Travel

Nottinghamshire – a guide for visiting this East Midlands county in 2023

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It feels like we've written about many towns and villages around Nottinghamshire, but not much about the area itself - until now. There is plenty to see and do in Nottinghamshire, and we wanted to highlight the picks of the bunch. Let's get into the guide:

Where is Nottinghamshire?

The county of Nottinghamshire is in the East Midlands region of England, along with Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, and Rutland. It borders South Yorkshire to the north-west, Lincolnshire to the east, Leicestershire to the south, and Derbyshire to the west. It's approximately 3 hours to London from Nottinghamshire, and about the same up to Newcastle. Talk about being in the centre of the country!

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What is there to see and do in Nottinghamshire?

There is quite a bit to see and do in Nottinghamshire, here are some of the highlights:

Sherwood Forest

Fans of Robin Hood will be familiar with Sherwood Forest from the movies, but there are many people who don't realise that Sherwood Forest is a real location you can actually visit. And unlike so many famous locations around the world, it is actually a really lovely and untouched area which is a great place to visit. With more than 450 acres of woodland to explore, Sherwood Forest has a number of trails of varying intensity that can be followed. From shorter trails like the Giants Trail, which is under a mile and takes you past the amazing ancient oak trees, to the longer trails like Wildwood Trail, which is 4 miles long and takes you through heathland and wood pasture. There is something for everyone at Sherwood Forest and it is definitely one of the best places you can visit in Nottinghamshire, learn more here - visitsherwood.co.uk

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Clumber Park

This lovely park is now managed by The National Trust and is immaculately well-kept. With more than 3,800 acres of beautiful space to explore, the park has a variety of nature to explore including parkland, heath, woods, and a stunning lake. Once the country estate of the Dukes of Newcastle, there was previously a grand house on the park. Although it is now demolished, you can still explore some of the remains including a Gothic-style chapel and a Walled Kitchen Garden. Learn more here - nationaltrust.org.uk
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Newstead Abbey

Once the home of one of Nottinghamshire's most famous residents, the poet Lord Byron, it is no wonder that Newstead Abbey is so grand. Formerly an Augustinian priory, the building was converted into a home in the 16th century, and eventually ended up being the home of Byron between 1808 and 1814. One of the wonderful things about a visit to Newstead Abbey is that you can freely explore much of the interior, which can't be said about many country houses up and down the country. Areas like the Victorian kitchen and the poet's private apartments are both fascinating and impressive. The priory church is home to a sculpture of the Virgin and Child which is very beautiful. But as impressive as the house itself is, the surrounding grounds may match it in terms of beauty. With more than 300 acres of gardens and parkland to explore, you'll likely find yourself enjoying the lakes, ponds, and waterfalls as much as anything in the abbey itself. A visit to Newstead Abbey is a great day out, and we highly recommend you visit. Learn more here - newsteadabbey.org.uk
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Rufford Abbey

This abbey might not be as grand or as well-known as Newstead Abbey, but we think it is still well worth a visit during your time in Nottinghamshire. Similar to Newstead, the abbey itself is nice to wander around, with ruins dating from the 12th century, but we'd say the grounds here are the real highlight - most visitors take the route around the lake which takes around 20 minute. There is also an area at the side of the abbey which is perfect for picnics and relaxing. It's a lovey setting and a fascintaing visit, learn more here - english-heritage.org.uk
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Nottingham Castle 

Known as the castle on the rock, the dramatic setting of Nottingham Castle can be admired from a distance. Originally built in the 11th century, the castle has undergone much transformation since then, and in 2021 it had a £30 million revamp making it a better place to visit than ever. Before you visit, it is worth mentioning that this castle feels much more like a stately home than a medieval castle, but it is still well worth visiting. The outer walls (pictured) are stunning to see, and there is lots of information here about the history of Robin Hood. You can also explore the extensive art collection within the building. Learn more here - nottinghamcastle.org.uk
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Wollaton Hall and Park

This Grade I listed Elizabethan mansion is stunning, and is also steeped in fascinating history. Built in the late 16th century, Wollaton Hall has been the home of many influential figures of history, and is also well-known for playing the part of Wayne Manor in 'The Dark Knight Rises'. The tours around the mansion are a real highlight, and the staff here are all very knowledgeable and clearly passionate about what they're doing. One highlight of the house is the taxidermy exhibition, which can be a bit much for some people but is certainly interesting!
The grounds are beautiful and you can often spot wildlife like deer, herons, ducks and swans. Learn more here - wollatonhall.org.uk
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Trent Bridge Cricket Ground

If you're a fan of cricket then we'd highly recommend a trip to Trent Bridge - the first match was held here right at the end of the 19th century, and you can really feel the history of the ground when you visit. The hospitality here is notoriously excellent and definitely the best way to experience a cricket match at Trent Bridge. The only thing which seems to cause people to overlook a visit to Trent Bridge is the distance from the centre of Nottingham, but the ground is only about a mile from the centre of Nottingham. Here is a Google Map we've created which outlines the best route for walking (it's a pleasant walk and will take you less than 30 minutes). Learn more about Trent Bridge here - trentbridge.co.uk
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Newark Air Museum

This is one of the largest volunteer-run aviation museums in the UK and is an absolute must-visit for anyone with an interest in planes and the World Wars. Located on the former World War II airfield of Winthorpe, the museum features an impressive selection of planes and open cockpits which allow visitors to step inside these machines and get a feel for what it would be like to actually fly them. It's only £10 for an adult ticket and £5 for a child, which is very reasonable given that most people can easily spend several hours here. Learn more via the website -
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National Justice Museum

This is another excellent museum which is a must-visit during your time in Nottinghamshire. Based in Nottingham's historic Lace Market, the National Justice Museum is home to an original Victoria courtrooms, a Georgian gaol, and prison cells dating from hundreds of years ago. If that wasn't enough, the costumed staff here are really enthusiastic and add to the immersive experience. The re-enactments of court cases are very fun!
All of this fascinating history is housed within the Grade II* listed Shire Hall, which in itself is a beautiful building to explore. Learn more here - nationaljusticemuseum.org.uk
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City of Caves

We can't talk about things to do in Nottinghamshire without talking about the amazing City of Caves. This is the largest network of caves in the UK, and many people don't realise that there are more than 800 caves beneath the streets of Nottingham. It can get a little bit claustrophobic as you wander around this network of caves, so if you freak out in situations like that then we'd give this a skip. But if you want a memorable experience during your time in Nottinghamshire, the City of Caves is a must-visit location. The entrance to the City of Caves is currently at the bottom of the Garner’s Hill Steps next to Nottingham Contemporary, and you can buy a joint ticket for the caves and the National Justice Museum. Learn more here - nationaljusticemuseum.org.uk
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Erewash Nature Reserve

If you're a fan of bird-watching and enjoy walks in nature, then the Erewash Nature Reserve is a fantastic place to visit. Forming part of the largest area of floodplain grasslands and wetlands in the Erewash Valley, the unique mix of land here makes it an ideal habitat for rare and beautiful wildlife. Animals like water voles, grass snakes and dragonflies can all be spotted here, and it's also a hotspot for birds like Lapwings and Snipes. Learn more here - derbyshirewildlifetrust.org.uk
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What should you be aware of before visiting Nottinghamshire?

As you can see from the above list, there is quite a bit to see & do during your time in Nottinghamshire, and unless you're spending a couple of weeks in the area you might struggle to fit it all in! Our advice would be to plan your visit to try and see as many of the above attractions as possible, and also look for joint tickets you can buy to save money (for example, the City of the Caves and National Justice Museum joint ticket). If you're planning to visit all of the historical attractions owned by English Heritage, you could pay for an English Heritage membership to receive a hefty discount.

Where can you stay in Nottinghamshire?

You've got plenty of accommodation options in Nottinghamshire, both within the city of Nottingham and within the surrounding towns and villages. A good place to start your search is sites like Booking.com, Tripadvisor, and Trivago. The top-rated hotel in Nottinghamshire is Thoresby Hall, which is an impressive Victoria country house in Newark which has been converted into a very special 4-star hotel. Eastwood Hall is also a highly-rated option, a luxury spa hotel in Nottingham. If you're looking for something a little less expensive, there are a number of excellent AirBNBs you can choose from in Nottinghamshire.
Hopefully, this guide has inspired you to visit this great area of England. We have guides about lots of other areas in England such as Sussex, Teesdale, the English Riviera, and Yorkshire.

Finn is the editor of You Well and has been writing about travel, health, and more for over 10 years.

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