Nottingham England Castle, Robin Hood, and more
Amid the Lace Market's curving paved streets and lovely Georgian architecture, stands a stone-columned building with a sinister past, a past that is couched in justice, yet sees crimes more heinous and shocking than the theft of a few shillings worth of dry goods. It is here on the front steps of Nottingham's County Gaol that the "Bloody Code" was carried out with the horror of grisly public hangings.
Nottingham, England, located in the country's Midlands, is home to the legend of Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham. While these assertions are true, the city possesses a much broader and fascinating history with a contemporary and chic city center, marvelous cuisine and cultural attractions.
Galleries of Justice MuseumOne such attraction is the Galleries of Justice Museum, formerly known as the Nottingham County Gaol, Shire Hall.
The museum, located on High Pavement Street in the Lace Market district, takes visitors on a journey that begins in the old Criminal Court or Shire Hall. For centuries, Shire Hall saw the drama of trials played-out and if the accused were found guilty, they were taken directly down through the court stairs in the lower medieval levels of the gaol. If you were found guilty of a crime deemed punishable by death, you would've been unceremoniously hung by the neck on the front steps of the gaol house steps for all to see.
The museum provides an intriguing and informative tour throughout the multi-storied Galleries Of Justice, from the courtroom to the lowest cells, five levels below. The history of crime and punishment are displayed with bizarre images and photographs, staged cells and audio re-enactments with creepy and chilling accounts of life for the convicted men and women in the gaol. In addition, the museum offers cool performance tours, audio tours and hair-raising ghost tours.
City of CavesNottingham offers another unusual aspect of its past with the City of Caves. Even stranger is the entrance location, within the Broadmarsh shopping Centre. For over 750 years, this mysterious world below ground served as housing, a tannery, an air-raid shelter and is even believed to have been used by the Druids. And, it was no doubt a refuge for nefarious activities as well.
The tour begins with a decent down a narrow flight of stairs and into an eerie, yet amazing world, carved out of sandstone that interweaves through secret passages and tunnels. Some of the caves are tiny with barely room to stand, while others are almost cathedral height with re-created living conditions and artifacts from various periods. The tour explores why and how the caves were created and the myths and legends that exist within them today.
Nottingham CastleAlthough Robin Hood is considered a legend, many within Nottingham's region say he actually existed. After visiting Nottingham Castle, it's not surprising how the legend of the dashing hero began. The castle, located a few blocks from Nottingham's Old Market Square, resides on a hilltop overlooking the city.
Originally, the wooden castle was, built in 1068 by William the Conqueror and was razed in 1651. In 1663, William Cavendish, the First duke of Newcastle, began building a beautiful stone castle on the rocky site with his son completing the structure by 1679. Today, the castle is a museum and art gallery telling the story of Nottingham. There are five floors in the castle for visitors to explore, from the Long Gallery with an exquisite fine art collection, the Study Gallery with 5,000 objects from the decorative arts, such as ceramics, glass and metal works.
One of the most interesting galleries is the Story of Nottingham, located on the lower first floor. Visitors are taken through 15 centuries of history with audio displays, statue period sets, artifacts, Nottingham pottery and even a plaster copy of Oliver Cromwell's death mask.
From now until October, 2010, the castle features a fantastic set exhibition from the new Robin Hood movie starring Russell Crowe. Film director Ridley Scott, sent his set designer, Sonja Klaus to create a unique exhibition with props, authentic set pieces and various weaponry from the film. The costumes and sets are displayed within a hand's grasp and are quite impressive. A large flat screen runs a video on the making of Robin Hood and shows Sonja Klaus talking about the set designs. The exhibition will be on display until the end of October 2010. For more information on Nottingham Castle, go to Nottingham City and scroll to bottom of page.
Go ShoppingNottingham's city centre, encompassing Old Market Square, is walkable and a great place to shop, dine and explore. Multitudes of shops and designer boutiques line the streets. Stroll down Bridlesmith Gate to find tea, shoes, beauty products (Molton Brown) unique wares, as well as British designers Vivienne Westwood and Ted Baker. Bridlesmith Gate is just one of about 50 different streets within the city, as well as the Victoria Centre, the Exchange and numerous arcades that feast on fashion and offer shoppers an unbelievable array of goods and services to peruse.
Within the city, there are distinct areas that run into each other, such as Westfield Broadmarsh, Parliament Street, Bridlesmith Gate and the Lace Market, and Hockley that feature a different flare for all tastes.
Nottingham proffers numerous museums in addition to theater performances and plays. However, one of the city's visually impressive and new museums is the Nottingham Contemporary, located on Weekday Cross Street. The Contemporary features revolving exhibits by local and international artists that highlight various themes, such as Uneven Geographies. The exhibit expresses the artist's visions of the globalization process and all its human penalties and costs. The museum is practically an art installation in itself and proffers a downstairs gourmet cafe, the Contemporary Cafe Bar.
Cafés, Restaurants And PubsWhen you are ready to take a break and want to consider a bite to eat, visit one of the absolute best in Nottingham, The Walk Café. This gorgeous little café, located on Bridlesmith Walk, touts a café culture where British tradition meets imaginative European flare. Sit inside or outside with a bracing cup of tea served in a lovely china teapot or a steaming espresso; however, the real reason you are here is to indulge in the scrumptious cakes and menus items. The Walk's pastry chef trained at Claridges in London.
If you want something a bit simpler and perhaps bohemian, try Lee Rosy's, located on Broad Street in Hockley. This small café offers excellent tea and good coffee with great cakes and several snack items.
For dinner, The Larder On Goosegate, located in the Hockley district, resides in the old Boot's Pharmacy building. The menu is a combination of British and modern British fare with views onto Goosegate. The restaurant prepares excellent vegetarian fare, such as vegetarian Shepherd's Pie or full meat entrees, such as prime rump and sirloin on the bone. The service is perfect, the food excellent and the price mid-scale. The restaurant is located up a flight of stairs and can be difficult to spot from the street but is worth the search.
For superb upscale cuisine and one of the best restaurants in Nottingham, book a table at Hart's, located on Park Row. Their Roast duck and succulent Roast Lamb Rump are divine. The atmosphere is elegant and suited to a regal martini or a lingering glass of fine wine. For dessert, try the Yorkshire rhubarb & custard on ginger bread ice cream.
For a relaxing pint and comfortable pub environment, visit the Living Room on High Pavement Street. The internet is free and they serve a foaming stout Guinness on tap. The Living Room Pub is great for conversation and no loud music.
If you're looking for more of an old-time traditional British Pub replete with darts, try the Kean's Head on St. Mary's Gate. They are small but comfortable and sever a mean meat pie. If you fancy an upbeat pub with music and cheeky cocktails, visit the Brass Monkey in the Lace Market district. You'll find a 20-to-30-something crowd all mixing it up. Visit their roof-top garden and sip a strawberries and cream concoction; luscious.
AccommodationsNottingham offers a wonderful variety of hotels, inns and B&Bs in every price range. For our top pick, we recommend the Lace Market Hotel, located on High Pavement Street. The Lace Market is located a few blocks from the town centre and is a brilliant conversion of two Georgian houses combined into a lovely hotel. The views from the windows span High Pavement Street, the surrounding Georgian architecture, and St. Mary's Church. The service is excellent and the rooms are comfortable with modern furnishings, high windows, quality linens and chic bathrooms.
If You Go
Patrice Raplee is an experienced travel photojournalist and editor of Travel Excursion and Seattle Spotlight for Positively Entertainment magazine. In addition, she writes a monthly travel column for the award-wining site Offbeat Travel. She is a member of North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA), International Travel Writers Alliance (ITWA) and the Recording Academy. Her photographs and articles have appeared in numerous international publications, as well as NW newspapers such as the Seattle Times, the Stranger, Seattle Weekly and the Oregonian. As a freelance photojournalist, she has also worked with acclaimed musical entertainers, such as Santana, Billy Joel and Steven Tyler. Patrice travels the globe to cover destinations that feature fascinating culture, art, culinary, history and soft adventure.
All photos by Patrice Raplee