Robin Hood is one of the most famous legends around… with his story having been told from 14th century folk tales and ballads, through to 21st century Hollywood movies.
The heroic outlaw who stole from the rich and gave to the poor, who battled with the Sheriff of Nottingham, and lived in the forest with Maid Marian and his band of Merry Men.
He’s loved the world over, but was Robin Hood real?
The TrovenTrippers set out to investigate with a day trip itinerary to visit some of the most famous places linked to the legendary outlaw…
Where did Robin Hood Live?
While there are many differing versions of Robin Hood’s story, and even disputes about where he came from, one of the most enduring locations of a Robin Hood tale is Sherwood Forest. So that seems to be a good place to start our day.
To get there we need to follow the old Great North Road south to Nottinghamshire (or the A1 Motorway as it is today), following a route Robin and many other travellers in history would have taken.
Robin Hood’s Well
The journey takes us past our first stopping point of the day… Robin Hood’s Well. Located near Barnsdale, another location linked to Robin Hood in the early ballads of the 15th century, the well is said to have once stood over a spring and popular stopping point for travellers on the road to get some fresh water.
But despite the modern advances in technology with having GPS and sat navs, finding it proves to be a little more difficult than we imagined!
After driving round in circles in the village of Burghwallis, going down somebody’s long private driveway and having to turn around in front of their very impressive house, and consulting both my car sat nav and Google maps, I wonder why Robin didn’t build his well closer to the main road!
But then I realise… Robin was the smart one, it’s me who’s being stupid and came off the motorway too early! So we retrace our steps back to the motorway, and taking the next turning into a layby we find the well easily! (all locations in the blog are shown at the end)
The well is actually a small monument dating from 1710 (over 500-years after Robin is said to have lived) and has been recently moved from its original location due to the expansion of the nearby motorway. So it doesn’t even stand over a well or spring, it just stands on a concrete base!
TrovenTrippers Robin Hood Authenticity Rating – 2/10. While we’re sure there was a spring and well based here which travellers would have stopped at, the only thing to see is a much more recent structure. And there doesn’t seem to be much connection to Robin Hood, other than being named after him to try and associate the area with him.
Continuing our journey and we head for the Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre in Edwinstowe.
The Visitor Centre is a shop and coffee shop run by the RSPB, and the starting point for many trails heading off into the forest and to the Major Oak tree (more on that to follow!)
Trail maps are available in the shop and online, and we opt for the Giant’s Trail… the shortest trail but taking in some of the century’s old oak trees on the way to the Major Oak.
And it’s great! Spotting the ancient trees amongst the much younger woodland is helped by signs telling you a little about each one, and they’re really really impressive!
The Major Oak
The star attraction of Sherwood Forest and said to have been the home to Robin and his Merry Men is The Major Oak, the biggest oak tree in Britain which is between 800 and 1100 years old!
Robin and his men used the tree as shelter and as a hiding place from the King and Sherriff’s men… Sherwood Forest was a royal hunting forest meaning you could only hunt here with permission from the king. And being an outlaw Robin certainly wouldn’t have had that!
Having taken plenty of pics of The Major Oak and having an explore around, we head back on the trail to the visitor centre and have a browse around the shops… I (Paul) get some gifts for my brother’s family (honestly they’re not for me!) and Sneha gets some Sherwood Forest gin which is distilled right there in the shop (that is definitely for her!)
TrovenTrippers Robin Hood Authenticity Rating – 9/10. It’s Sherwood Forest, you can’t help but feel the legend! As the wind rustles through the trees and you hear approaching footsteps… is that one of his Merry Men or the king’s soldiers coming to capture us?? I better get my bow and arrow ready just in case…
Did Robin Hood Marry Maid Marian?
A couple of minutes’ walk from the visitor centre is the village of Edwinstowe and St. Mary’s Church where, according to the legend, Robin and Marian were married.
Maid Marian wasn’t mentioned in the early medieval versions of the legend but was added around the 1600’s as Robin’s love interest and is a staple of the more recent tales and movies.
Also not to be missed in the village is a small but pretty statue of Robin and Marian, with the lovebirds being hand in hand and seemingly curtseying each other. Although taking a photo proves to be difficult as it’s being used as a coffee table by the nearby nurses manning a Covid testing station! Luckily, they soon notice us trying to take photos from strange angles to cut out their empty cups, and they kindly move them for us to take some good pics!
TrovenTrippers Robin Hood Authenticity Rating – 8/10. Although the current church was restored in the late 19th century, the site does date back to Robin Hood’s time of 1175, and being so close to the Major Oak, it’s believable that this could be the location of their wedding!
Troventrippers Tip – If you are driving it will be better to leave the car in the Sherwood Forest visitor centre car park and walk to the church and the statue as it will be quite difficult to park on the narrow roads!
King John’s Palace
Leaving behind the royal hunting forest of Sherwood Forest, our next stop is suitably the ruins of a royal palace.
While not directly associated with Robin Hood in any tales, the palace was used by Kings of England throughout the 12th century including King John, often the protagonist of Robin Hood stories and the younger brother of King Richard the Lionheart whom Robin was a staunch supporter of and fought alongside in the Crusades.
The ruins which are visible today date back to Robin Hood times of 1180 and are well worth a short stop and explore on our trip!
As seems to be the theme for the day though, while finding the site is easy enough, finding somewhere to park isn’t quite so easy! We drive through the village of Clipstone and know the field and ruins are on our left, but there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to park.
As we leave the village and I’m working out where to turn around though, a parking layby comes up on the left which we can stop at and is only a couple of minutes’ walk back to the palace. And when we get there, there are quite a few cars parked in the field! Turns out there is an access gate right on an S-bend in the road, but the ground clearance isn’t great so I wouldn’t recommend trying to park there unless you have a off-roader!
TrovenTrippers Robin Hood Authenticity Rating – 6/10. Not directly tied to Robin Hood, but the ruins date back to his time and Sherwood Forest wouldn’t have been the same place without this royal palace protecting the lands allowing Robin to take refuge.
TrovenTrippers Tip: To our surprise, more than the ruined palace, what makes the place beautiful are the views from the place and the peace and calmness it offers. If you have your picnic bags or carry around lunch boxes, this is the place to take the break … and if it is a nice summer day there’s nothing like it!
Will Scarlett’s Grave
One of Robin Hood’s best-known Merry Men is Will Scarlett, who has regularly been depicted as being Robin’s nephew, cousin or half-brother throughout the ballads, TV shows and movies.
A skilled swordsman with a hot temper, he’s usually shown as the youngest of the Merry Men and is said to have escorted Maid Marian to Edwinstowe on her wedding day.
Will was from a village called Blidworth, about a 20-minute drive from Edwinstowe and Sherwood Forest (if you go the correct way!). And at the Church of St. Mary of the Purification is his unmarked grave.
This is our next stop, and yep you guessed it, we got a little lost on the way!! With us already running a bit behind schedule and only having the village centre programmed into the sat nav rather than the church, I find a website with the exact location, and we decide to follow that on Google maps. Only as we get closer it seems that the car and Google are disagreeing at pretty much every turn we get to! Hmmm… from past experience Google is usually spot on in comparison to my car, so let’s trust Google…
We realise our mistake in this as we “arrive” at our destination in the middle of a busy main road and have to take a U-turn and backtrack to where the car wanted to take us in the first place… directions are really not going well today!! (again, see the end of the blog for the correct location)
After parking up in the pub carpark next door to the church, we enter the graveyard and start our hunt for the unmarked grave, with it dawning on us… how are we supposed to find the right one if it’s unmarked??
This time Google does help… a quick image search shows us what we’re looking out for, and after walking around the back of the church and exiting the main ground via a gate the small monument is there just off the pathway. And it looks like someone has recently places some white flowers on it.
TrovenTrippers Robin Hood Authenticity Rating – 5/10. An unmarked grave in the grounds of a 15th century church, 300 hundred years after the days of Robin Hood? There was apparently an earlier Norman church on the same site so it’s possible, but how does anyone really know if it is or not?
With time getting on and our timed tickets for the Castle already having been missed, we have a quick lunch in the car before heading to Nottingham, the city so entwined with the legend of Robin Hood.
Robin Hood Statue & Nottingham Castle
After parking in the city centre, we make the short walk over to the Castle and are met first by the sight of the Robin Hood Statue, standing tall with arrow ready to fire at the Castle Gatehouse and the Sheriff within!
It’s a really impressive and popular statue, and even on a quiet day like today we have to wait around for a few minutes for it to clear before being able to take a proper look and get some photos. On a busy day I imagine getting a clear pic would be very very difficult!
After taking plenty of photos we walk up the hill and enter the Castle through the gatehouse, one of the few remaining parts of the original Castle (along with some parts of the walls) and see the more recent Ducal Palace which now stands on top of Castle Rock, a 17th century mansion turned art gallery and museum which it is today.
Before we get to the museum though, we’re here on a Robin Hood hunt! As well as the Castle entrance tickets, we’ve booked tickets for the Robin Hood Adventures, an interactive experience where you can learn about and be Robin Hood!!
And it’s sooo cool! We enter through the Castle tunnels into an open room with big screens telling tales about Robin Hood, and we get to play some archery games and fight Little John with a staff, before playing some other computer games on interactive screens where you need to steal from rich and give to poor. Check out Sneha’s guide below to see more! You will find more such games in the museum where you can be the king and take decisions or even be a leader of the knights and navigate your troops.
The Adventure is in the basement of the Castle and once it’s done, we head upstairs into the museums and art galleries… this is more about the history of the Castle and Nottingham, plus an exhibition from Nottingham fashion designer Paul Smith, rather than more Robin Hood based stories.
The castle stands on a rock and almost in the centre of the city, maybe this helped the Sheriff to keep a better eye on the city. You can grab a coffee at the Castle café overlooking the city views!
The Nottingham Castle gift shop also has some really cool stuff… we got this Robin Hood statue and got the photo with the Castle!
TrovenTrippers Robin Hood Authenticity Rating – 10/10. We got to be Robin Hood!! Archery practice, staff fighting, stealing from the rich to give to the poor… plus the Robin Hood Statue and being at Nottingham Castle, the home of Robin’s arch enemy the Sheriff of Nottingham!
TrovenTrippers Tip: The Robin Hood Adventure comes at an additional cost which we had pre-booked. There is also an underground caves experience tour which we missed since it was sold out. So it will be best to book your tickets beforehand on the Castle Website
Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem
We spend the next hour or so wandering the halls and galleries of the Castle, and then decide to head to the pub where probably Robin himself enjoyed some ale!
You heard us right! This pub is very unique. It is carved into the rock that Nottingham Castle stands upon, it was a stopping place for Crusader Knights and King Richard the Lionheart visited before going to Jerusalem, hence the name… Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem!
It claims to be the oldest inn in England! So, dating back to 1189 and the times of Robin Hood, chances are that Robin may have visited this pub. And as we enter the pub, we see a man wearing Robin’s attire just walk by us …now isn’t that a coincidence considering we are on a Robin Hood hunt!
Inside the pub, there are many small rooms built into caves and are decorated with some nice antique pieces. And while the food was pretty nice, it was slightly disappointing that the menu and bar choice was standard pub-fare and there wasn’t any local or historical options to try out! (a glass of mead anyone??)
TrovenTrippers Robin Hood Authenticity Rating – 8/10. Is that Robin we see walking through the pub???
TrovenTrippers Tip: Even though you enjoy a beer sitting outside the pub on a nice sunny day, do take a walk in the pub to check out the unique interiors!
Was Robin Hood Ever Captured?
The earliest of the Robin Hood ballads, Robin Hood and the Monk, tells the tale of Robin going to St. Mary’s Church (yes, another St. Mary’s Church) in Nottingham to pray, where he was spotted by a monk and reported to the Sheriff.
After being captured and being imprisoned in the Castle, Little John comes to rescue him, and they make their escape.
St. Mary’s Church Nottingham
The church is in the Lace Market district of town, but by the time we get there after our long day of exploring it’s already closed, so we have to make do with viewing it from outside of the gates and fence.
TrovenTrippers Robin Hood Authenticity Rating – 7/10. Robin, along with most people of the times, would have been very religious and still would have wanted to pray despite being in hiding. And the original church was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 so definitely existed when Robin will have visited, even if the current church was built after his time in the 14th century.
TrovenTrippers Tip: The church is only open 11am to 2.30pm Monday to Friday, so plan your visit accordingly!
Little John’s Grave
No Robin Hood story would be complete without Little John… Robin’s chief lieutenant and second in command of the Merry Men.
The seven-foot tall giant and master of the quarterstaff is in nearly every Robin Hood story going, and after having fought with him on the virtual screen and learning about his rescue mission after Robin’s capture, our story would not be complete without him either.
Little John’s grave is in the grounds of St Michael and All Angels’ Church in a village called Hathersage on the edge of the Peak District, a little way away from the rest of our locations today.
The church is at the top of a pretty steep hill but you can drive up and there’s a small car park at the top, and the church is really pretty and peaceful, the perfect place to pay our respects to Little John.
TrovenTrippers Robin Hood Authenticity Rating – 7/10. In the 18th century a thigh bone was reportedly unearthed from the grave of a man who would have been 8 feet (2.4m) tall! And this part of Derbyshire is heavily featured in the traditional tales of Robin Hood.
Robin Hood’s Grave
As with all ballads, tales, stories and movies, there has to be an ending. And despite his legend living on forever, Robin himself could not.
The story of his death starts with him travelling to a priory to seek help for an illness or injury, but rather than heal him, the unnamed prioress bleeds him to death. Realising what is happening, Robin blows three times on his hunting horn to alert Little John, but it’s too late by the time he arrives. With Robin’s last dying action, he fires an arrow from the window and asks to be buried wherever the arrow falls.
Now located in the private grounds of the Kirklees Estate near Huddersfield, finding the grave can be a little tricky with it hidden in the woods. Luckily with the GPS coordinates from this website we were able to find it by following a trail through the woods off Mill Hill Lane in Mirfield.
It is also possible to visit the grave on a guided tour one weekend per year when they open up the grounds to the public.
The epitaph on the grave is in an unknown version of English or other language, below is the original text and also the assumed translation into modern English…
Hear Underneath dis laitl stean
Laz robert earl of Huntingtun
Ne’er arcir ver az hie sa geud
An pipl Kauld im robin heud
Sick utlawz az hi an iz men
Vil england nivr si agen
Obiit 24 Kal Dekembris 1247
Here underneath this little stone
Lies Robert, Earl of Huntingdon
Never archer were as he so good
And people called him Robin Hood
Such outlaws as he and his men
Will England never see again
Obit: 24 December 1247AD
TrovenTrippers Robin Hood Authenticity Rating – 8/10. As we walk through the deserted woods with the only sound being the birds circling overhead, it’s easy to imagine we’re back in the 12th century rushing to Robin’s side to try and save him after hearing him blow his hunting horn for help!
Was Robin Hood Real?
So, after our amazing day exploring the legend of Robin Hood, are we any closer to the opening question… was Robin Hood real?
For us… we took this journey to explore the legend and try and uncover the truth, picking the locations to align with the legend. So many tales, so many stories, so many TV shows and movies entertaining so many generations of children and adults from medieval times right up to today.
So does the answer, is he real or not, really matter? A figure who fights for his people against the evil establishment, showing bravery, altruism, and heroism… is it any wonder the legend has remained popular for hundreds of years? I think we could all do with someone like that in our lives!
Robin Hood Itinerary and Locations:
- Be Robin Hood at the Robin Hood Adventures in Nottingham Castle… practice archery, fight with Little John, steal from the rich and give to the poor!
- Wander through the magical Sherwood Forest and see The Major Oak
- Have a beer in the pub where Robin Hood and King Richard The Lionheart drank!
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