“Keep Your Chin Up. Someday There’ll Be Happiness Again In Nottingham, You’ll See.” Can you exactly imagine the scene where this quote is said? If you’re not familiar, it’s from Disney’s Robin Hood, inspired by the real historic figure of Robin Hood and set in the real English city of Nottingham.
While this site is obviously focused on London travel, I love recommending day trips and weekend getaways (what the Brits call “city breaks” that allow you to explore beyond London too. There are some obvious choices, like Greenwich, Oxford, Cambridge and Brighton, but there are other day trip destinations I like to recommend that are a bit less conventional – planning a Nottingham day trip lets you visit one of those less conventional destinations.
You see, I took my own day trip to Nottingham when I lived in London; friends were interested in seeing the place where Robin Hood made his mark on history, so a group of us boarded a train and headed north through the English countryside to the city of Nottingham. We spent a day seeing the sights, admiring the history and architecture, and enjoying a pint before our return to London; Nottingham is also where I bought one of my favorite coffee mugs!
If you’re sold on doing this day trip during your own London itinerary, read on. I’ll cover the basics of planning a Nottingham day trip and what to do once you’re there (inspired by what my friends and I did during our visit).
How to Get from London to Nottingham
To start planning your Nottingham day trip, you have to know how to get there and how long it will take you to get there.
A trip from London to Nottingham takes anywhere from 1.5 hours to 2.5 hours, depending on your chosen means of transportation. As you can see, Nottingham is pretty close compared to other destinations. Both cities are 128 miles (206 kilometers) apart, and you have different ways to travel between them.
The two most popular ways to get to Nottingham are by train and bus. Trains are faster, although more expensive, whereas buses are cheaper but mean longer journeys.
Trains depart from St. Pancras International in London and arrive at Nottingham Train Station. East Midland Railways runs the services between both cities, with the first train departing at 6 a.m. and the last one at 11 p.m. The Train Line is a good website to browse tickets, which start at $19.84 for a one-way trip. As always, try to book your tickets in advance to find better prices.
Traveling by bus is the second-best option to visit Nottingham from London. Bus fares are cheaper, with tickets starting at $6. The ride, however, takes about three and a half hours. The National Express runs daily services from London Victoria Coach Station to Nottingham Coach Station. The first bus leaves at 6:30 a.m. and the last one at midnight.
The Best Things to Do for One Day in Nottingham
Nottingham is the largest city in the East Midlands. It has a plethora of attractions, especially for history and literary buffs. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the fantastic places you can visit on your Nottingham day trip.
1. Visit Nottingham Castle
Perched on top of Castle Rock, Nottingham Castle is a fortified castle William the Conqueror started building in 1068 to fortify Norman power over central and northern England. Since then, the castle has played host to numerous events in British history, including the scenario where the bloody English Civil War started.
The castle has many exhibitions discussing the English Civil War and its aftermath, the Luddites (an organization of English textile workers who opposed industrialization in the 19th C), and the 1831 reform act. There are also interesting displays for children and teenagers.
2. See Robin Hood
Robin Hood is arguably the most legendary outlaw in English folklore. If you’re not familiar with him, he was a skilled archer and sword fighter who robbed the rich to give to the poor.
According to the legend, Robin Hood lived in Nottingham, in Sherwood Forest, to be more precise. A statue in his honor lies behind Nottingham Castle. The monument depicting the hero with his arrow features eight pieces of half-inch thick bronze and weighs almost half a ton, the Duchess of Portland unveiling it in July 1952. It’s the perfect spot for photographs.
3. Tour the City of Caves
Nottingham is the English city with the most caves in the country. It has over 870 caves beneath the ground, and archeologists believe many more they are yet to discover. They’ve been used for several purposes throughout history, from domestic and commercial storage to a medieval tannery to WWII air raid shelters.
The City of Caves is a monument based on a network of caves carved out of sandstone. The venue carries out daily tours to explore the rocky passages underneath, and it’s a fantastic way to learn about the importance of caves for Nottingham’s society and culture.
4. Stop by England’s Oldest inn
The Midlands city is also home to the oldest pub in England, the Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem pub. The ancient pub built into stone caves dates back to 1189. It rests against Castle Rock, and historians think it served as a brewhouse for the castle. As any pub, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem is a quirky pub with bags of character and a fantastic atmosphere and staff. The interior’s aesthetic is lovely, with wonky walls and leather booth seatings.
You’d expect beverage prices to be higher than other venues seeing that this is a historical site. However, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that it is similar to other places. So, consider it when looking for a place to grab a bite. By the way, it is quaintly small, so booking is advisable.
5. Visit Wollaton Hall
Wollaton Hall is one of Nottingham’s main landmarks. The building is a grade I listed Elizabethan country house from the 1580s. It sits within 500 acres of natural parkland, where deer and local wildlife roam freely. The building is now home to the Nottingham Natural History Museum and Nottingham Industrial Museum. Visitors can take a tour to explore the house’s interior and see the kitchen, grand halls, upper staterooms, cellars, and caves beneath the hall.
6. Explore Old Market Square
The Old Market Square is a trendy square in Nottingham that you’re sure to visit on any day trip to Nottingham you take. It sits right in the heart of the city center and is where locals gather to grab a bite and indulge in a few drinks every night. The pedestrianized area is one of the oldest public squares in the UK and is rife with eateries, shops, modern arcades, bars, and hidden alleys. The City Hall also dominates the square. It’s a stunning domed building constructed between 1927 and 1929.
7. See the Lace Market
Contrary to what the name suggests, the Lace Market isn’t a retailer type of market. Instead, it refers to one of the oldest neighborhoods of Nottingham. During the British Empire, Nottingham was the hub of the lace industry, with all the commercial and production activities concentrating in the Lace Market area.
The area is beautiful, with excellent examples of 19th-century industrial architecture in its surroundings. There are also iron railings, old gas lamps, and red phone boxes scattered around, which help give visitors a good sense of what Victorian England looked like. Besides the gorgeous architecture, the Lace Market district has a vibrant nightlife scene, lots of cozy pubs, modern bars, and good restaurants.
8. Go Museum Hopping
There’s a good chance you’ll arrive in Nottingham on a rainy day. I know it isn’t what you want to hear, but rainy days aren’t exactly uncommon in England. The good news is that Nottingham has plenty of museums – the number one destination to keep you dry and entertained.
If you’d like to immerse yourself in history, the Nottingham Industrial Museum or the National Justice Museum might be good options. The Industrial Museum gives excellent insight on key Nottinghamshire industries: textiles, transport, communication, mining, and power, whereas the National Justice Museum explores the history of the British justice & penal system. Ghost story lovers will have the time of their lives at The Haunted Museum and Oddities. The cozy museum houses many quirky objects –they have a shrunken head!
9. Wander in Sherwood Forest
Nottingham was the hometown of Robin Hood, and Sherwood Forest was the grassy area where the hero wandered. It is a National Nature Reserve that governs 1,046 acres of greenery. Besides its connection to Robin Hood, the forest is famous for housing the Major Oak tree, the largest oak tree in Britain, over 1100 years old. The forest arranges plenty of Robin Hood themed activities, and there are also walks and trails for outdoor lovers.
While visiting Sherwood Forest is an excellent plan, you’ll need to rent a car or arrange for a taxi to get there as it sits 20 miles north of Nottingham city.
The Perfect Nottingham Day Trip Itinerary
You can cover most of the attractions on your day trip, given they’re super close to each other. While I encourage you to organize your Nottingham Day Trip based on your interests, I’d like to include a sample itinerary to help you see in what order you can visit the locations.
- Start your day early, grab breakfast at your hotel, and head out to the station to catch your train.
- Once you arrive at Nottingham Station, head to Nottingham castle and take a tour to explore it.
- Then you’ll walk out and find Castle Road, where you’ll see two attractions. The Statue of Robin Hood is your first stop (it will be at your right.) After taking a few photos, continue walking down Castle Road, and you’ll find Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, your second stop.
- You’ll take Castle road again, but make your way to Old Market Square this time. Some of the best food places are nearby, so it’s also a favorable spot to have lunch.
- In the afternoon you have some options – you could walk over to Wollaton Hall, catch a tax to Sherwood Forest (be sure to arrange a pick-up time to get back to town, or head to Lace Market.
- After that, it’s time to grab a quick bite before catching the train back to London for dinner once you return to the city.
In the event that it’s rainy on the day of your Nottingham day trip, you can substitute your afternoon activities with a with a visit to one of Nottingham’s museums, or head to the picturesque Exchange to browse the stores and stalls.
With that, you’ve spent a lovely day in Nottingham exploring a completely different part of England than most people ever see – this is certainly one of the most unique London day trips I recommend! Have any questions about planning your own Nottingham day trip? Let me know in the comments!