Recently we visited Nottingham for a (very) mini break of 2 nights. N had requested a city rather than coastal break. You can’t beat a city as there’s always lots to do for all ages, and I’ve been to Nottingham a couple of times in the past, so knew it would be a good break. Being less than 2 hours drive away made it worth visiting for only a couple of nights too. To cram in as much as possible we headed up early so we could visit Wollaton Hall and Deer Park in the morning before it got too busy.
I’ve been to Wollaton Hall before – after a new year’s eve out drinking with friends, we headed to the park for a walk around to clear our heads. But I’d never been inside the hall, and thought it would be a good start to our visit. Plus getting some green space and open air meant we did that before the next couple of days which were due to be rainy.
The Deer Park is open early through to late, and you just pay for parking. I think it was £5 for all day parking, but it is cashless. So you can use the Ringo app which I did, or ring up to pay once you arrive. There’s plenty of parking, but it is quite a walk up to the hall, or to the lake from the parking.
When we were there, there was a fairground by the car park, so during school holidays look out for the extra activities
I’d booked a hall tour online at 11 the night before. The hall itself doesn’t open until that time either, so we did have time for a walk around and a pitstop in the cafe.
There are a lot of steps from the hall down to the cafe, so if you’re in a wheelchair or have pushchairs, you might want to walk around from the lake or car parking around the right hand side of the hall rather than the left up the hill like we did.
We treated ourselves as we were on ‘holiday’ to a hot chocolate and posh milkshake. The milkshakes aren’t cheap, but for a one off I didn’t mind paying too much. There were a selection of cakes, but the food is limited so you won’t be getting a full lunch there. It’s definitely more of the refreshments only rather than full on meals. The cafe isn’t that large inside, but there is picnic seating outside and plenty of grass to enjoy a picnic if you want.
As there was still time before our tour, we decided to walk down to the lake. There’s plenty of geese and ducks to watch or feed. We stopped to look at the herons, and were pleased to see a family of what we think were Egyptian Geese, dad, mum and plenty of babies.
We didn’t have time to have a nosy around the orangery/greenhouse area – N hates me dawdling around flowers. Maybe next time we visit.
There were a lot of people waiting for Wollaton Hall doors to open. Not only was our tour starting there, but there’s also a Natural History Museum based in there, as well at the Nottingham Industrial Museum which looked interesting. We didn’t bother visiting either as we were limited on time, but they’re free and obviously popular. It didn’t look like it would be big enough to house over 75,000 artefacts, but it does. They also have temporary exhibitions you can pay to enter.
Wollaton Hall tour
The tours run through the day in time slots – with the full main tour, interspersed with a shorter mini one. You can pay on the day but most people were just heading in for the free options when our early slot started. Children are free, so the £12 I paid was good value. Even better value because there were only 3 of us on the tour with the guide.
The tour takes in the main hall you enter into, then goes up behind the scenes staircases up to different floors where you can find out about the hall’s history, past owners, and look down into different views of the hall and out across the deer park and city.
Our tour guide was very good – she was able to answer any questions we had, and it was kept light and easy to understand, but still went into quite a lot of detail. N even found it interesting.
One room we visited was the Prospect Room at the top of the hall. This was bathed in sunshine coming through the Georgian style windows, we learnt about symmetry in architecture of the period, the doors, trompe l’oeil and how they’d have used the room for entertaining.
We also heard about historic riots in Nottingham and the dangers that were held off through the hall by the paranoid owner who wasn’t taking any risks with his building’s safety.
We didn’t see any deer from our walk around or when we walked out onto the roof and looked over the park. Although we saw plenty of evidence on the ground. We just weren’t lucky on our visit
After the Prospect Room, we headed down to the servants quarters and the Tudor Kitchen. N is studying Henry VIII and the Tudors at the moment so it was good timing for him to find out more about the period.
As well as the kitchen areas, we were shown storage rooms, and then headed down into the caves and tunnels below the hall. Nottingham is known for its 800 caves under the city, so it was interesting to hear and see the cave and the Admiral’s bath before later on our mini break visiting the City of Caves tour as well.
N found some parts of the caves a bit creepy, not helped by the ghost stories, but maybe it would be less creepy with more people on the tour.
Once back on the ground floor it was fun to emerge from a locked door, with other visitors then trying to find out where we’d come from as our tour finished.
I found it really interesting, although it’s definitely one for older children rather than younger ones as there are lots of steps, and a lot of standing still listening for up to an hour. They do say suitable for over 3s and children are free on the tours, but I think more children would prefer the natural history museum rather than a walking tour. It’s one of the first behind the scenes tours that N’s done, and he quite enjoyed it, knowing he’d been somewhere that wasn’t publicly open without booking on a tour.
Lunch was calling once we emerged, and time to head to check into our hotel. It was a shame we didn’t have more time as there was plenty more to explore at Wollaton Hall. The car parks were very busy as we were leaving, it’s a very popular local place to visit so worth getting there early especially if there’s special events on or it’s a sunny bank holiday.
If you’re in the area and have never been, I’d recommend a visit to Wollaton Hall and deer park.
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