Nottingham Short Break – My Top Ten Places to Visit

Nottingham, the county town of Nottinghamshire, has much to offer Short Break visitors. It has a vibrant city centre, with fine buildings, many relating to the lace trade, fascinating museums and well maintained green spaces.

Robin Hood Statue by Nottingham Castle
Robin Hood Statue near Nottingham Castle

I’ve often visited Nottingham over the years and have been impressed by its development into a smart, modern metropolis.

Its unique atmosphere is derived in part from its position on the mighty River Trent and also from its having two large universities, Nottingham and Nottingham Trent.

My Top Ten Places to Visit are ones that I personally have found of interest.

For some places viewing may just take a just few minutes, whereas others, like the National Justice Museum and Wollaton Hall and Park, may take hours to fully appreciate. I would suggest that at least two days be allowed if you wish to visit all ten places.

The Old Market Square

Nottingham Council House
Nottingham Council House

The Old Market Square is the beating heart of the city and one of the largest pedestrianised squares in the UK.

This is a good place to start a tour of Nottingham as the local Tourism Centre is situated in the domed Council House overlooking the square. You can pick up a Nottingham Trail map there which includes many of my Top Ten Places as stopping off points.

Before leaving the square, look for the bronze statue of Brian Clough, the iconic football manager for Nottingham Forest from 1975 to 1993.

The Sky Mirror

Nottingham: Sky Mirror Statue
Sky Mirror

Situated in front of the Nottingham Playhouse, a ten minute walk east of the Old Market Place, is a striking sculpture by Anish Kapoor called the Sky Mirror.

This 20 ft wide concave stainless steel structure reflects the surrounding buildings upside down. Quite intriguing.

Heading south towards Nottingham Castle takes you near to a fine Georgian House that was the home of Lord Byron between 1798 and 1799. It has been claimed that he wrote some of his first verses here before returning to his ancestral home, Newstead Abbey, ten miles to the north.

Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem

Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem
Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem

Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem is a pub at the side of Castle Rock upon which Nottingham Castle is built.

It claims be the oldest pub in England, dating back to 1189, and to have been a stopping off point for crusaders bound for Jerusalem.

Irrespective of whether these claims are true or not, it is a great atmospheric place to have a drink in one of the rooms nestling into the rock face.

When I visited in January it was very quiet, but it can be difficult to get a seat inside or even outside on a Summer weekend.

Nottingham Castle Museum and Galleries

Castle Gate House
Castle Gate House

Nottingham Castle, perched on top of Castle Rock, dates back to 1067, but little remains of the structure, which was destroyed and rebuilt many times. However the Gate House, which dates back to about 1255, remains intact.

The castle site is now occupied by an Italianate Palace, built in about 1660. This currently houses a museum and galleries relating to the history of Nottingham, including sections on Robin Hood and on the lace industry.

Nearby is a statue of Robin Hood and a curious 15th Century timber-framed house known as Severn’s Building.

National Justice Museum

Nottingham: National Justice Museum
Courtroom at the National Justice Museum

The National Justice Museum is based in a courthouse and prison dating back to 1375. There is a massive display of objects concerned with justice and punishment over the centuries, scattered throughout two floors and in a basement, including a section on transportation of convicts to Australia.

The highlight when I visited was a mock trial in the courtroom of a highwayman who committed his crimes in 1785. The trial was conducted partly with actors and partly with visitors selected to play roles, including the actual villain, who, not surprisingly was sentenced to death at the end of the trial!

Close to the museum is St Mary’s Church which is believed to date back to Saxon times.

The City of Caves

There are at least 800 caves under the city of Nottingham and many of these can be explored at the City of Caves entered at the back of the Nottingham Contemporary, one of the biggest contemporary art spaces in the UK.

The Arboretum

Chinese Bell Tower in the Arboretum
Chinese Bell Tower in the Arboretum

The Arboretum is just a ten minute walk north from the city centre, passing through the bustling Nottingham Trent University area on the way. It was the first public park in the city and dates back to 1852.

The 17 acres landscaped park contains over 800 trees of 65 different species, around a lake and beside a network of footpaths. There is also a small aviary, a bandstand and an unusual Chinese Bell Tower war memorial, partly commemorating the Second Opium War, but with two cannon (plus two replicas) captured in Sebastapol during the Crimean War.

There was a pub in the arboretum known as the Pub in the Park, but this was destroyed by a fire in 2006. However I found the nearby large, airy Wetherspoons pub, The Gooseberry Bush, to be well placed for refreshment after my 30 minute walk around the Arboretum. It was built on part of the site of Nottingham Women’s Hospital.

The Lace Market Area

Adams House
Adams House

There are many fine Victorian buildings in the Lace Market area to the south of the city centre. This reflects the city’s central role in the world’s lace industry during the days of the British Empire.

An imposing example is the Adams Building dating back to 1855 and named after Thomas Adams, a Quaker who tried to improve factory working conditions.

It is now part of the Nottingham College campus and houses several departments over its seven floors including Fashion & Textiles.

Wollaton Hall and Park

Wollaton Hall and Park
Camelia House at Wollaton Hall

Wollaton Hall is an elaborate Elizabethan house in formal gardens situated in a 500 acre park about three miles west of the city centre. The building now houses the Nottingham Natural History Museum and the Nottingham Industrial Museum is nearby.

The massive, white, cast iron framed Camelia House is impressive, even when camelias are not in flower. It dates back to 1823.

The surrounding parkland is home to herds of red and fallow deer and Northern pike have been spotted in the lake.

Victoria Embankment and the River Trent

For those fit and keen on walking, the River Trent is about one and half miles south of the city centre. There is a pleasant two mile circular walk beside the river, partly along the Victoria Embankment, with a bridge crossing at each end of the route.

Where to Stay

There are many hotels in or near the centre of Nottingham, but my favourite is the Crowne Plaza on Wollaton Street, just a short walk from the Old Market Square. An alternative near to the castle is the Nottingham Holiday Inn. Both hotels offer Senior Discounts.

POSTED 8th FEBRUARY 2024 by STEVE HANSON. The photographs were taken by BARBARA HANSON except the one of the Council House which is courtesy of PIXABAY.