I travel as much as possible at home and abroad. I'm always ready for new experiences
Published January 18th 2019
The vibrant city underneath the city
Nottingham is built on caves that have been in use as shelters, prisons, secret passages, and places of business since the earliest inhabitants occupied the site. The cave system is extensive – the Nottingham Caves Survey produced a virtual representation of several hundred sandstone caves around Nottingham. Most of the cave network is inaccessible due to hazardous conditions, but the following places offer unusual glimpses into the underground world.
1. Lost Caves Gin Bar: This unusual and somewhat hidden bar (opened in 2017) is located in the medieval caves 8 metres below the surface. It is accessed via a 'secret' disguised door in the Lost Property bar. After entering, a staircase descends underneath Nottingham's oldest hotel. Staff greet visitors underground at the Lost Caves door and lead the way through the final section of winding passages.
Photo by Nottingham Post
The damp cavernous space is lit by multi-coloured changing lights and candles. Visitors can sit at wooden tables or on cushions covering the rock ledges. Some external passages still connect the cave with the street above and distant disembodied sounds sometimes filter into the bar.
Gin is the specialty of this subterranean alcove (with 28 varieties on offer), but a limited selection of other drinks (wine, beer, soft drinks) are also available.
2. City of Caves Tour: This child-friendly tour provides dramatic reenactments through a series of vignettes designed to represent different points in Nottingham's cave usage from pre-history to modern times. The tour is short and especially appropriate for primary school-aged children. A WWII air raid is simulated at the end of the tour, which involves darkness and loud sirens. However, on my visit older adults (who had experienced the real event) were more affected than any of the children present.
Discounts are available if booked with a visit to the National Justice Museum. This site claims to have once imprisoned Robin Hood in an oubliette formed by the underground caves.
Address: Upper Level, Broadmarsh Shopping Centre, Nottingham, NG1 7LS Hours: 10.00 AM - 5.00 PM; see website for specific details Phone: 44 115 952 0555 Website Cost: Adults £7.95; Over 60s £6.95; Students with a valid NUS card £6.95; Under 18s £6.95; Under 5s Free; Family ticket for 4 people (max 2 adults) £24.50
3. Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, known locally as The Trip, claims the distinction of being the 'Oldest Inn in England' as painted on its wall. It traces its origins to 1189 with a long eventful history involving military campaigns, Robin Hood and his gang, visits by medieval kings, hauntings, and a cursed model of a galleon ship (still on display and not likely to be moved).
The building is carved into the foundation of Nottingham Castle and is comprised of a series of caverns along with later additions. Barrels of ale were once hoisted directly from the pub into the castle - the opening is still visible today.
Address: Castle Blvd, Nottingham NG1 6AD Phone: 44 115 947 3171
Note: The Trip will be closed for renovation until Saturday, March 24, 2019 at 11am
4. The Bell Inn, known locally as The Bell, is a medieval pub which also has a claim to being one of the oldest locations in the city (established as a public house in 1437). The cellars are made of caves believed to have been carved by Carmelite Friars in the 12th century. Due to the blackened walls and ceilings, it is believed that the area was used as a kitchen in the medieval period. The Monks Well is one of two wells in the caves which were once used for brewing (now contaminated and no longer in use).
5. Nottingham Castle: The original castle that sat atop this 30-metre rocky outcropping was destroyed at the end of the English Civil War as punishment for Nottingham's royalist support. The site is now occupied by a 19th-century ducal mansion. However, the medieval foundations are still extant along with a historical network of subterranean passages with connections to Roger Mortimer (3rd Baron Mortimer, 1st Earl of March), King David II of Scotland, and Robin Hood, of course. Currently, the castle is undergoing an extensive renovation project. The caves will feature in this renovation as an important aspect of the site's thousand years of history.