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Nottingham Castle is Reopening, and This is What You Can Expect...

6 June 21 words: George White
words: Tracey Whitefoot

The wait is finally over, and one of Nottingham’s most loved cultural attractions is gearing up to welcome the public back after an extensive redevelopment. We spoke to Alex Broughton at Nottingham Castle Trust to find out what people can expect from the reopening of Nottingham Castle...

When it was first announced that Nottingham Castle would undergo an extensive £30 million refurbishment in early 2018, Brexit was still the word of the day and no one had heard of COVID-19. Now, three years later and as the country moves out of lockdown, the centuries-old institution is finally getting ready to welcome visitors once more — with a host of new attractions to boot. 

As well as the recently-announced Paul Smith exhibition, Hello, My Name is Paul Smith, which will display over 1,500 objects which both reflect the designer’s personality and showcase his contributions to the world of fashion, Nottingham Castle will offer the chance to explore the history of local legend Robin Hood, discover the abundance of artistic talent that has graced the city throughout the years, and take an in-depth tour of the site on an adorable, eco-powered Land Train, which will be in operation later in the year. 

For Alex Broughton, Marketing & Communications Manager at Nottingham Castle Trust, the chance to host the great people of Nottingham again can’t come soon enough. “The public hasn’t stepped foot inside the Castle since June 2018, so the fact that we’re now only a matter of weeks away from welcoming people through the gatehouse and back into the Castle and its grounds is beyond exciting,” she admits. “Plus, we’re now offering a world-class visitor experience, bringing 1,000 years of Nottingham history to life like never before.” 

Executing a multi-year, multifaceted investment plan has required a lot of hard work from the team behind the scenes but, ahead of the grand reopening on Monday 21 June, Alex is happy with where the Castle has ended up. “In one sense it has been a long journey in that the transformation has taken over three years, but it also feels like it’s whizzed by. It’s been so exciting to see the brand-new features of the visitor experience take shape, and now we’re into the final stages of the transformation, it’s great to see all the finishing touches being made.” 

The circumstances in which the Castle will open up would have been unthinkable back in that warm, joyous summer a few years ago — when escaping George Ezra’s Shotgun was near impossible and the England football team were actually doing well in an international tournament. 

The pandemic has been tough for everyone, and we hope that local communities visit the Castle and leave feeling fulfilled, having learnt something they may not have known about their city, or perhaps with a new perception of our original folk hero, Robin Hood

Since then, COVID has created unprecedented challenges for the Castle, with organisers taking extra steps to ensure the public is safe at the site. This includes accepting only pre-booked, timed tickets, enforcing social distancing measures in high traffic areas, and providing sanitisation stands around the venue. Despite the difficulties the pandemic has presented, Alex believes Nottingham Castle can provide a refreshing source of distraction after a difficult year-and-a-bit, all while educating people about the city’s rich history and culture. 

“It’s so important to offer people escapism, entertainment, and information,” she explains. “The pandemic has been tough for everyone, and we hope that local communities visit the Castle and leave feeling fulfilled, having learnt something they may not have known about their city, or perhaps with a new perception of our original folk hero, Robin Hood.” 

Through its new Robin Hood Adventures experience, Nottingham Castle will offer a brand-new, interactive event for fans of the hooded socialist. Visitors can engross themselves in immersive surroundings as they take a seat in a virtual forest clearing, getting the chance to absorb legendary tales and banging ballads on digital ‘in the round’ storytelling screens. Those looking for a more interactive encounter can spar with Little John or take on Hood at his own game, with the Castle allowing guests to try their hand at archery or quarterstaff combat in its digital play spaces — or attempt to survive a day in fourteenth century Nottingham through innovative gaming tables. 

This focus on interactivity is something that runs through the entirety of the refurbished venue, Alex explains. “What’s great about our new visitor offer is that we’re sharing so much fascinating and varied information in an entertaining way. In the Rebellion Gallery, for example, three of the city’s most rebellious moments in history will be uncovered on giant digital screens and interactive tablets. It’s a really immersive experience.” 

Highlighting the rich and diverse talents of Nottingham’s artists is another of the Castle’s key focal points, with its Creative Galleries spotlighting world-class collections of fine and decorative pieces from throughout the city’s history. Displays will range from medieval artefacts shown in the Early Nottingham Craft Gallery to the ingenuity of present-day creatives as part of The Lab, a unique and special space which brings together the rich stories of Nottingham Castle and the daring, creative minds of Nottingham Trent University.

For those more interested in the city’s natural history, there is the Underground Adventure tour, a 25 minute route that snakes through the network of caves underneath the Castle – showcasing everything from drastic dungeons to wonderful wine cellars. 

And should you prefer fresh air and luscious greenery, outdoor family trails are a particular highlight, offering fun tasks for the kids and a bit of peace and quiet for the adults. From the Hero in the Green Hat activity trail, which involves finding missing words for Robin Hood’s ballad, to Up Close with Nature trails that follow delightful environmental paths around the grounds, there is a hell of a lot going on outside of the Castle’s walls. 

If this is still not enough to encourage you to take a look, however, there will be plenty of great stuff available at the gift store — which is, let’s face it, the most important thing. “The Castle Shop will stock beautiful bespoke products sourced from artisan craftspeople based in Nottingham, the UK and around the world,” Alex says. Interactive exhibitions, local heritage and a cracking gift shop — what’s not to love? 

You can find out more about Nottingham Castle’s reopening in our July issue. Tickets to visit the venue are now available at the Nottingham Castle website

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