Take in the main sights of Nottingham in 24 hours? MICHELLE TOMPKINS says it’s...

‘ONE day in Notts is never enough,’ says the promotional material aimed at Nottingham’s tourists, but having made a whistlestop tour of the city I can vouch for just how much you can cram in if you try really hard.

I had a total of just 26 hours in this most central of English cities, yet still managed to take in an art gallery, a museum, the castle, two pubs, a restaurant, some serious shopping and a trip to the theatre. Phew! A restful weekend it certainly wasn’t, but I can’t remember a more insightful one.

Of course, the only way to get so much out of such little time was to plan the trip with military precision. No hour was left unallocated, no minute unfilled. Rest was for the unadventurous; sleep a mere necessity.

Here’s how we managed to challenge the tourist board’s ‘one day’ slogan, and do Nottingham in record time: l 11:00: Synchronise watches My friend was arriving from the north-east, I had driven up from Swindon – each a two and a half to three-hour journey, traffic permitting. Somehow we manage to arrive in the same city centre car park within five minutes of one another. A good start to a weekend where time is of the essence.

  • 11:10: Head to nearest pub .... for a coffee, I hasten to add. Not strictly on the timetable, but a necessity nonetheless when you haven’t seen your friend for several months. We head for the All Bar One outside the car park, and gossip over our cappuccinos, delivered with a shot glass filled with Smarties (nice touch). The world put to rights, we consult our itinerary for the next 24 hours and gulp. We’re going to need another coffee.
  • 12:00: The Galleries of Justice Museum We head around the corner into The Lace Market and one of Nottingham’s best visitor attractions. This grand old building was the city’s Crown Court until the mid-80s and a courthouse and gaol for centuries before that, once home to the villainous Sheriff of Nottingham (booooo...).

    Now a museum of crime and punishment – and said to be the most haunted building in the city – it offers performance-led tours and a fascinating insight into the hardships faced by convicts in years gone by, including tales of the famous wrong-doers who have sought justice in the dock.

  • 13:30: Lunch at Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem Released early for good behaviour, we get out just in time to head for our second pub of the day – this time, the oldest inn in England, no less. It dates to 1189AD and is most famous for its caves, carved out of the sandstone rock against which the pub is set, which were originally used as a brewery.

    Our table is next to the pub’s ‘cursed galleon’, a small wooden model of a ship in the upstairs lounge. It is claimed that people who have cleaned it have all met a mysterious death, hence several inches of thick grime have now been allowed to build up. Thankfully it is encased behind glass and my urge to dust is thwarted. Far from resting on its tourist trail laurels, the pub is also popular for its fantastic food. We go for the lunch menu at £7.95 for a sandwich, side and drink, choosing a pulled pork wrap on flatbread and a rump steak ciabatta between us, with sweet potato fries to pick at on the side.

  • 14:30: Check in at hotel Overloaded on food and historical knowledge, we waddle off to drop our bags at our base for the night, The Birchover Residences in the city’s bustling Victoria Street – not actually a conventional hotel at all, but a building of swanky apartments available to rent by the night or longer.

    This is luxury living in the extreme, all shiny surfaces and thick linens, but sadly it’s lost on us since we are so short on time to revel in it. No detail has been forgotten, from the fluffy bath towels in all three bathrooms – yes, three – to the posh museli and filter coffee left out for our breakfast.

    With a bedroom each, a plush living area, a gadget-laden kitchen and even a utility room (should you wish to do some laundry), we feel thoroughly spoiled and not a little over-indulged.

  • 15:00: Hit the shops You might think that shopping isn’t really a tourist activity, but in Nottingham you’d be wrong. The city is the home of top British designer Paul Smith and his flagship shop can be found in a mansion house in the city centre – a Mecca for fashion fans the world over.

    The city is packed with all the big brands you’d expect, as well as loads of independent retailers, and, even better, all the shops are really close together, within a 10-minute walk.

  • 17:30: We stop shopping ... due to the shops shutting for the day, not to mention having dinner booked for 6pm. Oh dear.
  • 17:40: Return to The Birchover Residences ... for the quickest change known to womankind. A speedy shower and a change into our new purchases and we hop into a taxi. We end up five minutes late for our booking.
  •  18:05: MemSaab restaurant, Maid Marian Way It was with good reason that MemSaab was recently named one of the top three Indian restaurants in the country by The Times. No flocked wallpaper or swirly carpets here – this large restaurant, with its subdued lighting and arty wall hangings, oozes class and refinement and is definitely on the must-do list for the city.

    With only an hour or so to eat, we overlook the fine dining menu and turn instead to the pre-theatre selection. Our elegant platters arrive with a starter, curry, a portion of rice, dhal and naan all in their own compartments, each section offering MemSaab’s trademark blend of subtle spice.Owner Amita Sawhney has mastered the art of front of house conviviality, gliding from table to table making each diner feel like an old friend.

  • 19:30: Nottingham Playhouse, Time and the Conways This JB Priestley play focuses on the passage of time, a theme we’ve been only too aware of all day long. The chance to sit still and relax as the story and characters unfold comes as a welcome respite.
  • 22:00: Taxi to Victoria Street If the street was bustling by day, it is positively throbbing by night. As the taxi drops us off, we wrestle with whether to join the crowds pouring in and out of the city bars, or head for the refuge of our apartment.

    Beaten by our early start and an action-packed day, we decide that cocoa is calling and leave the clubbers to it. Well, we are middle-aged...

  •  00:00: Bed Goodness knows what we find to talk about but somehow it is midnight and the yawns are coming thick and fast. With another busy itinerary ahead of us, we decide we really ought to call it a day.
  •  00:30: Bed (for real this time, honestly)
  •  08:00: The alarm is set for an early(ish) start We refuel on the apartment coffee but pass on the museli – breakfast awaits elsewhere.
  •  10:00: The Nottingham Contemporary Food is first on the agenda at this oh-so-modern of modern art galleries before, fortified by bacon sandwiches and several gallons of coffee, we head up to the collections. With more than 3,000 square metres of floor space, this is one of the largest contemporary art centres in the UK.

    There’s too much to take in in the short time we have – you could easily spend three hours here to fully appreciate each piece. We only have 60 minutes, but at least we tick the venue off our list.

  •  11:30: Nottingham Castle You might be wondering why the name Robin Hood hasn’t cropped up in my tour so far – he is, after, Nottingham’s most famous son. Well, Nottingham Castle is where all things Robin are brought together, from the bronze sculpture at the foot of the castle walls to the exhibition about the heroic outlaw inside.

    Robyn Hode, as he is known in older manuscripts, was said to be a highly skilled archer and swordsman who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor, assisted by his Merry Men. There is some debate over whether he really existed – some say the legend stems from ballads and stories – but overlook that minor matter and you’ll find plenty to convince you inside the castle’s 17th century walls.

    There is also a series of manmade caves and tunnels underneath the castle, some of which date back to medieval times, and tours run on the hour every hour.

  • 13:00: The end is nigh It is 26 hours since we drove into town and now we must retrace our steps and head back out. It’s been a busy few hours, but we’re glad we came and – a true test of any destination – will probably come back again.

    One day in Notts, is enough, but only just. Stretch it to two or three and you might even have time to draw breath.

  • Michelle Tompkins was on a trip to 
    Nottingham organised by Experience Nottinghamshire. See Twitter: @ExperienceNotts, Facebook: LoveNotts, or www.experiencenottinghamshire.com to find out more.
    Contact: Nottingham Tourist Information Centre 0844 77 5678 / tourist.information@nottinghamcity.gov.uk 
  •  Prices at The Birchover Residences prices (www.thebirchoverresidences.com)  are £250 for one night, £180 per night for two to six nights and £150 per night for seven or more nights.
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