With great shopping, nightlife and an excellent restaurant scene, the City of Nottingham is a fantastic city-break destination, but for those looking to enjoy the great outdoors, the city and surrounding area offer some of the best outdoor experiences in the UK. Check out our to-do list for the perfect outdoor weekend in Nottingham.
Wollaton Hall and Deer Park
One of the country’s finest mansions, Wollaton Hall is a Grade 1 listed Elizabethan house built in 1588. This spectacular building was commissioned by Sir Francis Willoughby, and its Ancaster and Limestone exterior is carved with exquisite ornamentation. Inside lies the Natural History Museum – home to stunning wildlife exhibits and a collection of 750,000 artefacts.
The surrounding parkland stretches across 500 acres where herds of red and fallow deer roam freely. Dotted with stunning lakes, the parkland’s dramatic scenery is popular amongst photographers and birdwatchers. Explore the beautiful grounds and discover hidden follies or simply join one of the guided tours around the hall uncovering the secrets of the past.
Release your inner Robin Hood and visit the legendary Sherwood Forest. This magical forest is an ancient woodland home to a diverse range of plants and wildlife. Tales of this spectacular forest are thought to date back to the medieval age.
As well as being the home of fabled Robin Hood, Sherwood Forest is home to 1,000 ancient oak trees making it the largest expansions of oak trees in Europe. Here, they have thrived for more than 500 years and among these lies the legendary Major Oak which is estimated to be around 1,000 years old!
At Sherwood Forest there is plenty to do for all the family, including trail walks and Robin Hood tours. You can visit the areas of the forest featured in major blockbusters or explore on your own and create your own forest adventures.
Thrill seekers can visit the Go Ape adventure park where you can zipline between the trees or take on the Treetop Challenge. And if you’re a major Robin Hood fan you can visit the annual Robin Hood Festival – a week-long celebration of all things medieval.
The City of Caves
Before the city of Nottingham was founded in 1642, the name of the town translated from Celtic into “place of caves” thanks to the sandstone caves that were carved below the town’s surface.
The caves have been used in a variety of ways throughout history including as England’s only underground tannery in the 16th century and as an air raid shelter during the Nottingham Blitz and 1941.
Embark on a journey of more than a thousand years of history from the bottom of the steps behind the Nottingham Contemporary Art Gallery.
Highfields Park is a 121-acre park lying just to the south of the University of Nottingham. The park is popular amongst picnic goers in the Summer months, but with a sprawling lake and flower garden, it’s worth a visit at any time of the year.
Having undergone restoration works in 2018, now is the perfect time to visit. The lake and boat pond is dotted with islands – one of which can be reached along large stepping stones. With a grand bridge, historic gas lamps and a view of the University of Nottingham sitting in the background, it’s a peaceful haven in the middle of city.
Sitting atop its high sandstone ridge named Castle Rock, Nottingham Castle overlooks the entire city. It was once a wooden structure built in the eleventh century but has undergone numerous developments throughout history. It was torn down after the English Civil war, however Henry Cavendish, the 2nd Duke of Newcastle, built the existing Baroque Ducal mansion in its place.
The Nottingham Castle Museum was opened in 1878 and is still a popular attraction amongst locals and visitors. Discover its exhibition of 19th and 20th century fine art by the likes of Henry Dawson and Richard Bonington as well as some of the finest examples of pottery, sculpture and silverware. Plus, you can find a sculpture of the spectacular medieval castle that lay the foundations for the mansion in its current form.
If you’re in Nottingham with the family, Green’s Windmill & Science Centre is a must-see. Built in 1807 by George Green’s father, one of England’s most prolific mathematical physicists, the windmill was restored to working condition by Nottingham City Council in the 1980s after it was almost lost to a fire in 1947.
Today, families can visit the windmill and check out the functioning grinding system and hoists. Plus, at the adjacent science centre, learn about the fascinating story of George Green, whose work led to the invention of MRI scanning, and experiment with light, electricity and magnetism. The windmill is open from Wednesday to Sunday and is free to visit.
Stonebridge City Farm
Right in the heart of Nottingham lies Stonebridge City Farm, an urban farm, where kids can come into contact with animals, large and small, and learn about home-grown local produce in the city farm’s fruit and vegetable garden.
The farm hosts animal handling sessions where kids can meet small animals like rabbits and guinea pigs. They can also buy animal feed from the shop to feed to the larger animals before letting off some steam in the play area.
As well as selling eggs fresh from the farm, the garden is a place where kids can learn about home-grown, sustainable produce, and adults can ask for advice on growing their own food. All of the garden’s produce is sold in the farm shop including their very own honey and is used to make hot meals and sweet treats served up daily in the farm café.
Situated just a few miles north of Nottingham is Newstead Abbey, the ancestral home of the famous poet Lord Byron. The abbey is a stunning 12th century building serving as a monastic house before being turned into a country house after the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century.
The gothic façade of the abbey adjoins a Tudor-style house which has been preserved as it was in the 19th century. Inside, visitors can discover Victorian room settings and Lord Byron’s private apartments and memorabilia.
The house is nestled amongst 300 acres of parkland, dotted with ponds, lakes and waterfalls that are fed by the River Leen. You can also find Gothic Revival follies, peacocks, rhododendrons and maple trees. The grounds are open every day whilst the house is open on weekends and bank holidays.
Just north of Nottinghamshire lies Creswell Craggs, a prehistoric limestone gorge and a network of caves, fissures and rock shelters. Archaeologists have discovered stone tools and animal fossils have been found providing a fascinating insight into life before the last ice age.
In 2018, the largest concentration of witches’ marks was discovered, which were scribed into the cave wall and thought to keep away evil spirits from the underworld. The Creswell Craggs Museum now offers guided tours of the witches’ marks, as well as ice age and rock art tours, plus the museum itself displays a collection of objects discovered through the numerous excavations that have taken place over the centuries.
National Water Sports Centre
If you’ve had your share of parks and greenery and are looking for something a bit more active, don’t fret; the National Water Sports Centre Nottingham is an excellent outdoor activity centre which lies to the east of the city. Activities include white water rafting, lazy river tubing, kayaking and canoeing, mini golf, laser tag, a high ropes course and more. It’s the perfect outdoor day out for kids and adults alike!
There are countless outdoor activities in Nottingham to try out, including some of the best in the UK! If you’re still looking for somewhere to stay during your visit, our Nottingham hotel has everything you need under one roof and is located just off the M1, near the Attenborough Nature Park.