Travel: Nottingham’s rich history and cultural gems

Nottingham Castle
Nottingham Castle
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Nottingham is rich in history but the city has some culinary gems to both surprise and delight

Think Nottingham and one automatically thinks Robin Hood and while the myth is very much being kept alive in the city, there’s more here than meets the eye.

The city has played a key role in many of the events which helped shape our nation. It also boasts the oldest pub in England, the aptly named Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem, which dates back to time of The Crusades and was the point at which many a knight began his pilgrimage. There are over 500 caves pockmarking the city, many of which can be visited. If you like that sort of thing, then you’ll be in your element, because tours of the ‘castle’ (even though there’s no castle any more, it being largely demolished by 1649 because it was deemed simply too dangerous to fall into the wrong hands), include caves which lie beneath it and which were used for all sorts of reasons, from smuggling in goods for the king to allowing treasonous knights secret entry.

And, of course, there’s Sherwood Forest on the doorstep, where visitors can walk and take part in activities.

But if it’s a city break you’re looking for, Nottingham has one or two surprises up its sleeve.

We stayed at the St James Hotel in the city centre, recently redecorated and a great location if you’re wanting to head out to the various attractions. It’s a stone’s throw from the castle and the city centre shops are minutes away.

Just around the corner from the hotel, we discovered the Crafty Crow, a stripped-back bar offering a range of real ales (which they serve in thirds in case you fancy sampling a few) and some of the best (and biggest) pub platters we’ve ever seen. We ordered a sharing platter (£19.50), a trio of local meat, trio of local cheeses, half a pork pie and half a scotch egg, together with pickles and salad. The cheese alone was worth £20, the rest of the platter was spot on, as was the beer.

We took the castle tour, even though it’s no longer castle walls which dominate the city anymore but a stately home. I’d certainly advise taking one of the guided tours of the grounds because they also take in the tunnels beneath the old castle rock, which are fascinating in themselves, having been used for various legitimate and nefarious uses down the centuries.

A great way to get to know the city (although you may need the best part of a day for it) is the architectural ale trail, which takes in a dozen pubs and some stunning buildings.

The central shopping area has everything you’ll need and more, with a versatile piazza which was filled with a Christmas market during our visit but which is given over to other uses throughout the year.

Another attraction is the Galleries of Justice Museum, an enthralling, if gory, experience through Nottingham’s old courthouse and gaol. You can even put your family on trial in the Victorian law court (www.galleriesofjustice.org.uk)

In the evening, if you’re looking for fine dining, you must pay a visit to MemSaab, described by AA Gill in The Times in March last year as “one of the top three best Indian restaurants in the country” and with an eclectic interior reflecting both classical and modern Indian art influences and food which attempts to redefine the genre, you won’t be disappointed.

TRAVEL DATES

March 13 & 14: 48 Hours of Fashion, Old Market Square

May 23-25: Great Food & Drink Festival, Nottingham Castle

October 24 & 25: Robin Hood Pageant, Nottingham Castle

Info: tourist.information@nottinghamcity.gov.uk/www.experiencenottinghamshire.com or ring 0844 775678

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