. The property is well worth exploring, particularly the fantastic gardens, currently being restored to their original designs.
Location: Belvoir Castle, Grantham, Leicestershire
Belton House Park and Gardens
Belton House, two miles north of Grantham, was the elegant seat of Lord Brownlow. Built by Christopher Wren in 1688 and later partly rebuilt by James Wyatt, it now contains fine carvings by Grinling Gibbons, as well as portraits by old English masters and a valuable silver collection. The church has a Norman font, and Belton Tower (1750) stands in the extensive grounds of the park. The formal gardens have a wide variety of flowers, as well as an orangery and a landscaped park surrounding a lake.
Also well worth a visit is Woolsthorpe Manor, seven miles south of Grantham, the birthplace of Isaac Newton and home to the orchard in which he discovered the law of gravity.
Location: Grantham, Lincolnshire
Situated 15 miles northeast of Nottingham, Southwell is a small market town that makes a good base for the exploration of Robin Hood country. Charles I stayed in the Saracen's Head before giving himself up to the Scots in 1646, thus beginning a long period of imprisonment ending with his execution.
Other historic buildings of note include the heritage houses along Church Street and Westgate, the Methodist Church and Lord Byron's house. Southwell Minster was begun in the 12th century and the nave and transepts of this period have been preserved, as have its three Norman towers. The most exquisite part of the minster is the 13th century chapterhouse with its wonderful doorway, a profusion of beautiful naturalistic leaves and flowers, vines and grapes, animals and human figures.
Location: Church St, Southwell, Nottinghamshire