Alex Langfield

Merry trails steeped in legend — hiking the Robin Hood Way

Nilfanion, CC BY-SA 4.0

Merry trails steeped in legend — hiking the Robin Hood Way

Hiking Collection by Alex Langfield

Once, long ago, an ancient forest covered the land between Nottingham and Worksop in the heart of England. This vast, dense woodland was known as Sherwood Forest and was home to one of English folklore’s greatest heroes: Robin Hood.

Along with his trusty Merry Men, Robin would steal from the tyrannous rich, as they travelled along the forest roads, and give the takings to the impoverished and less fortunate. And so, the legend of Robin Hood was born.

The ravages of the modern age have not been kind to Sherwood’s majestic trees. As with much of Britain’s native forests, many have been felled to turn the gears of industry, support the great war efforts of the last few centuries and, uniquely to Sherwood, to make way for country estates, known as the Dukeries. What remains is a mosaic of ancient woodland, vibrant new plantations, magnificent parkland, classic farmland, grand ducal estates and charming villages.

It is through this historic and much-changed land that the Robin Hood Way winds through. Starting in the vibrant city of Nottingham and its mighty castle and finishing at the village of Edwinstowe and the 1,000-year-old Great Oak, it is a marvellous and varied long-distance trail.

During its 105-mile (169 km) course you visit many places with strong associations to Robin Hood, as well as landscapes of scenic magnificence, such as the limestone gorge of Creswell Crags and the timeless remains of Sherwood itself. Whether tackling the route one day at a time or setting out on a grand multi-day adventure, it is a route achievable by all. Gradients are kind, paths are easy to follow (look out for the bow and arrow pointing the way ahead) and you’re never far from cafés and pubs in the next town or village.

The idea behind the route was initially conceived by Chris Thompson of the Nottingham Wayfarers Rambling Club and the original route was opened in 1985, thanks to the sterling efforts of Roland Price and Alex Hickton. It was extended to its current format in 1995 to include the historic town of Southwell and other areas of interest, such as some of the country parks.

The Way is feasible in all seasons but bear in mind that trails can get very muddy during the winter months or after rainfall, particularly those through the woodland sections. Sturdy boots, warm layers and waterproofs are recommended for all but the most optimistic summer forecast. This is England, after all.

In this Collection, I have split the route up into eight stages of between 11 and 17 miles (18 to 27 km) in length, though there are many ways to break the route down further due to the wealth of villages and public transport along the route. The vast majority choose to start the route in the city and save the traditional heart of Sherwood, the Major Oak and Edwinstowe, for the closing stages, as well as other highlights like Creswell Crags and Clumber Park.

It is highly recommended that you book accommodation in advance if you are planning to sleep along the route. Stage end points Burntstump Park, Creswell Crags and Whitewater Bridge have very limited options and you may need to arrange public transport to get you to your lodgings. You will easily find plenty of food and drink and all stages finish near pubs, cafés and restaurants.

If travelling by car, the entire route is just to the east of the M1 and therefore easily accessed from London, Leeds and Sheffield, as well as being within straightforward driving distance from Manchester and Birmingham.

Nottingham is well served by a mainline train station with links to most major cities. Edwinstowe does not have its own train station but is connected by bus to Mansfield, Retford and Worksop, which all do. Check bustimes.org/localities/edwinstowe for more information.

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

    Difficult
    05:51
    13.8 mi
    2.4 mph
    700 ft
    575 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Setting off from the heart of Nottingham by the Robin Hood statue in the shadow of the city’s mighty castle, the Robin Hood Way starts as it means to go on amidst historic splendour. Majestic Wollaton Hall and its deer inhabited parkland are visited en route to the town of Kimberley.

    It should take you around six hours to walk the 14 miles (22 km) and gradients are fairly gentle throughout, with a bit of ascent in its latter stages. It is worth noting that University Park and Wollaton Park are closed at dusk.

    From the Robin Hood statue to the north east of the castle grounds, make your way south to the Nottingham canal, following this before branching off towards the university’s lovely parkland and the picturesque Highfields Lake.

    Now the trail turns north towards the strikingly symmetric Wollaton Hall, one of the finest examples of Elizabethan architecture you will find anywhere.

    An amble through the hall’s wonderful grounds is followed by a brief visit to the Alexandrina Plantation Nature Reserve, before striding out towards Bramcote Hills and the Hemlock Stone.

    Now, as you bear north towards Kimberley, the city is left behind. Narrow hedge tracks and public footpaths eventually bring you to the end of the stage in Kimberley.

    Accommodation is not plentiful in the town, but it is served by the Hog’s Head and the Nelson and Railway hotels, whilst a large Sainsbury’s on Nottingham Road represents a good opportunity for a restock.

    Difficult
    06:35
    15.5 mi
    2.4 mph
    800 ft
    725 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage of the Robin Hood Way is all about the fine country parks that make your acquaintance on your journey from Kimberley to Burntstump Park. Urban life is well and truly left behind as you make a beeline towards the heart of the ancient forest of Sherwood.

    There’s over 15 miles (24 km) to cover here — if this sounds a bit much you can seek to split the stage by overnighting in Hucknall or Bulwell.

    From Kimberley you set off across farmland towards the pretty village of Greasley and its prominent grade-II listed parish church. The most bracing ascent of the day takes you alongside Watnall Wood, before you strike out to the north east, crossing the M1 on Long Lane.

    The first of three country parks are visited in the guise of Bulwell Hall. As you admire its ruins and twin lakes, keep your eyes and ears out for kestrels and woodpeckers (though try not to get hit by golf balls from the nearby course).

    After crossing under the railway, Bestwood Country Park is up next with its splendid arched gatehouse of Alexandria Lodge a particular highlight.

    Finally, the trail snakes north through farmland to its end point at Burntstump Country Park and its mixture of deciduous woodland and grassland. Take care on the approach on Moor Road, where the verge is overgrown.

    There is little accommodation around Burntstump Park save for a one-bedroom apartment at Forest Farm just half a mile up the A60. Alternatively, the Forest Farm bus stop on the A60 can take you back into Nottingham for the night on the hourly 141 service. More information can be found at trentbarton.co.uk/services/141/welcome.

    For refreshments and sustenance you can’t go far wrong with the Burntstump pub’s classic meals.

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  • Difficult
    07:10
    16.8 mi
    2.3 mph
    900 ft
    900 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Woodland becomes more prominent on this stage of the Robin Hood Way, as you continue your journey north.

    At almost 17 miles (27 km), this is the longest of the eight stages here. If this sounds like too much for one day, it is easily broken up as the end point of Blidworth is reached twice, once at the end and once around five miles in. The highlight is probably the splendour of Newstead Abbey and its gardens.

    The trail first heads north through Sansom Wood, which is managed by the Forestry Commission. After Longdale Lane, continue through yet more woodland, with ample opportunities for a snack stop. You’ll soon come to Blidworth and if splitting the stage, seek accommodation here.

    St Mary’s Church is worth exploring, said to house the grave of Will Scarlet. Now the route does something of a loop around the village of Ravenshead, passing Newstead Abbey and its wonderful grounds and lakes.

    The path then heads north to the atmospheric Thieves Wood and Harlow Wood before heading east back to Blidworth. The Black Bull at Blidworth offers lodgings for the night, though book early to avoid disappointment.

    Further west towards Ravenshead are the Fairview log cabins — cosy, modern options themed around the characters of Robin Hood folklore. If you fancy a night under the stars, Lurcher Farm hosts a campsite and caravans to the east of the village.

    Difficult
    05:58
    14.1 mi
    2.4 mph
    575 ft
    825 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The next 14 miles (23 km) of your journey take you across gently undulating farmland to the attractive town of Southwell and its remarkable cathedral. The red-brick village of Farnsfield makes for an ideal lunch stop, whilst other points of interest include a memorial to a crashed Second World War bomber and the historically rich Robin Hood’s Hill.

    The first section is continuously downhill across farmland to the village of Farnsfield. It’s a pretty little village with a pub, a couple of cafés and a Co-op should you need to stock up on supplies.

    At Farnsfield the route turns south and takes a short detour to a memorial to the British and Canadian airmen who lost their lives when their Halifax bomber crashed in 1944.

    After this, at Combs Wood another detour is made to gain the views from Robin Hood’s Hill, which rises to around 430 feet (130 m). A bench placed in honour of Geoff Rix, a former secretary of the Robin Hood Way Association is a great spot to soak up the scenery.

    Retrace your steps back to Combs Wood, stride out west past the tiny village of Halam and its parish church, before dipping down to approach Southwell from the south.

    Southwell is probably most notable for the architectural magnificence of its cathedral, and it makes for an excellent place to rest for the night.

    There are a number of inns and hotels, as well as a luxury glamping retreat to the east of the town. It also represents your most varied choice of eatery since leaving Nottingham, with various restaurants and cafés.

    Difficult
    07:02
    16.8 mi
    2.4 mph
    675 ft
    550 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This longer stage of the Robin Hood Way takes you broadly North West towards the true heartland of the ancient forest of Sherwood.

    Mansey Common represents the most untamed landscape you will find on the whole trail, whilst there’s yet more architectural interest to be found at Rufford Abbey and Archway House. If the 17-mile (27 km) trek sounds a bit much, you can split the stage at Eakring.

    The old Southwell to Mansfield railway line has been converted into a fine lane for walkers, cyclists and horse riders — the Southwell Trail. You follow its arrow-straight course north west out of Southwell to the village of Kirklington.

    Here your path turns north, through a couple of patches of woodland towards the relatively wild-feeling Mansey Common.

    Eakring and its distinctive five-storey windmill is next. The Saville Arms makes for a good rest break, boasting good bar snacks and refreshments. Leave Eakring, crossing farmland to reach the splendid Rufford Abbey Country Park.

    The ruins of the abbey, the lake and the gardens are certainly worth an afternoon amble. To end the stage, head north west to the glorious Archway House, which displays marvellous sculptures of Robin Hood characters on its façade.

    Upon reaching the end of this stage, your best accommodation options are either the nearby Sherwood Forest holiday parks to the south and west or a short walk of about a mile into Edwinstowe, where B&Bs, guest houses and the Sherwood Forest youth hostel await. In Edwinstowe, the aptly named Royal Oak serves hearty pub grub.

    Intermediate
    04:49
    11.5 mi
    2.4 mph
    425 ft
    450 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Starting only a stone’s throw away from the Robin Hood Way’s end point in Edwinstowe, this stage takes you first north into the forest and then west towards the fine limestone gorge of Creswell Crags. Some of the lodges built as part of the Dukeries are passed en route, whilst the trail leads through the privately owned Wellbeck Abbey estate. At less than 12 miles (19 km), this is a pleasant walk amongst historic surroundings.

    You are truly in the heartland of Sherwood Forest now and the first part of this journey passes through some of this ancient woodland. In the warmer months, expect a dazzling display of colour from the wildflowers and butterflies.

    Upon leaving the forest, you strike out north west towards the former mining village of Creswell. A worthwhile detour to the Greendale Oak is recommended — a fine country pub.

    After this, you head through much of the ducal lands of the Duke and Duchess of Portland, before arriving at the end point of Creswell Crags. This pretty limestone gorge is a world heritage site, where the earliest known remains of modern humans in Britain were found. It was also said to be a regular haunt of Robin Hood.

    Browns B&B at Holbeck is the best bet for accommodation close to Creswell other than private cottage rentals. The village is only a 14-minute train journey to Worksop where options are plentiful. Trains depart hourly. Despite the paltry offering of accommodation, Creswell does have an inn, a coffee house and a couple of Chinese takeaways.

    Difficult
    07:06
    17.0 mi
    2.4 mph
    550 ft
    625 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage is all about the magnificent Clumber Park. The former estate of the Dukes of Newcastle, today this sprawling 3,800-acres (1540 ha) of gardens, parkland, heath, woodland and lake is owned by the National Trust.

    At over 13 miles (21 km), this stage could be halved by using the park’s many amenities as an end point.

    To start the walk, head east from Creswell Crags and, having passed between Gouldsmeadow and Shrubbery Lakes, traverse a forest path that takes you straight to Clumber Park.

    There are many delights on this former ducal estate but one of the finest must be Lime Tree Avenue, the longest of its kind in Europe. The Way crosses the avenue, so you have no excuse for not wandering down this enchanting, arboreal passageway.

    Clumber House is a bygone memory, with only the stables left behind. However, the estate’s gothic chapel is a dramatic centrepiece to the park, rising up by the picturesque lake. Wander along the lakeside for a time, where facilities and refreshments can be found on its north eastern tip.

    Eventually, it is time to leave the parkland behind, as the trail snakes away to the east, crossing the River Poulter thrice over the course of the next few miles.

    The stage finishes at Whitewater Bridge just beyond Robin Hood’s Cave, an outcrop of sandstone. Nearby Ollerton has cottages, B&Bs and a hotel, though it is a further two miles (3 km) down the road. Closer by is the Sherwood Hideaway, which boasts all manner of luxurious forest lodges.

    Intermediate
    04:54
    11.5 mi
    2.4 mph
    475 ft
    400 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The climax of the Robin Hood Way fittingly takes you to places of folklore legend, in the very heart of the ancient forest of Sherwood.

    The Major Oak is the final natural wonder on your journey, the 1,000-year-old veteran tree that legend tells to be the hiding and sleeping place of Robin and the Merry Men. The walking is mostly straightforward for this 12-mile (19 km) trek. Much of the route is on forest trails, which can get particularly muddy after rainfall.

    From Whitewater Bridge, head north to a lovely area of woodland on the River Maun known as Conjure Alders. The route then follows the Blyth Road back towards Clumber and skirts the southern boundary of the park through lovely woodland. After crossing the Budby Road at Hazel Gap, you enter the Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve.

    Amongst the many, many trees, there are two of particular note that you come across. Said to mark the very centre of Sherwood Forest, the Centre Tree is first, in the south west of the reserve. Next is the famous Major Oak and its undeniable ancient grace.

    Finally, you come to the Church of St Mary in Edwinstowe, the finale of your journey and the place where Robin Hood was said to marry Maid Marian.

    Being at the end of the Robin Hood Way and the gateway to the Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve, Edwinstowe is well served by amenities. The Sherwood Forest youth hostel offers budget accommodation, whilst more luxurious lodgings can be found in the village’s B&Bs and guesthouses.

    The Royal Oak and the Black Swan both serve traditional pub grub, whilst a number of other eateries can be found around the main streets.

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    8
  • Distance
    117 mi
  • Duration
    49:25 h
  • Elevation
    5,100 ft

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Alex Langfield

Merry trails steeped in legend — hiking the Robin Hood Way