Things to do in The Midlands
The Midlands is bursting at the seams with heritage and culture.
Art, culture and heritage
Nottingham, Derby and Burton on Trent all have strong historical links that have helped shape their identities.
Nottingham is one of a handful of places to have been designated as a UNESCO City of Literature. This recognises its strong literary heritage, with the likes of DH Lawrence and Lord Byron having associations with the city.
These days, the Creative Quarter is a hive of activity. Encompassing the Lace Market, Hockley, BioCity and Sneinton Market, this is where creative types come out to play. Take a walk to the northern end Stoney Street and you’ll come across the Adams Building – it’s changed very little since opening in 1855 and is one of the most impressive pieces of architecture in the city.
It’s the perfect contrast to Nottingham Contemporary, a building completed in 2009. It’s one of the country’s biggest contemporary art spaces and hosts exhibitions, talks and films throughout the year.
Derby is also a city keen to show off its heritage – and there are three museums where you can do just that. The Silk Mill is located on the site of the world’s first factory and gives a fascinating insight into the area’s industrial heritage. Alternatively, visit Pickford’s House on Friar Gate, where you can find out more about Georgian architect Joseph Pickford. For a look at paintings and artefacts, Derby’s Museum and Art Gallery is well worth a look.
Some say it’s the quality of the local water that has made Burton on Trent the brewing capital it is today. The industry dates as far back as the 11th century, as brewers have made use of water sourced from the hills surrounding the town, believed to improve the quality of the beer and preserve it for longer.
You can find out more at The National Brewing Centre on Horninglow Street. Embark on a guided tour and enjoy a sample for yourself at the end of the visit. Comedy and jazz events are also held here throughout the year.
"Film lovers shouldn't miss the Broadway cinema in Nottingham, which shows a variety of indie, foreign, and mainstream films. The bar also serves really good local and foreign beers." - Will Fielding, Politics Student at the University of Nottingham
Transport in The Midlands
Living in The Midlands means you can be in London in under two hours by train.
One feature all these places have in common is their great transport links. Nottingham, Derby and Burton on Trent are all home to well-connected train stations, with services to other parts of the Midlands and much further afield.
Nottingham and Derby have regular train services to and from London St Pancras International, with the journey taking a little under two hours. From Burton on Trent you can catch local trains to Nottingham, as well as cities as far reaching as Plymouth, Cardiff and Edinburgh.
Derby, Burton on Trent and Nottingham are all close to the A38, the second-longest road in Britain. It runs from Nottinghamshire right down to Cornwall, making locations such as Birmingham and Worcester all the more accessible.
Living in Nottingham gives you access to a city-wide tram system, which stretches from Phoenix Park and Hucknall in the north of the city to Clifton South and Toton Lane in the south. Plans are currently being drawn up to create a tram link between Nottingham and Derby, which would make it even easier to travel between the two cities.
Burton on Trent is the ideal place to call home if you enjoy cycling. It’s located along not one, but two routes on the National Cycle Network. National Route 54 and 63 both run through the city – the first goes from Stourport in Worcestershire to Parsley Hay in the Peak District, while the second starts in Burton and extends to Wisbech in Cambridgeshire.
It’s also easy to travel internationally when you’re living in the Midlands. East Midlands Airport is used by over four million passengers every year, and is less than 20 miles from Nottingham, Derby and Burton on Trent. Destinations include Budapest, Milan and the Greek island of Kos.
“I live in Beeston and the transport links into Nottingham are really good. We've got trams every 10 minutes or so, as well as regular buses that take less than 10 minutes to get into the city centre. Catching a train is also easy – I can get to London and Sheffield from my local station.” - Beth Jerrett, Nottingham resident for 25 years
Shopping in The Midlands
Keeping it in the family - Bennetts, a family owned department store offering men's and women's clothing, howeware and gifts if locatred on Iron Gate, Derby
Find your perfect place to shop
Both Nottingham and Derby have large intu shopping centres in the centre of town, packed with high street stores, restaurants and cafés. Trevor Wood Associates’ Going Shopping - The Definitive Guide to Shopping Centres 2016 ranked intu Derby 15th out of a possible 500 centres in the UK. In Burton on Trent, you can choose between Coopers Square on St Modwens Walk and The Octagon on New Street for your shopping fix.
Sadler Gate in Derby is a narrow street where you’ll come across some big-name stores, but what this part of town is renowned for is its independents. Pick up handcrafted jewellery from Silvarious or update your wardrobe at independent fashion store Canopy, which has both men’s and womenswear outlets on Sadler Gate.
For a boutique shopping experience in Nottingham, head to Flying Horse Walk. This Victorian arcade is wedged between Cheapside and St Peter’s Gate, and is home to high-end retailers like Vivienne Westwood, as well as quirky stores such as The Cheese Shop. This family-run delicatessen stocks more than 200 British cheeses, as well as those from further afield – it’s also the only café in the arcade.
One of Burton on Trent’s biggest attractions is its market. King John granted a charter for a weekly market to be held in the town in the 13th century – and you can see this engraved above the entrance to the Market Hall in Market Place, and on a blue plaque marking the site as being one of historical importance. These days, the Market Hall is home to a delicatessen, jewellery store, bakery and vintage clothing store. Special events are held throughout the year, including craft sessions and family fun days.
“There's a lovely family owned department store called Bennetts on Iron Gate which has a great selection of clothing for men and women, as well as great gifts and homeware. It also has a nice bistro upstairs.” - Daniel Rogerson, Derby resident for 31 years
Food in The Midlands
Derby is well-known for its large selection of real ale pubs - why not go on an ale trail?
A bite to eat, a drop to drink
For something a little out of the ordinary, Boilermaker in Nottingham is the place to be. Its entrance on Carlton Street looks like a boiler showroom, but step through the store cupboard and you’ll find yourself in one of the city’s coolest bars. Take your pick from cocktails including War and Peas (yes, it contains minted pea syrup and pea soda), or Bull in a Boilershop, which includes chorizo washed in tequila. Alternatively, ask the friendly mixologists to put together your own unique drink.
Kayal, a Keralan restaurant in Nottingham, comes highly recommended. Located on Broad Street in Hockley, the lunchtime thali is popular with locals for being tasty as well as affordable.
If you’d rather something less contemporary, you don’t get any more traditional than Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem. It’s one of a handful of pubs that lays claim to being the oldest in England, dating back to 1189. Its landlord was shortlisted for Visit England's Tourism Superstar Award 2017 for helping visitors make the most of their time in Nottingham.
Derby is all about its real ale pubs. Ye Olde Dolphin is the oldest in Derby, and is rumoured to be haunted - it often features on ghost walks throughout the city. It’s the perfect place to spend an evening, thanks to its cosy snug and wood fires. Quiz nights are Tuesday and Sunday (with free chips!)
The Milk & Honey Deli, on Sadler Gate in the Cathedral Quarter, is a firm favourite with locals. It’s the perfect place to enjoy fresh coffee and a slice of homemade cake. They also specialise in cheese wedding cakes and stock a range of chutneys, jams and condiments.
In Burton on Trent, there are quaint tea rooms and great restaurants. The Lowercase Coffee Shop is housed within The Alphabet Gift Shop on Union Street and is a firm favourite for speciality teas and freshly baked cakes. In the warmer weather, there’s an outdoor terrace.
Head to the Trent and Mersey Canal and you’ll come across Barton Marina, home to 300 boats and places to shop, eat and drink including the Red Carpet Cinema & Café Bar. The Waterfront Pub & Restaurant has recently been refurbished, with a vaulted bar serving drinks and food, and a terrace overlooking the Marina.
The Marina is about to host its first Artisan Market on the last Sunday of every month.
Three of the UK’s most famous exports originated in Burton on Trent: Marmite, Bovril and Branston Pickle.
Local Area in The Midlands
You can access a maze of over 500 caves in Nottingham - why not take the audie or actor-led tour?
Keeping you entertained
Nottingham’s famous Goose Fair dates back to the 13th century and is one of the UK’s oldest and largest fairs. Every autumn, more than a million people descend on the Forest Recreation Ground, north of the city centre, to enjoy rides, street food and sideshows.
There aren’t many cities where you can access a maze of more than 500 caves through a shopping centre – unless of course you’re in Nottingham! Often known as The City of Caves, Nottingham is built above a complex network of man-made sandstone caves. They’ve had historical importance over the years, acting as cellars and even air raid shelters during the Second World War. Learn more about their fascinating past on an audio tour, or see them brought to life on an actor-led tour at weekends. Prices start from £24.50 for a family of four.
Derby is in the unique position of having good access to some of the best stately homes in the country. Calke Abbey in Ticknall is owned by the National Trust and is 15 miles from the city centre. It’s an unusual attraction in that many of the rooms have been left in their original state, telling a story of the decline of a country house.
Chatsworth House is 27 miles north, known for its lavish stately home and 105 acres of gardens. Locko Park is 5 miles from Derby city centre. Take a stroll through the park – it’s about 1.25 miles in each direction if you follow the bridleway – and you’ll be rewarded with great views of the house. Take a slight detour to Bluebells Dairy Farm on Locko Road and reward yourself with one of their homemade ice creams or sorbets – there are 26 flavours to try!
If you choose a new home in Burton, there’s a Cineworld in the centre of town at Middleway Retail and Leisure Park, as well as restaurants such as Frankie and Benny’s and Bella Italia.
“I’d recommend taking a trip to Burton Albion FC in the town centre. They hold events for adults and children as well as the usual Saturday football matches.” - John Farrar, a resident in Swadlincote, south of Derby, for 6 years