We left Yorkshire far behind, travelling down south and stopping at Sherwood Forest before eventually arriving at Nottingham. We certainly felt in the thick of the Robin Hood legends! Our plan for the next day was to explore its very own Nottingham Castle.
Just like Clifford’s Tower previously, William the Conqueror seems to have been the first ruler responsible for placing a castle atop Castle Rock in Nottingham, building a wooden structure in 1067. In 1170 King Henry II replaced the structure with stone. Not long after, the castle became the famed residence of the notorious Sheriff of Nottingham, from the legends of Robin Hood. In 1330, perhaps the most controversial event took place at Nottingham Castle; supporters of King Edward III used the tunnels in the rock bed to sneak into the castle and kidnap his mother Queen Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer. In fact, part of of the tunnels is still referred to as “Mortimer’s Hole”! Another significant event occurred in the castle in 1642, when Charles I used it as a rallying point, raising his standard at the beginning of the English Civil War. The castle ceased its use as a royal palace in 1600.
Today, little of the medieval castle remains, although you can still find runes on site. The surviving building is the palace built in 1679 by William Cavendish, the first Duke of Newcastle. The palace was actually converted to a municipal museum and art gallery in 1878, the first of its kind outside of London. The palace still functions as this today, and boasts rather a large collection. I could have spent hours exploring the building, you could really dedicate a whole day to it!
Perhaps my favourite part of the art gallery and museum was the special exhibition on Leonardo Da Vinci’s drawings. I was lucky enough to visit at the same time that the castle displayed ten drawings by Da Vinci, many of them seem to be sketches in which he was practising perspective, developing technique, or other aspects of art, such as motion. Now I’m not much of an art person myself, by it was incredible to see the actual, everyday work of one of the world’s greatest minds!
After our exploration of the art gallery and museum, we decided to sign up for a cave tour. Beneath the castle is a labyrinth of man-made sandstone caves and tunnels that have been used since medieval times. Their functions have been ever-changing; wine cellars, secret passages, tanneries, residences, and even air-raid shelters! For our tour we were met by a very chirpy, eccentric character, seemingly boiling in his full 19th century outfit, who gave us a brief history of the palace before taking us down into the cool air. It was a lot of fun, and since the tunnels have played such a central role in the city, we learnt about Nottingham’s history as well.
The tour finished outside of the castle grounds, at the base of Castle Rock. From here you can choose to return to the castle through the tunnels with the guide, make your own way back to the front gates, or continue on in Nottingham. We went with the last option, as there was much more we wanted to explore. We were luckily right next to a pub, and we decided to stop there for lunch. However, this pub is not like any other.
Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem was establish in 1189 and is in contention for being the United Kingdom’s oldest pub. It has a modest front, but is actually built into sandstone caves. We elected to sit inside, the cool rock backing our table. Not just historically and architecturally impressive, the pub also serves out tasty meals and pints, all at an affordable price. Definitely worth the stop if you’re taking the time to visit Nottingham!
Despite not having the time to take a leisurely stroll through the beautiful grounds, my trip to Nottingham Castle was never-the-less memorable. If you’re a lover for art and artefacts, I certainly recommend a stop here!