Robin Hood has been the subject of endless ballads, books and films, making him undoubtedly one of popular culture’s most enduring folk heroes. While some of Robin Hood and his band of merry men's escapades may have been exaggerated over time, Robin Hood is indeed thought to be a real man.
Despite the fact that there are several versions of his story, the locations of his life events are agreed upon. Fans of the folk lore hero flock to Nottinghamshire and it's verdant Sherwood Forest to experience their own adventures in the famous outlaw's shoes.
Robin Hood Statue
Just outside Nottingham Castle’s gatehouse, keep eyes peeled for Robin himself – or rather his statue, which stands poised to fire his arrow into the hearts of the greedy. And even though some of the local youth like to steal his arrow from time to time, it always finds its way back over time.
Nottingham Castle was first built in 1068 by the order of William the Conqueror. In 1191 when Richard the Lionhearted went off to fight in the Crusades, his brother John seized the castle and held it with his supporters. When Richard returned from the Crusades in 1194, he marched his armies north and seized the castle back.
Today Nottingham Castle is no longer a seat for royals, in fact its walls now serve a completely different purpose. Since 1878, Nottingham Castle has served as a Museum of Fine Art. Due to its interior being a museum, it has not been used in the films and television shows, but the exterior has been extensively featured. Stone walls, tapestries and wall sconces make it a very beautiful living piece of England’s history.
Sherwood Forest has served as home to the Robin Hood legend, and the 182-hectare Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve is beloved and well protected. The nature reserve hosts some of the most ancient areas of England's native woodlands, where slender birch tree grow alongside ancient oak trees, most of which are 500 years old or older. This woodland owes its protection not just to its natural beauty, but to the Robin Hood legend. It was in these woods that the famous outlaw lived and evaded his pursuers.
For those interested in Robin's pursuits in Sherwood forest, at the entrance of the nature reserve within they Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre sits the Robyn Hodes Sherwode exhibition, which uses the spelling found in the earliest ballads about the hero. This exhibition tells his tale and marks particular areas of interest within the forest.
The Major Oak
One of the major areas of interest within the forest is the Major Oak. This massive sprawling oak was thought to be home to Robin Hood and his band of merry men – though many still insist he lived in a cave. It is not that Robin Hood made his home within the tree, but rather his band held camp under its sheltering branches. The Major Oak is believed to be around 800 years old – though some insist it is well over 1,000 years of age – and was thought to be comprised of several oak saplings that fused together. Due to its age and the Hoodian lore surrounding it, it has been voted ‘Britain's Favourite Tree’ year upon year.
This famous tree weighs around 23 tonnes and has needed support for its heavier branches since Victorian times. At first, metal chains helped support the branches until the late 1970s, when the chains were exchanged from wooden struts. Today, slender metal poles help keep its sprawling weighty branches standing tall.
Robin Hood's Cave
Robin Hood's Cave, previously known as Robin Hood's Hall is the largest limestone cave in the Creswell Crags area. The four main chambers of the cave are linked together by short passages that visitors can explore.
Around 40,000 to 60,000 years before Robin Hood may have used this cave, the Neanderthal people used it for shelter, making it a popular archeological spot. Tools are still being excavated from this spot today. In later years, Paleolithic hunters would also call this cave home, making it absolute hotspot for the history of our ancestors.
St Mary's Church
Nottingham’s beautiful St Mary's Church is more than just your traditional English church, it was also the stage in one of the more famous Robin Hood tales. It was said that after having a falling out with Little John, a sulking Robin wandered into Nottingham on his own without a disguise. He attended mass at St Mary's, where he was recognized by a greedy monk. This monk, in order to escape punishment for theft, told the Sheriff of Nottingham and Robin was arrested.
Today the same St Mary's Church still stands in Nottingham. Inside it has adopted modern amenities, but it still very much preserves its ancient heritage.
Robin Hood's Bay
creativecommons.org/Photo by Tom Tolkien
Curious Robin Hood enthusiasts will have to leave Nottinghamshire to visit this particular Robin site. In North Yorkshire between Whitby and Scarborough lies a small fishing village. This was once home to smugglers and it was the stage of one of the later Hoodian legends. In this tale, Robin disguises himself as a fisherman and fights the French.
Today it is not so much home to smugglers, but more of a simple fishing village where the traditions of the sea still live on.
Kirklees Priory – Robin Hood's Grave
There are several different versions of Robin Hood's death, but many of them insist that it was at Kirklees Priory. One such account states that Robin Hood went there, taking only Little John as a guard, to have himself bled, which was a common medical practice in the Middle Ages. The prioress, in her treachery, bled him too much. Little John swore vengeance upon her, but Robin forbid it as he had never hurt a woman. Upon his death bed, Robin Hood fires an arrow and instructs Little John to bury him where it lands.
In the courtyard of the priory lies the marked grave of Robin Hood. While Kirklees Priory is little more than ruins now, Robin Hood's grave still stands.