Why You Should Staycation in the East Midlands

Chances are, you’ve probably travelled through the East Midlands on your way to another region of England without ever stopping to admire the scenery. Well, we’re here to tell you that this often overlooked part of the UK is actually home to some pretty amazing spots that you should definitely take the time to explore.

In this blog, we’re going to be picking our top highlight from each of the East Midlands’ six counties – Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire (excluding North and North East Lincolnshire), Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire and Rutland – so you can decide which area appeals to you most!

Chatsworth House, Derbyshire

Proof that the classics are often the best, Chatsworth House is nothing short of a must-see if you’re in this part of Derbyshire. A suitably grand country house set in the midst of sheep-cropped grasslands and manicured gardens, Chatsworth has seen its fair share of developments since a home was first built here in 1552, as well as an abundance of VIP guests!

It was during the 19th century that the house and grounds were largely transformed into how we see them today; the 6th Duke of Devonshire hired Joseph Paxton to create the imposing giant rockeries and Emperor Fountain that make the gardens so special. Nowadays, the grand house acts as both a museum and a private home to the Cavendish family, and it has been voted one of Britain’s favourite historic places to visit on numerous occasions thanks to the ornate interiors, masterpieces including those by Rembrandt and Freud, and its stunning array of gardens. In between the tropical glasshouses, explore the quaint kitchen gardens on your way to the Cascade Pond, the Trout Stream or even the maze, discovering statues en route.

Those inspired by the horticultural expertise on display will be delighted to know that plants can be purchased from the excellent gift shop, as well as plenty of other pretty pieces and tasty morsels, including renowned Bakewell tarts (the eponymous village is just a short distance away, after all!). Away from the groomed gardens and plush interiors, mingle with the estate’s locals on gentle walks to Stand Wood and Queen Mary’s Bower, before making straight for the cafe on your return. Quite the day out if you ask us!

 

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King Richard III Visitor Centre, Leicestershire

Richard III is one of British history’s ‘bad guys’. Vilified by Shakespeare, implicated in the murder of the Princes in the Tower and considered an unsuccessful military leader, he ruled for just over two years before being killed in the Battle of Bosworth aged 32, his body dumped in a crude grave and forgotten. That is, until 2012, when human remains were discovered in an unassuming car park in Greyfriars, Leicester.

After numerous scientific tests, the body was confirmed to be that of Richard III, although contrary to Shakespeare’s popular description, there was no evidence of a withered arm or hunchback. In the following years, his skeleton was reinterred at Leicester Cathedral and the Richard III Visitor Centre was established on the site of the king’s initial burial.

The in-depth permanent exhibitions explore Richard’s place in history, the basis of his controversy, and how his remains came to be discovered once again after centuries. Workshops are available for little ones throughout the year, tours are on offer for older guests, and you can even hire the venue for a medieval banquet, complete with a three-course meal, traditional entertainment and authentic dancing. Leicester Cathedral is also open to visitors who want to explore further medieval history and see King Richard’s new tomb.

 

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Lincoln Castle, Lincolnshire

If you’re on the lookout for tales of epic battles, cunning prison escapes, one of the four surviving original Magna Carta documents and battlement tours, then Lincoln Castle is the day trip for you! Built by William the Conqueror himself in a bid to secure his power, this ancient fortress has survived sieges and uprisings, and today acts as both a museum and Lincoln Crown Court, an indication of the castle’s past as a notorious prison.

From the heights of the Medieval Wall Walk, take in unparalleled views of the equally impressive Lincoln Cathedral, before ascending the Observatory Tower for glorious views over the medieval city. In the dark and dingy cells where prisoners awaited their fate, you’ll find names carved into the stonework. Up above, Cobb Hall, the scene of many a public hanging, acts as a grisly reminder of England’s barbaric past.

One of the main draws of Lincoln Castle is the chance to see an original 1215 Magna Carta and a 1217 Charter of the Forest side by side – the only place in the world where both documents can be viewed together. They feature as part of an intriguing permanent exhibition, which discloses how the parchments came to be signed, and what they meant for England’s future. Expert-led guided tours are also on offer for those wanting to discover more about the castle’s history, as are workshops, activity days and hands-on experiences.

 

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Catanger Llamas, Northamptonshire

Yep, you read that right! Instead of the usual stately home or ancient castle, we’ve opted for the rather unusual (yet highly rated!), Catanger Llamas experience as our Northamptonshire highlight. Set in the heart of rolling hills and verdant countryside, this ever-expanding haven for hooved pals offers family-friendly llama trekking experiences, as well as sustainable farm stays in either the Shepherd’s Hut or the authentic Gypsy Caravan.

If, after you’ve spent time walking your four-legged friend, you decide that the llama life is the one for you, there’s even the option to buy a Peruvian pal (or two) – provided you have the means to accommodate them, of course! While we’d love to take one of these fluffy creatures home with us, just the chance to take them for a stroll in the peaceful hills makes our ears prick up! In the meantime, you can follow their adventures on Facebook – cue the awhhhhhs!

 

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Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire

After you’ve crooned ‘Everything I Do’ over at Sycamore Gap, make the journey to Robin Hood’s formative lair, Sherwood Forest – the last remnants of a royal hunting forest that spanned county boundaries and was listed in the Domesday Book as covering a quarter of Nottinghamshire. This vast swathe of green has been largely reduced over the centuries: the abundance of wood in the area has proved to be ample harvesting ground for materials used in ship building and construction, including that of St Paul’s Cathedral!

One tree that has stood the test of time, however, is the ancient Major Oak: estimated to be between 800 and 1000 years old, this great oak is said to have sheltered Robin and his Merry Men in between their infamous outings. Although a mere fraction of the size it once was, Sherwood Forest is now both a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation, easily explored via well-trodden footpaths and cycle trails. Every year, the Robin Hood Festival invites enthusiasts young and old to delve into the history of Nottingham’s prodigal son, while the ever-popular Sherwood Forest Art and Craft Centre draws creative types throughout the year. We hope you’ve been practising your archery skills!

 

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Rutland Water, Rutland

Get your fix of outdoorsy activities, whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or not, at Rutland Water. Around 4,200 acres of open countryside encircles the water itself, one of the largest artificial lakes in Europe, offering visitors the chance to explore both aquatic and earthy pastimes.

Let’s dive straight in with a tour of the Aqua Park: during your 50-minute session, avoid being the first to meet a watery end by navigating the slides, climbing walls and balance bars of this inflatable adventure playground. If you prefer only a slight chance of getting wet, maybe sailing or canoeing is the activity for you, or perhaps even a spot of light fishing? The reservoir is packed with trout, pike, zander and carp, and instructors are also on hand to ensure that the fish are handled and managed safely.

Away from the choppy waters (and it can get windy!), navigate the cycling or walking trails, keeping an eye out for the abundance of bird life as you go – a variety of bicycles are available to hire so all ages and abilities have the chance to blow those cobwebs away. At Bugtopia, learn all about the creatures big and small that we share our habitat with, before getting a bite to eat at one of the many popular cafes.

 

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We hope our East Midlands summary has given you an overview of what you can expect to find in this multifaceted region of England.

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