Put on your most comfortable shoes and prepare to tackle the more than 800 shops in and around town -- Nottingham boasts some of England's best shopping. Start in the city center, with its maze of pedestrian streets, and work your way out toward the two grand indoor shopping malls, the Victoria and the Broad Marsh, located to the north and to the south of the center of town. Then, head over to Derby Road for your fill of antiques.
Fine Nottingham lace can be found in the Lace Centre, Castle Road, across the street from Nottingham Castle (tel. 01159/413539), or in the shops around the area known as the Lace Market along High Pavement.
Then, to catch up on the hippest and latest in fashion and furnishing trends, explore the many boutiques in the Hockley area, the Exchange Arcade, and the Flying Horse Mall, all in the city center.
Patchings Farm Art Centre, Oxton Road, near Calverton (tel. 01159/653479; www.patchingsartcentre.co.uk), is a 24-hectare (60-acre) art haven. Restored farm buildings house three galleries, working art and pottery studios, a gift shop, and art and framing shops.
And long known as Britain's first real crafts center, Longdale Craft Centre, Longdale Lane, Ravenshead (tel. 01623/794858; www.longdalecraftcentre.co.uk), is a labyrinth of re-created Victorian streets where professional craftspeople work on a range of craft items including jewelry, pottery, and prints.
Second only to Germany's Schwarzwald in European lore and legend, Sherwood Forest comprises 182 hectares (450 acres) of oak and silver birch trees owned and strictly protected by a local entity, the Thoresby Estate, and maintained by the county of Nottinghamshire. Actually, very little of this area was forest even when it provided cover for Robin Hood, Friar Tuck, and Little John.
Robin Hood, the folk hero of tale and ballad, fired the imagination of a hardworking, impoverished English people, who particularly liked his adopted slogan: "Take from the rich and give to the poor."
Celebrating their freedom in verdant Sherwood Forest, Robin Hood's eternally youthful band rejoiced in "hearing the twang of the bow of yew and in watching the gray goose shaft as it cleaves the glistening willow wand or brings down the king's proud buck." Life was one long picnic beneath the splendid oaks of a primeval forest, with plenty of ale and flavorful venison poached from the forests of an oppressive king. The clever rebellion Robin Hood waged against authority (represented by the haughty, despotic, and overfed sheriff of Nottingham) was full of heroic exploits and a desire to win justice for victims of oppression.
Now, as then, the forest consists of woodland glades, farm fields, villages, and hamlets. But the surroundings are so built up that Robin Hood wouldn't recognize them today.
Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre (tel. 01623/823202; www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk) is in Sherwood Forest Country Park at Edwinstowe, 29km (22 miles) north of Nottingham off the A614, or 13km (8 miles) east of Mansfield on the B6034. It stands near the Major Oak, popularly known as Robin Hood's tree, although analysis of its bark reveals that it wasn't around in the 13th century. Many marked walks and footpaths lead from the visitor center through the woodland. There's an exhibition of life-size models of Robin and the other well-known outlaws, as well as a shop with books, gifts, and souvenirs. The center provides as much information as is known about the Merry Men and Maid Marian, whom Robin Hood is believed to have married at Edwinstowe Church near the visitor center. Little John's grave is at Hathersage 58km (36 miles) away, and Will Scarlet's grave is at Blidworth (15km/9 1/2 miles away).
The center also has a visitor information facility and the Forest Table, with cafeteria service and meals emphasizing traditional English country recipes.
Open times for the country park are from dawn to dusk, the visitor center is open April to October daily 10am to 5pm and November to March from 10am to 4:30pm. Entrance to both the center and "Robin Hood's Sherwood" exhibition is free. A year-round program of events is presented, mainly on weekends and during national and school holiday periods. Parking costs £3 per car per day April to October.
Clumber Park, a 1,537-hectare (3,800-acre) tract of park and woodland maintained by National Trust authorities, is favored by local families for picnics and strolls. It contains a 32-hectare (80-acre) lake at its center, a monumental promenade flanked with venerable lime (linden) trees, and the Gothic Revival Clumber Chapel. Built between 1886 and 1889 as a site of worship for the private use of the seventh duke of Newcastle, it's open early March to mid-January, daily 10am to 4pm.
The park itself is open year-round during daylight hours, though its allure and services are at their lowest ebb during November and December. The gift shop and tearoom are open daily in summer 10am to 5pm (closes 4pm off-season). Admission to the park, including the chapel, ranges from £5 to £8, depending on your vehicle.
If you're specifically interested in the botany and plant life, head for the park's Conservation Centre, a walled garden with extensive greenhouses, open daily from April to October. For information about the park and its features, contact the Clumber Park Estate Office, Worksop, Nottinghamshire S80 3AZ (tel. 01909/476592).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.