After a thousand years of rebellions, riots, revolts and rallies, Nottingham Castle has found itself time and time again at the heart of some rather dramatic events. It’s been betrayed, besieged and burned to a charred ruin, and is shrouded in myth and legend. Sitting on its strategic vantage point high on Castle Rock, it has kept a watchful eye over Nottingham’s changing skyline for the better part of a millennium.

Fast-forward to the 21st century and our iconic Castle is entering an exciting new chapter. The Gatehouse doors slowly creaked shut back in 2018, and mysterious things began to happen beyond those ancient walls while the city waited with bated breath.

Three years, thirty million pounds and one global pandemic later, the Castle is emerging following an extraordinary transformation, and when it finally opened its doors, Visit Nottinghamshire practically stormed the Gatehouse. Here are the ten things we liked best during our visit!

1. Surrounding yourself with the legend of Robin Hood

Part of the Robin Hood Adventures, this captivating storytelling experience explores the evolution of Robin Hood, looking at how this world-famous folk hero transformed over the centuries from violent criminal to the fearless champion of social justice we know and love today. Ancient ballads are recounted through immersive digital “in-the-round” storytelling screens, bringing the legend to life for a 21st century audience.

2. Stepping straight into medieval Nottingham with the interactive digital games

To experience what life was like for Robin Hood and his Merry Men, you can’t miss the innovative and immersive digital activities which catapult you straight into medieval Nottingham. We aimed longbows, battled foes and bravely faced the challenges of a 14th century city to see whether we’d survive (spoiler: we didn’t). If you’re the sort of person who likes to get stuck in, this experience is an absolute must.

3. Rising up in the Rebellion Gallery

Beginning with Robin Hood, Nottingham has a long legacy of people bravely standing up for what they believe in, even when those beliefs landed them in prison - or worse. The atmospheric Rebellion Gallery presents three of Nottingham’s most rebellious and bloody episodes: the Civil War, the Luddites and the Reform Bill Riots of 1831, using an immersive mixture of video, audio, historical artefacts and informative panels to bring to life these dark times and the inspiring stories of those who challenged the status quo.

4. Exploring the gorgeous grounds

Known as the ‘green lungs’ of the city, the Castle grounds are well worth a relaxing stroll, whatever the weather. Dotted around the site are graphic panels and viewing frames containing historically accurate artists’ impressions and descriptions of what the spectacular medieval castle once looked like, and which of its striking features still survive today. Families will enjoy the outdoor trails, guiding you around the site and learning about history, legends and the natural world as you go!

5. Checking out Hood’s Hideout

Even as fully grown adults, the allure of the brand-new Adventure Playground was simply too great for us to resist. Built throughout the dry moat of the Castle, this sprawling timber construction consists of towering walkways, secret hideaways, swings and slides, and is sure to spark little imaginations and offer hours of exciting adventures and explorations. Grown-ups will appreciate the striking backdrop of the Castle high above and the beautiful views across the city.

6. Spotting Nottingham landmarks from the Terrace Café

If you decide to stop for a coffee and cake break in the Terrace Café, be sure to head out onto the spacious terrace and check out the extraordinary 360° views across Nottinghamshire – after all, Castle Rock stands 40m tall, and this remarkable cityscape has to be seen to be believed. Why not play I-spy and see if you can spot the Council House, Wollaton Hall and Trent Bridge Cricket Ground – and of course, get that all-important panoramic photo!  

7. Making a pot in the Early Craft gallery

If you’ve got a creative streak, you might just uncover hidden talents as a sculptor or potter in the Early Craft Gallery. Discover the treasures in Nottingham’s handmade history, from alabaster sculptures to salt-glazed stoneware, and even make your own digital masterpieces as you learn all about the techniques and materials used by our artistic ancestors.

8. Meeting the explainers

One of our favourite parts of the new Nottingham Castle experience is the team of Explainers you’ll find throughout the buildings and grounds. Enthusiastic, knowledgeable and passionate, they do a fantastic job of bringing the history and legend to life, answering your questions, eliciting curious conversations and guiding you around the site in a COVID-secure manner.

9. The Lace Gallery

Nottingham lace is firmly woven into the fabric of the city, and this delicate, elegant material – still a fashion favourite today - has a fascinating and complex history. Discover how the first lace-making machine was invented here, and how this city was once the lace capital of the world. Don’t miss the catwalk of a hundred years of lace fashion, and the highly ‘Instagrammable’ lace projection makes a perfect backdrop for those who can't resist snapping a quick selfie!

10. Checking out the artisan gifts and souvenirs in the Castle Shop

On our way out, we stopped by the Castle Shop, which is filled to the rafters with beautiful gifts, art and souvenirs, lovingly made by local creatives and artisan makers. Naturally, there are plenty of branded souvenirs like mugs and fridge magnets to commemorate your visit, alongside an array of treats and gifts including locally made prints, scented candles and chocolates.

There’s so much more to explore in the transformed Nottingham Castle and tickets are selling fast, so be sure to book your visit soon!

This blog was written by Sophie Milne, Communications Executive at Visit Nottinghamshire. With thanks to Tracey Whitefoot and Nottingham Castle Trust for images.

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Nottingham Castle promises the best day out for all, from history seekers to families wanting an action-packed adventure. Discover more and plan your perfect visit today.

4 Comments

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  2. Bailey Heighway
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