Visiting The Land Of Robin Hood

The release of the movie Robin Hood in May of this year, starring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett and directed by Ridley Scott, promises a steady influx of travelers to the many film’s locations and an exciting growth in tourism to the UK. Central to the film is the city of Nottingham where Robin Hood courted and married the Lady Marian in the Church of St Mary in the village of Edwinstowe, and formed his band of rebels to restore freedom and justice to the poor. Visitors can follow the Robin Hood Trail in Nottinghamshire, which features 12 sites along the way based on each of the different themes in the film.

Nottingham is famous for its 17th century castle, built on the same site as the headquarters of the notorious Sheriff. Once a prison for outlaws, quarters for the guards, and storage house for beer, the mansion today houses a permanent collection of art, ceramics, metal ware, and glass. In addition to the Sherwood Foresters Regimental Museum and a children’s art gallery, visitors can enjoy the display of costumes, props, and memorabilia from the movie. Throughout the year, artists from the UK and other countries exhibit their work, and historical performances such as the annual Shakespeare Festival and Robin Hood Pageant are held here on the grounds. Tourists can take an interesting guided tour far below the castle through the winding passageways past the Duke of Newcastle’s wine cellar, while reliving the shocking stories of King David’s Dungeon and Mortimer’s Hole. Tours are free, except on weekends and bank holidays when prices are under $5 for adults and half price for children, and operate from Mon – Sat, at 11 am, 2, & 3 pm, with Sunday tours during the summer at 12 Noon, 1, 2, & 3 pm. (Hours & prices may vary.) A narrated video is also available for those who prefer watching this to descending 300 steps to the caverns below on the walking tour.

Just outside the castle, you can stroll through the old market square past the famous 7-foot statue of Robin Hood, which the townspeople refer to as the “world’s largest garden gnome,” and step into Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem pub, an inn dating back to 1189, where tales were told and ale was shared in the quaint atmosphere of medieval times. The Galleries of Justice Museum nearby provides visitors with a history of the crimes and shocking punishments that existed at the time, where conviction, trial, and hanging on the front steps of the old courthouse and gaol is portrayed through actors and audio. Admission is about $7 for adults, and the hours are from 10:30 am – 5 pm, 7 days a week. The exhibition “Robin Hood: The Legendary Outlaw Returns” is free. In keeping with the theme of Robin Hood, you might want to reserve a place at the Sheriff’s Banquet in the Museum. For approximately $65 pp, you get a full 3-course meal, with unlimited beer or cider, or a bottle of wine, along with lively entertainment by wandering musicians and serving maids. The Museum has a cafè and a gift shop filled with games, books, and Robin Hood and Victorian items for sale.

The towering oaks of Sherwood Forest where Robin Hood and his Merry Men could hunt deer and safely hide from the sheriff is now a Nature Preserve open for all to enjoy. Here you’ll find seating in the midst of the forest in the old wooden cart used in the movie and watch the film exhibition (until October 2010), which follows the legendary hero. If visiting in August, join the crowds at the annual Robin Hood Festival for real-life demonstrations of sword fighting and archery. Located just north of Edwinstowe Village, the 450 acres of Sherwood Park are free to visit, with only a small parking fee. The Major Oak hideout of Robin Hood fame still stands among over 900 oak trees as perhaps the most famous tree in England. Trails are well marked, and information is available at the Visitors Center, in addition to two shops and a restaurant.

Besides visiting Hathersage, where Little John was buried, and Will Scarlet’s grave at Blidworth (previously mentioned in this blog), you can drive into Yorkshire and Loxley, the birthplace of Robin Hood, and see the Kirklees Estate where it is believed Robin Hood died. If you’re interested in the other film locations of Robin Hood, Dovedale in Derbyshire may be on your list. This peaceful place of green meadows, grazing sheep, steep ravines, and the sparkling River Dove running through it was chosen for a fierce battle scene in the movie. After a few hours of walking or cycling through this beautiful area, end your day with a visit to the Green Man pub nearby, just as Russell Crowe did, to join the locals for a pint or two.

Of course, everyone is familiar with the bright Lincoln green of Robin Hood’s attire, named after Lincolnshire where the cloth was produced. Travelers will want to visit this historic place, known for its beautiful cathedral and library of famous documents including the schoolbook of 1410, containing the first and only written rhyme still in existence about Robin Hood, “Robin Hood in Sherwood stood, hooded and hated, hosed and shod.” This is on display in each year’s exhibition along with a copy of King John’s (his arch enemy) Magna Carta. Since the city is only 6 miles from Sherwood Forest, it is thought that Robin Hood “robbed from the rich” who lived in Lincolnshire, where he would have gone frequently to seek company and participate in archery and jousting contests.

Ridley Scott spared no expense in filming the spectacular scenes of Robin Hood from Nottingham and Sherwood Forest throughout the countryside of England and Wales to the gardens, lakes, and woodlands of Virginia Water in Surrey. An amazing replica of the Tower Of London, with its fascinating history of notable prisoners and gruesome executions, was created for the film, but travelers to London can visit the real tower beside the Thames for a look back at one of the most horrific of times.

For many, seeing the film may be quite enough, but no doubt some of us will be further inspired to visit the land and legend of Robin Hood.

Sharon L Slayton

See also Mancunian’s old article on Nottingham and my recent travel plan for Oxford & Nottingham.

Filed Under: Movie tourism

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