city slicker Nottingham

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The Independent Culture
As the annual Robin Hood Festival reaches its climax, we reveal that there's more to Nottingham than men in tights

The official line: Daniel Defoe called Nottingham "one of the most pleasant and beautiful towns in England". Home of Robin and his merry men, DH Lawrence, Byron, Jesse Boot - founder of the high-street chemist shops - as well as designer Paul Smith.

A 1990 Gallup Moneywise poll voted it the "Number One City for the Best Quality of Life" in Britain, and the English Tourist Board named it last year as England's Tourist Destination of the Year.

It also has the fifth highest rate of violence against the person in England, according to Home Office figures, which may explain the city's annual crime and mystery film festival. Last year's guest of honour? Quentin Tarantino.

Unofficially: Home of numerous streetwalkers, crusties and on Saturday night, "townies" - the white socks and stilettos brigade who escape from the depths of Nottinghamshire. Be warned: in term-time the city's awash with students who fill the pubs and clubs.

Most likely to see: Robin Hood, in one form or another. Actor Mark Dickinson works full-time all year round as the legendary hero at the Tales of Robin Hood adventure centre, and greets tourists at the castle during weekends in the summer. He'll no doubt be joined in full regalia by the hundreds of people unable to resist the green tights, bows and arrows and floppy hats on sale at the special festival shops in Sherwood Forest.

Least likely to see: Not, as vicious rumour would have you believe, the Sheriff of Nottingham. Several papers reported earlier this year that the 800-year-old post had been left vacant after 37 councillors turned down the job of Robin's number one enemy. But the City Council insists only three people initially turned it down, due to work commitments. The real Sheriff, Cllr Roy Greensmith, joins "Robin" for his greeting sessions at the castle. So former men in tights Kevin Costner and Mel Brooks get this vote.

Weirdest sight: The sandy beach, seaside and pier that appeared in the centre of town (Market Square) one summer a couple of years ago. Sadly, "Nottingham-by-the-Sea" has been replaced by a more mundane music festival in Wollaton Park next month.

Shopping: Big business in Nottingham, which is fast becoming the consumer capital of the East Midlands, offering a designer fix for those in need of a shopping high. As well as the two obvious shopping centres (the Victoria and the Broad Marsh) there are more individual stores in the Flying Horse arcade, along Bridlesmith Gate and in Hockley.

Best clubs: For a "townie-free" night, steer clear of Ritzy's and Madison's. Fashion victims should head for Deluxe (formerly Venus) on St James Street, while Beatroot, 6-8 Broadway, Lace Market is for those who're not afraid to sweat the night away. Saturday's the best night: club classics and hard house.

Best restaurants: Burgers and pizza galore, but the more adventurous should try Sonny's (Anglo/French cuisine) on Carlton St. Homesick Aussies can find solace at Ned Kelly's on Queen St, and for good Mexican food, head slightly out of the centre to Muchachas at 140 Alfreton Road.

Pubs: Lots of scope for fans of The Young Ones as there's no escape from the students who fill the pubs in term time. Best bet is the Gooseberry Bush on Peel St. Bikers should try the Trip to Jerusalem, which is built into the castle walls and has the added attraction of not many students. The Castle, opposite its namesake, is also worth a visit.

Biggest fight: Aside from the miners' many battles over the years, Nottingham has struggled to retain the rights to the Robin Hood legend. A string of contenders from Yorkshire to Scotland (where one Scots historian claims Robin was really a woman from Glasgow) have claimed the hero for their own.

Biggest disappointment: Anyone seeking a castle to live up to the legend should head straight for Warwick.

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