The venue

Castle Rock dominates Nottingham from above the Trent floodplain. The first castle, built here in 1068, was replaced by a stone upgrade in the 13th century. It remained an important royal residence for hundreds of years. Today, fragments of the early castles remain around an Italianate ducal palace built in the 1670s by the first Duke of Newcastle. Gutted by Reform Act rioters in 1831, the building lay derelict for 40 years before becoming the first municipally-owned museum and art gallery outside London. It is still Nottingham's main museum, with ancient Greek artefacts, the regimental museum of the Sherwood Foresters and a display about the castle's varied history. The best way to learn about the latter, however, is to take a cave tour.

For children

Mortimer's Hole is genuinely cave-like. Shaped by wind erosion as well as man it is exciting to walk its 98m length into the city of Nottingham. The passage was dug in the reign of Richard the Lionheart and was almost certainly a service tunnel. Its name, however, derives from the events of October 1330 when 15-year-old Edward III arrived here to reclaim his throne. Edward and his troops were helped by insiders to enter the castle "through a secret passageway". Back up at the castle there is a children's gallery (reopening on 22 July) with activities for the very young, and outside is a castle-themed playground.

For adults

Down some steps, we enter a 13th-century passageway into the rock. Chisel stripes and medieval graffiti mark the sandy walls as the passage broadens out into a small room with a ditch and hole in the floor - the "en suite latrine". We pass through a 14th-century dungeon that later became the Duke of Newcastle's "fridge". Back above ground we wanderunder a 14th- century castle bridge.


A very pleasant café serves hot and cold food. And don't miss a drink in Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, the ancient pub next to Mortimer's Hole.


The museum is wheelchair accessible; the caves are not. One member of staff knows sign language. Disabled parking in the grounds (but phone ahead).


Open daily 10am-5pm. Adults £3, children £1.50, family ticket (two adults, three children) £7. Cave tours: adults £2, children £1.

How to get there

Friar Lane, off Maid Marian Way, Nottingham (0115-915 3700; .uk). By public transport: 10 minutes' walk from Nottingham station, as are public car parks. Very limited pay-and-display on-street parking.