Robin Hood Country
Overnight stay in Travelodge, Nottingham, 26th August 2010

Old Market Square, Nottingham
I have previously been to Nottingham, long ago in the dim distant past and I'd always thought I would return one day purely to visit the castle.So a trip to Nottingham was one of the first trips we took together, back in 2010, as a recently formed '21st century' family.
We booked a room in the Travelodge, which is very near to the castle and in an excellent city location, just off the Old Market Square, for the great price of £27. The room was big enough for all 4 of us, although the girls did have to sleep on a strange sofa bed arrangement with Little Madam being relegated to a 'floor level mattress on wheels'....something she still moans on about to this day! There was no car park on site but there was a safe multi-storey just over the road, so all in all it was excellent value for our stay.

the impressive 'castle' gateway
After travelling all the way from County Durham purely to visit the castle I confess to being more than a little disappointed to find out that there actually is no castle in Nottingham at all. Infact there hasn't been a castle here for hundreds of years! Indeed the castle was totaly destroyed in a civil war in the sixteen hundreds!!! The impressive gateway is sadly all that remains of the castle. In the late 17th century a mansion was built on this site, today it is home to an art gallery & displays of global artifacts.However there were parts of the 'castle' that I did like.The victorian style gardens were very pretty, there was a really good exibiton of some props & costumes from the recent Robin Hood film (starring Russell Crowe) that we all enjoyed and infact inside the 'castle' there was a display with the question 'What am I? Why am I this shape?' that made us laugh so much that my daughter  & I still  frequently say it to each other!
The admission charge to the castle was 'a bit steep' but it did give you free entry to the Museum of Nottingham Life which is actually brilliant!
The museum includes some room reconstructions (always a favourite with us!) and shop front mock-ups, but I think the highlight for us was the Air Raid shelter in the Cave system. The caves (and infact the museum) are under the castle & carved into the rock by hand, not naturally made at all, they're fascinating and have been used for all sorts of things including houses, shops & an air raid shelter during the wars. If you're visiting Nottingham you must visit here!

'The Trip', atmospheric, unique & quirky
There are a lot of lovely old inns in Nottingham and there is an official 'Real-Ale trail'. Mr Plough & I snook out for an hour or so and left the girls shooting each other with bow & arrows. We managed to visit Ye Olde Salutation, The Castle, The Bluebell Inn & my personal favourite Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem. 'The Trip' is also carved into caves underneath the castle and claims to be the oldest inn in England. Apparently the name derives from knights stopping off here on their way to the crusades.  I can honestly say I've never been anywhere else quite like it in my life! Its a quirky place with a great atmosphere & has a good choice of ales.
Nottingham city itself was a bit of a mixed bag to me.I did like the old buildings, the Robin Hood statues, the fountains in the market place & there's just something about trams that I really like (maybe as we don't have them in our area!) however it's the only city I've visited where I've felt as though I may be mugged at any moment & indeed I was witness to a robbery, in Greggs of all places! A man shoved me out of his way, picked up a bag of crisps, popped the bag open & walked back out of the shop with out paying or anything!!! The very fact that not a single person in the queue behind me so much as batted an eyelid makes me think this is possibly common place around these parts. Not exactly a great impression for tourists such as myself. Thats quite enough of Nottingham now onwards to Sherwood forest!!!

Rufford Abbey Country Park, Sculpture trail
En-route to see 'The Major Oak' we intended to call into Rufford Abbey Country Park at Ollerton however we ended up staying there for most of the day! The place was huge! 150 acres of parkland with a brilliant sculpture trail, ruins of an atmospheric monastery & beautiful old hall, an enclosed orangery,  an interesting camera obscura, childrens play park, lots of woodland walks & a collection of craft shops & a cafe, certainly enough to keep us entertained for the day. A great budget day out too with free admission, you only pay a £3 carparking charge. We also called in at Rufford Mill, I think it was all joined but we drove down, however it was mainly a large shop & lakeside confrence centre, clearly a popular wedding venue as indeed there was a wedding going on!

the Major Oak
Finally we arrived at the Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre at Edwinstowe, home of 'The Major Oak'. Apparently the oak tree is about 800 years old and was home to the legendary Robin Hood. Weather you're a believer of the legend or not, sherwood forest is a beautiful ancient woodland and the major oak is truely an impressive sight, although the wooden scaffolding is a bit of an eyesore, I suppose it's there for protection. There are many other large trees in the woodland & its a very lovely walk from the carpark down to the main tree.
There's also a visitor centre with an impressive Robin Hood display and a handy shop selling all your bow & arrow needs! Again entry into the visitor centre & down to the major oak was free & just a parking charge to pay (however Mr Plough used his Yorkshire charm & the lovely lassie let us off with the charge!)
I do feel that the whole Robin Hood thing is slightly over used as a tourist lure but over all we really enjoyed our trip to Nottinghamshire. Sherwood Forest was fantastic and there were lots of other parks, historic venues & museums in the area that are waiting to be explored.

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