Nottingham: Home of Robin Hood encompasses history and culture
By ADAM L. MATHIS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 30, 2013
The group stopped at an intersection of tunnels and peered up a steep passage to the right. Our guide explained with the enthusiasm of a bard, as if he had been trained in a day when the spoken word alone could weave a story, why this was called Mortimer’s Hole.
Above us, in Nottingham Castle more than 600 years ago, Roger Mortimer was caught in his lover’s bed by the king whose father Mortimer allegedly had killed. Despite the pleas of Mortimer’s lover — the mother of the usurped king — Mortimer was bound in chains, thrown down the passage then taken away to be hanged and cut apart.
Stories like this are the reason to visit Nottingham.
Situated on the Trent River, the city of Nottingham really needs no introduction. The sheriff of Nottingham’s struggle to catch the benevolent thief Robin Hood has inspired movies, books and more than a few kids with toy bows and arrows.
Don’t, however, go to Nottingham because you remember Kevin Costner shooting a fiery arrow in the film “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.” If you do, you will miss the point.
Besides being the place of Mortimer’s downfall, Nottingham is a cross section of English history. Visitors can see the remains of the castle that was built by one of England’s most powerful kings in the 12th century, hear how the castle served as a parliamentarian stronghold during the 17th-century English civil war, learn why it was torn down in a power struggle with Oliver Cromwell and see the damage from a mob that attacked the current building, a ducal palace, after the owner voted against giving people the right to vote in the 19th century.
You can even eat in the company of history. Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, an inn that claims to be the oldest in England, bears the odd name supposedly because soldiers stopped there for refreshment on their way to support one of the most successful monarchs to fight in the Crusades, Richard the Lionheart.
While I was in Nottingham, I was a little skeptical whether this was a worthwhile trip. It is about a two-hour drive from RAFs Mildenhall and Lakenheath and approximately 1½ hours from RAF Alconbury. It’s a lengthy journey to visit historic buildings and eat good food, which can be found in many cities.
But my memories of the place have overcome my doubts. Granted, you might not want to go there often, but it is worth at least one trip while you’re in England.
Plus, when you look out over the city from the hill that Nottingham Castle stands on, you can pretend, for a moment, to be Robin Hood.
Nottingham can be reached via the A14 highway. Follow it until the A1 junction and then follow the A1 into the city. Visiting the famous Sherwood Forest will add a lot of travel to your trip. The visitor’s center for the forest is about 20 miles north of the city, about a 40-minute drive.
Nottingham has car parks in the city, but a safer bet may be to use the Park and Ride system. Park at Queen’s Drive station and 3 British pounds (about $4.50) allows up to six people to ride the bus into the city. Queen’s Drive is on the southern side of the city and can be found on a GPS with the code NG2 1AP.
Entrance to Nottingham Castle costs 5.50 pounds per person. The tour of Mortimer’s Hole is an additional 3 pounds.
Nottingham offers the typical range of food you find in an English city, from pub to international.
King Henry III built this gate house for Nottingham Castle as part of an upgrade to stone from a wooden castle that had stood on the hill. Most of the stone castle was destroyed in the 17th century. The present castle is now a museum and houses works of art and an exhibit on ancient life in Nottingham.
ADAM L. MATHIS/STARS AND STRIPES