Visiting Sherwood Forest: See Robin Hood’s Tree hideout – the Major Oak

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Visiting Sherwood Forest is one of those bucket list items that many people have but have put to the back of their mind. They know about it from films and the legendary stories, but many people don’t even know it’s real, that you can visit and that Robin Hood’s tree is alive and well too!

Robin hood is such a classic tale and it ignites a real spark in many people. For me it was watching the 90s classic film that started a love of the tale.  I’d never considered looking for Robin Hood’s tree before though – surely it wasn’t real?  Actually, there is a legend that says that one of the huge trees that is in Sherwood Forest is in fact Robin Hood’s hideout!

Sherwood Forest is so close by to us but we’d only visited once before.  However, armed with our new dog Annie, we decided it was a perfect dog friendly location to visit again and learn about the legend of the area.  

If you’re looking for things to do in Sherwood Forest when visiting then read on for my tips and tricks. Just make sure not to miss seeing his legendary hideout: the Major Oak tree.

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Sherwood Forest is near Nottingham in England, UK . Here's the complete guide to visiting the home of Robin Hood, the Major Oak tree where he had his hideout and the church at Edwinstowe where he married Maid Marian #robinhood #uktravel

What is Sherwood Forest famous for?

I think most people have heard of the Sherwood Forest history and it is, of course, famous for being the home of the outlaw Robin Hood in medieval England.  I’m sure you’ve heard the tales of him stealing from the rich nobles and giving to the poor – if not where have you been?  There’s even a Disney film about it!  

I was a teenager when the Kevin Costner version of the movie came out and I remember being so enchanted by the story – I really wanted to learn more!

Robin Hood statue with bow and arrow outside of the Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre near Nottingham
Robin Hood statue outside of the Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre

Sherwood forest was huge in the time of Robin Hood – probably around 100,000 acres and would have been home to many animals such as deer and even cattle.  The wood definitely wouldn’t have been wild forest as many people might imagine, but managed in a way to provide income – wood being a valuable resource –  and of course food.

Little John statue at Sherwood Forest
Who remembers this scene from the Prince of Thieves film?

All about Robin Hood’s tree – the Major Oak

There are many old oak trees in Sherwood Forest, over 1000 of them, but one is a big attraction – the Major Oak.  This is said to be Robin Hood’s tree, the one that he hid in.  It’s easy to imagine that nowadays when looking at it – it’s really a huge tree, really wide with a majestic stance – but I’m not 100% convinced myself that it was the tree the legendary man himself hid in.  

How old is the Major Oak?

It’s estimated to be at least 800 years old and some say perhaps 1,000 years old.  If the latter is true then perhaps it could be true that it’s Robin Hood’s hideout –  I guess we’ll never know!

Is the Major Oak still alive?

Yes! The Major Oak is still alive but you’ll find that it is fenced off so there’s no getting up close and personal and being able to touch it. With the amount of visitors Sherwood Forest gets each year this is probably sensible to preserve and protect the precious tree.

The tree is also sporting some rather lovely bracing to help keep the oak there for us to enjoy for many years to come – it’s such a huge tree I imagine that without it it would begin to become too heavy for itself and eventually die.

Sign at the major oak tree
The oak trees, including the Major Oak are home to many different species

Things to do in Sherwood Forest

There has been a huge input of cash in to the Forest recently and you can definitely tell.  We’d visited quite a few years ago now and it was definitely feeling a little more run down than it is now.  The regeneration wasn’t fully complete when we visited in 2019 but it was looking good and should be done soon.  

Visitors Centre

There’s a new Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre which has a cafe, shop and toilets (the only toilets in the forest).

You can also find out more about the forest, about the legend of Robin Hood and find out about the walks in the area in the visitors centre.  You can also hire backpacks for the kids for a small cost which include different activities to keep them happy on a visit – mine have unfortunately grown out of this!

Forest walks

There are 3 main Sherwood Forest walks that you can pick up a leaflet to guide you round depending on how far you want to walk.  If you don’t want to go too far then the basic walk to the Major Oak and back again will take you about 45 mins and is about 1.5 miles.  The trail is easy and the paths are well marked – perfect for all ages, abilities and weather conditions!

Nature spotting and bird watching

The site is owned by the RSPB and there is a lot to spot round here if you’re interested in nature. Learn about all of the trees in the forest, spot squirrels, foxes and birds. It’s a great place to visit whatever the season.

Play parks for the kids

There are also some play areas nearby the visitor centre for the kids if they still need to let off some steam after your walk round the forest

Cafe

The cafe located in the visitors centre is a great place to relax after a walk or even escape from the rain. They do a variety of breakfasts and light lunches and also do some lunch bags if you want to take a picnic elsewhere.

St Mary’s Church in Edwinstowe Village

St Mary's Church in Edwinstowe where Robin Hood and Maid Marian got married near Sherwood Forest

If you come to Sherwood Forest because of your interest in Robin Hood then you absolutely have to wander down in to Edwinstowe village while you’re here.  Why?  Because there’s the most beautiful church there that is said to be the place where Robin Hood and Maid Marian married.  St Mary’s is contemporary with the legend of Robin Hood as it was built around 1175 so who knows?  The legend may well have some truth in it.

The church is still used today by local villagers but it is often open and welcomes tourists to look around.  It wasn’t open when we visited though so we just got to enjoy the autumn colours on the trees in the graveyard.  Very pretty and definitely somewhere to explore.

The whole village is very pretty and worth exploring, don’t worry it’s only a short walk from the visitors centre, and there are also some craft and gift shops to look around too so definitely don’t miss those.

edwinstowe village sign showing robin hood and maid marian

Events at Sherwood Forest

With the new partnerships with the RSPB there’s an increase in nature events on at the forest so it’s worth seeing if there’s anything on that coincides with your visit.  Their website will show you all the latest events.

Robin Hood Festival

Every August Bank Holiday there’s a week long festival that’s free entry with all sorts of Robin Hood themed activities going on.  I’ve not been myself but many of my friends have and return year on year for loads of medieval fun!  Check out the event page here.

Sparkling Sherwood

Taking place in December, this event lights up the ancient trees in Sherwood Forest – it’s normally by ticket only so keep an eye on their website for when they are released as this is a really special event.

Sign in Sherwood Forest about Robin Hood legend
This is Robin Hood country!

Other things to do nearby Sherwood Forest

As well as the abundance of nature around the forest you might also be interested in the following that’s nearby.

  • Rufford Abbey – remains of a 12th century abbey and mansion
  • National Holocaust Centre and Museum – memorial garden and exhibitions
  • Sherwood Pines trails – also a part of Sherwood Forest, you’ll find more trails for bikes, kids and walking
  • Go Ape – located at Sherwood Pines. Lots of fun for all ages.
  • Clumber Park – a National Trust site if you want more places to walk!

If you’re in the North of England… you might like our day trip to York post

Practical info on visiting Sherwood Forest

Cost

Visiting Sherwood Forest is completely free although there is a charge for the car park if you’re arriving by car.

Sherwood Forest opening times

The new visitor centre is open from 10am – 5pm from March to October and closes slightly earlier at 4.30pm from November through to February.

The forest is accessible at all other times of course, but do be careful visiting if it’s close to dark falling – make sure you have a torch and know how to get yourself out!

Where is Sherwood Forest?

Ok, so I have convinced you to come and take a look at Robin Hood’s famous tree and learn about his legend – but where is Sherwood Forest located in England?

Sherwood Forest is situated in North Nottinghamshire in central England, almost equidistant between the cities of Sheffield and Nottingham.  

It’s not far from the M1 motorway so it’s quite easy to get to from many areas of the country.  Check out the section below for more information on getting there.

Driving distance from major UK cities to Sherwood Forest:

London – 145 miles (3 hours 18 mins)
Birmingham – 72 miles (1 hour 40 mins)
Manchester – 66 miles (2 hours)
York – 66 miles (1 hour 30 mins)
Sheffield – 30 miles (1 hour)
Nottingham – 22 miles (50 mins)

How to get to Sherwood Forest

Getting there by Car

Sherwood Forest is located in North Nottinghamshire in England and is just over 20 miles (45 mins drive) from Nottingham or 30 miles (45-60 min drive) from Sheffield.

Driving is the easiest way to get around the area – if you’re visiting England from overseas and want to rent a car to get around I recommend checking out RentalCars as they compare prices of the biggest brands.

Parking at Sherwood Forest

There is a new parking set up at the moment with the regeneration of the site.  There’s room for plenty of visitors and it costs £4 for the day.  When we visited it was manned and we payed on entry but there’s also some pay and display machines so that may not always be the case.  Take cash.  The car parks are open from 9am – 5pm and it can accommodate motorhomes, camper vans and coaches as well as cars.

The postcode you need is NG21 9RN and follow the signs for parking once you get there as the parking is on the other side of the road to where the Sherwood Forest visitor centre is.

Getting there by public transport

If you want to come by public transport then I suggest the bus.  There is an hourly service from the main bus station in Nottingham called The Sherwood Arrow (SA). It’s run by Stagecoach East Midlands – do check their website in case any changes have been made to the service.

The nearest train station is Shirebrook which is 6 miles away and there’s also Mansfield Woodhouse which is 6 and half miles away and Mansfield which is 7 miles away.

Where to stay near Sherwood Forest

If you’re looking to stay nearby to Sherwood Forest then there’s plenty of small independently owned guest houses, bed and breakfasts and hotels nearby in some of the small villages in the area.  

Of course, recommending something is dependent on what you want for your overnight stay, but one to look at is the Dukeries Lodge which is located in Edwinstowe itself.  You can see more info about the hotel here.

I always recommend the booking site Booking.com – it’s what I use and it generally has really good deals with most of the hotels in the area.  For hotels near Sherwood Forest have a look here.

If you’re looking for a self catering apartment or holiday cottage then Sykes Cottages and VRBO.com are my preferred companies who I have used myself in the past and can highly recommend.

Center Parcs has a location in the area too and can be popular with families.

If you don’t have a car then Nottingham is a good city to base yourself in for a visit to Sherwood Forest because it has a host of other Robin Hood attractions in the city too.  See above for details of the bus route to the forest and check out the hotels in the city here.

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Kirsty Bartholomew

Kirsty has been getting lost around the world for over 30 years and writing about it for 10 of those. She loves to explore the UK and Europe and has a particular penchant for historical sites.

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