Nottingham Castle finally reopened its doors following a huge regeneration project to create a world-class visitor attraction.
Visitors were welcomed through the gates for the first time today (Monday, June 21) at 10am by the city’s very own Robin Hood, who gave a fitting speech to honour the occasion.
Real name Ade Andrews, said: “I’ve been Robin Hood 27 years and have been watching this city evolve. It’s an exciting time now – the underdog is rising.
“This Castle should be the crowning glory of this renaissance and such an excellent tool of economic regeneration. It’s a huge catalyst for change, especially after Covid.
“It’s going to lift Nottingham up and put it on the world stage. It really is the perfect symbol for the city.”
Following the highly anticipated three-year project, a play area, visitor centre, cafe and Robin Hood Adventure Experience are among the new and improved attractions at the venue.
The Robin Hood Adventure Experience is tucked away beneath the palace itself and replaces the old staff car park.
Slides, climbing frames and wooden castle turrets have been built to emulate Robin Hood’s Sherwood Hideout, and a firepit and a story-telling chair have been installed to overlook the south side of the city.
When asked what the opening meant to him, project director Richard Hamblin, of Nottingham City Council, said: “Well it had to reopen at some point.
“The last six months have been quite difficult bringing the project to a close, especially with Covid and not knowing what would happen.
“But it’s finished – we’ve done it.
“I want people to see the best of Nottingham, it’s about putting Nottingham back on the map.”
A steady flow of visitors made their way through the Gatehouse and into the new Visitor Centre to pick up tickets, which currently must be booked in advance online.
Deanna and Aaron Hieronymus were among the first with their children Noah aged four, Wesley, eight and, Addison, 13.
Originally from the United States but now living in Suffolk, the family said they have been excited to finally see the castle after moving to the UK two years ago.
Deanna said: “We’ve been waiting for it to open and as soon as we found out we had to come. We’ve been following the progress all along.”
Aaron added: “We are most excited for the Robin Hood element. Just learning the truth behind the legend and more of the history.
“We want to spend the whole day here and try everything.”
Zonia Qaiser, 39, visited from Basford with her daughter Havah, 3.
Dressed in her princess-style gown, Havah said she was, “excited to go inside the castle and have her picnic”.
Zonia added: “I’m looking forward to our cave tour later as I have never been in. We just want to explore together.
“My first impressions are it does look different and so clean and tidy, but not too modernised so it has the same feel.
“I’ve got great memories of coming when I was a child so wanted to bring her too – the last time I visited I was pregnant with her.”
Alison and Adam Turner, from Long Eaton, visited with son Jacob Turner, who turned 8 today, alongside grandparents Mary and Tim Smith of Bingham.
Alison said: “I came here when I was young and it’s Jacob’s birthday today and he likes museums so we thought it would be nice place to visit.
“I feel like there’s not much else heritage-wise in Nottingham and it’s nice there’s something to link all the history together.
“The views up here are great too.
“We’ve Got Robin Hood Gallery booked for later and he’s already been on the playground.”
Jacob said the trip had been a ‘surprise’ and confirmed the playground passed the test for young rebels.
“I like the bits of the wall you can climb. It’s the best playground I’ve ever been on,” he said.
Grandma to Jacob, Mary Smith added: “The whole place is just a total transformation so far.
“It’s really beautiful.”
The opening up of Nottingham Castle also spells good news for businesses in the area, who have been looking forward to a boost in footfall.
Joe Horseman, manager at cocktail bar French 75 opposite the Gatehouse entrance, said it had been “an area of mystique” while the hoardings were still up.
“Personally, now I can’t wait to see inside,” he added.
“For this area, there’s just going to be a lot more life, and I think it will be good for the city centre in general.
“It makes the streets look healthier, and it’s great to see the footfall already picking up even on a Monday.
“With our pavement license as well, there’s a great view here of the Gatehouse so hopefully it’ll just boost trade for everyone.”
Sara Blair-Manning, chief executive of Nottingham Castle Trust, which operates the heritage site, said: “The opening day has finally arrived and our whole team is delighted that we can welcome visitors to the grounds and Ducal Palace.
“It’s been amazing to see the Castle buzzing with life.
“With the global pandemic delaying our plans, today has been a long time coming.
“Finally seeing our team of Explainers bringing the galleries and exhibitions alive, alongside guests interacting with our amazing digital displays and the story of Robin Hood and rebellion being shared, has been well worth the wait.”
To see the Castle and exhibitions, visitors must pre-book their tickets via the Nottingham Castle website.
A ten per cent discount on tickets is available for city residents in NG1 to NG9 and NG11.