The Nottingham Robin Hood Trail
Many sites in Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire, ranging from the historical to the legendary, are associated with the adventures of Robin Hood and his band of merry men. There are various interpretations of what to see on the Nottingham Robin Hood Trail, which includes dozens of locations and covers a 100-mile span of territory. The following 10 suggestions offer the most reward for your time with the benefit of being free (or inexpensive) and located fairly close together in distance.
Each location has a different story connected with the legend of Robin Hood and recorded history. Medieval court records show that ‘Robin Hood’ was a generic name given to outlaws by clerks of the courts, similar to the modern John Doe. However, some historians believe that the tales may be associated with a real person who lived in the early thirteenth century.
The Nottingham Robin Hood Trail brings history to life and offers a personal encounter into the tales that have made Robin Hood such a beloved and enigmatic figure through the centuries.
Where was Robin Hood From?
As the story goes, the major events of the Robin Hood legend, specifically his battles with the evil Sheriff, take place in and around Nottingham city. The first four options on this list (Nottingham Castle, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, St Mary’s Church, and the National Justice Museum) are located in Nottingham city center within walking distance of each other.
The next three options (Sherwood Forest, Robin Hood Festival, Edwinstowe) relate to Robin Hood’s romance with Maid Marian and his outlaw existence in the woodland that once covered the Midlands. These locations are a short drive from Nottingham city.
The final three places on this list (Southwell Minster, Newark Castle, and Lincoln Cathedral and Castle) consider Robin Hood as ‘the legendary hero,’ and the impact of the character across geographic locations and many centuries of time. Each of these locations is easily accessible by train, bus, or car from Nottingham city.
In the medieval period, Nottingham Castle was a strategic fortress on a major road leading to the north of the country. Medieval kings used it as a stopping point on their journeys. The elaborate cave system under the castle has no shortage of accounts of royal and political intrigue. Prince John, portrayed as the usurper king in the Robin Hood story legends, occupied Nottingham Castle when he rebelled against his brother Richard I (Lionheart).
The medieval castle that sat atop the 30-meter rocky outcropping was destroyed at the end of the English Civil War. However, the medieval foundations are still extant along with a historical network of subterranean passages with connections to Robin Hood.
Currently, the castle is undergoing an extensive £29.4 million renovation project. It is expected to re-open in 2020 with a greater emphasis on the castle’s connection with Robin Hood. Visitors can expect to see a new Robin Hood Gallery, which will ‘provide an immersive experience, enabling visitors to travel back in time to Medieval Nottingham and stroll through the leafy realms of Sherwood Forest.’
Outside of the castle walls is a statue of Robin Hood with his bow and arrow poised to defend the city. This is a popular photo spot. The statue is still accessible during the renovation period. Robin Hood iconography also appears throughout the castle gardens, which are likely to remain after the renovation project is complete.
Be sure to check the website for up to date opening information before your visit.
Address: Friar Lane, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, NG1 6EL
Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem
Attached to Nottingham Castle’s foundation is a pub which claims to be the ‘oldest inn in England’ with a date of 1189 scribed upon its wall. It is thought to have been a meeting point for soldiers before they departed for the Third Crusade. In some interpretations of the legends, Robin Hood is imagined to have been a soldier in the Crusades.
In other stories, ‘The Trip’ is conjectured to be a clandestine meeting place for Robin Hood and his gang of outlaws. The pub is connected to the castle via the cave network and handmade chiseled tunnels, which were used to haul ale directly into the castle above.
Some stories have depicted Robin Hood using these vulnerable openings as a means to gain access to the castle. One of these tunnels may still be viewed today.
The pub itself is worth a visit for its medieval atmosphere, local ales, and reasonably priced traditional English pub food. The Robin Hood story characters have also been known to appear at the pub, especially during the summer months.
Address: Castle Blvd, Nottingham NG1 6AD
Phone: +44 (0)115 947 3171
Note: The Trip will be closed for renovation until Saturday, March 24, 2019
St Mary’s Church, Nottingham
One of the medieval tales, Robin Hood and the Monk, states that Robin Hood was betrayed by a dishonest monk and attacked by the Sheriff while he was praying in the church in front of the rood screen (a decorated screen separating the altar and congregation). Robin fought with the Sheriff and his men, killing or wounding several by the church altar before he was captured and imprisoned.
In the tale, with the help of Little John, Robin Hood later escaped from prison by scaling the city wall and disappearing into the forest.
Today the rood screen is gone, but the altar and other points of historical interest from the church’s thousand-year history are still extant, such as the chantry door (one of the oldest surviving medieval doors), notable burials, and Victorian stained glass.
Address: 40 High Pavement, Nottingham NG1 1HN
Opening Times: 10 am until 3 pm on Monday to Saturday
Guided tours may be arranged via +44 (0)115 958 2105 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
National Justice Museum
Across the street from St Mary’s Church is the National Justice Museum. In medieval times the Sheriff enforced law and order in Nottinghamshire from this seat of power, the so-called Shire Hall. Today, it is a museum with several different exhibitions dedicated specifically to Robin Hood and to the history of law enforcement in the area.
Underneath the museum is an oubliette (a dungeon; from French meaning ‘to forget’) where Robin Hood is said to have been imprisoned.
The museum is particularly suitable for families with young children. Discounts on city cave tours are available with a purchase of admittance to the museum.
Address: High Pavement, Nottingham NG1 1HN
Opening Times: 9 am to 5.30pm (10 am weekends; Last admission 4 pm)
Cost: Adults £10.95; Over 60s £9.95; Students £9.95; Under 18s £7.95; Under 5s Free
‘The spirit of Robin Hood lives forever in Sherwood Forest and in the hearts of those who seek him,’ states the Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre. The forest in medieval times covered a much larger area than it does today, which made it an ideal place for outlaws to disappear. This iconic forest is where Robin and his men had their camp and where they robbed passing wealthy travelers.
The visitor center in Sherwood Forest is located in an area which contains many ancient oaks. The most famous of which is the 1000-year old Major Oak. According to the legend, Robin Hood used the tree as a meeting place and a hiding place within the 10-meter circumference trunk.
Today, visitors can choose from a variety of activities throughout the forest, including nature walks to the Major Oak, guided walks deeper into the forest, mushroom hunts, interaction with Robin Hood characters, and a family program offered by the visitor center.
Address: Sherwood Forest, Edwinstowe, Nottinghamshire NG21 9RN
Visitor Centre Opening Times: 10 am to 5 pm from March to October, and 10 am to 4:30 pm from November to the end of February
Cost: Free (£4 fee for car parking)
Robin Hood Festival
Every year in August, The Robin Hood Festival takes place in Sherwood Forest. The 2019 festival will occur from Monday 5th to Sunday 11th August.
The festival offers a week of daily activities, such as re-enactment by Robin Hood characters through song, dance, storytelling, sword-fighting, and a treasure hunt through the forest.
The festival also provides photo opportunities with characters, food and drink stalls, craft stands, medieval music, archery lessons, living history demonstrations, and other immersive activities. The week-long daily event guide will be available on the website near to the festival date.
Address: Sherwood Forest, Edwinstowe, Nottinghamshire NG21 9RN
Cost: The festival is free (£5 car parking fee for a full day)
Within walking distance of the Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre is the village of Edwinstowe. In the medieval period, it would have been surrounded by dense woodland, at the very heart of the forest. Legends say that it was in Edwinstowe (St Mary’s Church) that Robin Hood and Maid Marian exchanged wedding vows. In modern interpretations of the Robin Hood story, Marian is often portrayed as an equal to Robin.
This interpretation is not far off from some of the ballad accounts of Maid Marian. In one tale, Robin and Marian, both in disguise, fight each other with equal ability, even delivering injuries, until Robin calls a truce and they discover their real identities. On my visit, I received a tour of the church from a warden on duty who had interesting stories and a great depth of knowledge about the church and local events.
The church is small, but full of history and located in an iconic setting within Sherwood Forest.
Address: Church Street, Edwinstowe, NG21 9QA
Phone: +44 01623 824545
Opening Times: The church is open during the summer months; we recommend visitors to phone in advance
Southwell is about a 20-minute drive (or hour bus ride) from Nottingham city center. It is an idyllic place with an impressive minster. The connections with Robin Hood here relate to the symbolism of the color green associated with the character and his forest life.
The carved faces of green men are found in the medieval chapter house, and these are interpreted by some as symbols of the outlaws in their Sherwood Forest home. In the medieval tales, there is a strong connection between Robin and the Forest, and iconography of lawless living in what was once a wilderness.
In addition to Robin Hood, the minster offers a program of daily Evensong, museum, chapel library, and café. Southwell is also home to the most complete Victorian workhouse in existence (now a museum). Every October the village hosts the Bramley Apple Festival consisting of apple-related foods and drinks, cookery demonstrations, and morris dancing.
Address: Church St, Southwell NG25 0HD
Opening Times: Daily 8.00am to 7.00pm (March-October); and in wintertime until 6.30pm/dusk. From Wednesday 26th December to Tuesday 1st January the Minster closes at the earlier time of 5.00pm.
Cost: Free (donations accepted)
The historic Saracens Head Hotel (a few minutes walk from the Minster) offers award-winning dining and accommodation.
Newark Castle on the River Trent is the only surviving medieval castle in Nottinghamshire. The castle was damaged during the English Civil War and only one wall and some partial ruins are standing today. It is the place where King John died in 1216. He was the brother of Richard the Lionheart (Richard I), and features in the Robin Hood legends as Prince John, the evil, an incompetent ruler who causes the country to descend into corruption and lawlessness in his brother’s absence.
If the legends are true, Friar Tuck poisoned John at Newark Castle in revenge for killing Maid Marian. Historical accounts state that John died at the castle of dysentery.
On offer at the castle is an exhibition on King John and tours of the dungeons and towers (offering beautiful views of the River Trent and countryside). Seasonal guided tours are available during the spring and summer months.
It takes about 30 minutes by train to reach Newark from Nottingham (about 40 minutes by car) or 15 minutes from Southwell by bus or car. You can easily combine a visit to Newark with a visit to Southwell, especially if you are traveling by car.
Address: Castlegate, Newark, Nottinghamshire, NG24 1BG
Phone: +44 01636 655765
Opening Times: 8.30am to dusk
Cost: Free; Guided one-hour tours of the castle run on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at £5 for adults, £2.50 for children aged 3 and over, or £12.50 for a family ticket for 2 adults, 2 children
Lincoln Cathedral and Castle
Lincoln is about 40 miles away from Nottingham and the main nexus of events associated with the Robin Hood legend. However, the town, the cathedral, and the castle all have connections with the legend. In medieval times, Lincoln was the center of the cloth industry. It produced the famous ‘Lincoln Green’ clothes worn by Robin and his men.
Lincoln Cathedral has the earliest surviving written rhyme about Robin Hood in its collection, which dates to the early fifteenth century.
Lincoln Castle, standing directly opposite to the cathedral, houses a copy of the Magna Carta, which greatly restrained the powers of Robin’s major adversary, King John, in 1215. Together the castles of Nottingham, Newark, and Lincoln have played significant roles in medieval history and in the setting of the legendary exploits of the Robin Hood character.
Lincoln itself makes for a wonderful day trip. The medieval spirit is very much alive in Lincoln, particularly in the historical buildings that line Steep Hill. The main thoroughfare leads on a gentle slope to the castle and cathedral.
Of particular recommendation after a day of touring is Browns Pie Shop located on Steep Hill in an early medieval building.The pie shop offers delicious and filling traditional pies (such as steak and ale or rabbit and elderflower) served with seasonal vegetables.
Address: Minster Yard, Lincoln LN2 1PX
Phone: +44 01522 561600
Opening Times: Monday to Saturday 7.15am to 6.00pm; Sunday 7.15am to 5.00pm
Cost: Free before 9am or after 4.30pm; Adult £8.00; Concession £6.40; Children £4.80; Under 5s Free
Address: Castle Hill, Lincoln LN1 3AA
Opening hours: October to March 10 am to 4 pm; April to September 10 am to 5 pm
Cost: Day ticket: Adult £13.50; Concession £11.00; Children £7.20; Under 5s Free
You can purchase joint tickets for the Castle and Cathedral: Adult £17.20; Concession £13.90; Children £9.60; Under 5 Years Free
Guest Contributor Erin Connelly wrote and photographed the Nottingham Robin Hood Trail story for Europe Up Close. Erin Connelly travels frequently in the UK and Europe. She particularly enjoys outdoor excursions, points of historical interest, and experiencing new cultures.