Dark tourism includes locations, activities, landmarks and attractions which are associated with the macabre, war, suffering and even death. These unique places often offer a fascinating insight into the unique history of a destination. It is argued that these sorts of locations can help you understand the present while being more thoughtful about the future.

These locations, activities and attractions in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire will take you closer than ever before to the events which have shaped the history of the UK, as well as the local area.

The English Civil War dark tourism banner

The English Civil War

It was in Nottingham on 22 August 1642 that Charles I raised his royal standard as a signal for his supporters to rally to his side. This was in response to tensions around the idea that Parliament was subordinate to the king, while many instead backed a constitutional monarchy, which we have in place today. Charles I raised the standard on Derry Mount (later named Standard Hill) just outside Nottingham CastleA plaque on Standard Hill commemorates this historic event, which you can still visit today.  

Ultimately, Nottingham proved to be a town of divided loyalties and Charles soon moved to Shrewsbury to gather more support for his cause. This left Nottinghamshire rife with conflict, leaving behind a whole host of places and landmarks which still bear the scars of this divisive time – many of which can still be seen in Newark.

Today, you can still see a cannonball hole on Newark Church from where a Parliamentarian cannonball is said to have hit it in 1644 and the Governor's House, the residence of the Governors of Newark during the sieges of the Civil War. You can also visit The National Civil War Centre in Newark, an excellent museum dedicated to this tumultuous era of British history.

The three English Civil Wars (1642–1651) are thought to be responsible for around 190,000 deaths including the wounded and those who would perish because of war-related disease. Out of a population of around 5 million, war deaths would account for around 4% of the population, which is about twice that of the First World War. To read more about Nottinghamshire's pivotal role in the Civil War, read our blog about the battles, skirmishes and more.

The National Justice Museum dark tourism banner

The National Justice Museum

With a gruesome history of hangings and executions for everyone to see, it should come as no surprise that the National Justice Museum has recently been voted ‘most haunted building’ in the UK. A visit to the National Justice Museum tends to stay with people long after they’ve left. From experiencing ancient dungeons and hanging sites to engaging with contemporary exhibitions and events, law and justice are brought to life in exciting and relevant new ways.

Dating back to 1375, the historic building has been used as a court, prison and police station before opening its doors to the public as a justice museum in 1995. Ghostly screams, slamming doors and unexplained knocks have all been heard by visitors who've walked in the footsteps of the condemned who met a grisly end at Nottingham’s historic County Gaol. Many public hangings by order of the County of Nottinghamshire were also carried out on the doorstep of the museum, including the last public execution in Nottingham.

During your visit, you can expect to meet amazing costumed characters from Nottingham's history in the Grade II listed Shire Hall. Explore the Victorian Courtroom, Georgian gaol, and ancient cells - all spread over five fascinating floors. Characters, activities, exhibitions, and courtroom performances will change throughout the year so there is always something new to discover. You might even be lucky enough to pay a little visit to the cave cell (or oubliette) where the one and only outlaw, Robin Hood, is said to have been imprisoned!

You can explore the museum on a self-led tour, but they also run a variety of amazing events – especially at Halloween! So make sure to visit their website and check their latest events programme before your visit.

The Workhouse dark tourism banner

The Workhouse

Built in 1824, this unique attraction is the most complete workhouse in existence. Pioneering in its design and approach it became a blueprint for similar institutions across the country. For decades, it was where the poorest in society could find shelter, food and medical care in return for work.

Once the backbone of the social care system in Nottinghamshire, The Workhouse & Infirmary provided the vulnerable, disabled and out of work a safe place to stay until jobs were available, or until the occupants were able to move on. Indeed, many residents were disabled, elderly, single mothers and out of work farm hands, making you consider if this was a place of great suffering or a lone vestige of hope providing help in a harsh society.

This unique venue focuses on the individuals and families who lived here – a wonderful personal touch that highlights the life stories of previous residents. This is also a refreshing take, as history often overlooks stories from normal, everyday people and their day to day struggles. It is estimated that 1 in 6 people have relatives linked to Workhouses, after all, so you do get the feeling that it is your history, too.

City of Caves dark tourism blog banner

The City of Caves

What could be more intriguing than something that is hidden away and yet, lies right beneath the surface? The City of Caves is situated right beneath the streets of Nottingham’s city centre and is part of a maze of over 800 original sandstone caves. These man-made caves date back to the dark ages and, over the years, have been used as a tannery, public house cellars, and as an air raid shelter during the world wars.

Take a tour of the caves to explore all that lies beneath the city and learn more about the history and events that happened inside the medieval underground dwellings. But beware, visitors have reported hearing echoes from the troubled past while exploring underground.

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The Original Nottingham Ghost Walk

The Original Nottingham Ghost Walk is a storytelling tour around the Castle Quarter of the city, led by a passionate and quirky group of costumed guides. Along the way, you may hear tales of the Cursed Galleon of Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem – interfere with it at your peril! Queen Isabella's screams; 28 young Welsh princes, some as young as 7 years old, left to hang and their bodies to rot from the castle walls, by cruel King John; the mysterious 'Lady in the Light' or a police dog who had a strange encounter in the castle's galleries. You may also hear the disturbing tale of the Human Pin Cushion, the Baby in the Wall and the antics of Marshal Tallard; a French war hostage and socialite.

Arriving at the graveyard of St Nicholas' Church, you will learn about a plague pit and a long lost swamp in the old Broad Marsh, which was the final resting place for a corpulent landlady. Finally, in ancient, haunted caves below Ye Olde Salutation, you may hear stories of a Haunting Highwayman and a little girl, who lived and died, and remains there to this day.

The tour itself is easy walking, about 1/3 mile long and takes approximately 90 minutes to 2 hours. The walk starts from England’s oldest inn, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, every Saturday at 7pm and Wednesdays from June through September. Children’s walks are also available. Enjoy a drink or arrive early for a pre-walk meal.

Haunted Hot Spots

If you want to get closer to the supernatural, read our blog about the Top 10 Most Haunted Places in Nottinghamshire. Including the likes of Newstead Abbey, The Workhouse and Church Rock Cemetery, you’ll be amazed at the wealth of history there is to discover, as well as the ghost stories behind them all!

To read about the top haunted spots in Nottinghamshire according to Haunted magazine including Colwick Hall and Sherwood Forestclick here.


St Mary Magdalene Newark
Church / Chapel
Newark St Mary Magdalene Church
Governor's House
Historic Site
Governor's House | Visit Nottinghamshire
National Civil War Centre Newark
National Civil War Centre Newark

Explore the richly dramatic English Civil War, seeing stories of gunpowder, plague and plot as you walk through the fantastic galleries of Newark's National Civil War Centre.

National Justice Museum
National Justice Museum | Nottingham

Meet amazing, costumed characters from Nottingham's history in our Grade II* listed, Shire Hall. Explore the Victorian Courtroom, Georgian gaol, and ancient cells - all spread over five fascinating floors.

The Workhouse and Infirmary
The Workhouse | Visit Nottinghamshire

Built in 1824 The Workhouse at Southwell was a means of relief for the Victorian poor. Pioneering in its design and approach it became a blueprint for similar institutions across the country.

City of Caves
City of Caves

Enter and explore a whole new world in the caves underneath Nottingham city and descend into the dark depths of the original Anglo-Saxon tunnels, meeting real cave-dwellers from its dramatic hidden past.

The Original Nottingham Ghost Walk
Tours & Tour Guides
The Original Nottingham Ghost Walk

Striking terror into the hearts of young and old, for over 20 years!

Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem
Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, Nottingham

Situated at the foot of Nottingham Castle and nestled in the sandstone cliff rock, Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem is England's oldest inn and a landmark of Nottingham history.



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