Newest Review: ... more reasonable. Full visitor information can be found at the website http://www.cityofcaves.com/. I'd been looking forward to seeing t... more
City of Caves
Caves of Nottingham
Member Name: zombieflesh
Caves of Nottingham
Date: 15/01/13, updated on 15/01/13 (117 review reads)
Advantages: interesting and entertaining tour, good overview of the various uses for the caves
Disadvantages: you only see a tiny area of the overall cave structure, tour doesn't last long
It depends on the day you visit as to what your tour will consist of. You will either experience a self-guided audio tour on week days, or a guided group tour on weekends. We went on a weekend, where group bookings are limited and you have to get your name down on the visitor list to secure the time slot that you want to join. It costs £6.50 for the adult entry fee, and because we gave gift-aid details at the time of purchase we also received one free annual pass which I thought was pretty decent and makes the price seem a bit more reasonable. Full visitor information can be found at the website http://www.cityofcaves.com/.
I'd been looking forward to seeing the caves for a while, but was a little confused when we arrived at the Broad Marsh shopping centre. Weirdly enough the entrance to the caves is a tiny little shop front at the bottom of the escalators on the top floor of the shopping centre! I thought this was a really odd access point, but it did get my curiosity going. When the group had assembled and was ready to take the tour we were lead to the back of the shop and descended a flight of stairs to the first part of the cave chambers. I would say there were about 15-20 people on our fully booked out tour, and some places felt quite crowded as the areas are small and particularly troublesome for taller people as the ceilings are low and some of the passageways require ducking down to avoid bashing your head! The actual structure of the caves looks impressive, with the pretty colouring of the sandstone and the gentle curves where it has been carved away into large openings. The sandstone is so incredibly soft that it crumbles away at the merest touch. I tested this out after our tour guide said that and brushed my fingertips lightly against the ceiling, which was within easy reach, and ended up with a shower of sand covering my hair and coat as the surface of the rock literally turned to dust!
Our tour guide was a nice older man dressed up in cave explorer gear, and he was very friendly and entertaining as he presented us with information about the city, the caves and their history. Some parts were quite interactive with jokes and questions, and there is additional information provided along the way with poster boards and photos, as well as props to give a realistic view of the environment as it would have been used. We were told of the various uses for the caves over the years, including homes for the poorest residents of Nottingham who could not afford houses and instead lived in caves that they had carved out of the sandstone rock, and cellars for pubs which were built over the top with wells for clean drinking water. The part that I personally found to be most interesting was the tannery area. This part of the caves was used as a tannery in the 1500's, and they went to great lengths to impress upon us that this is the only example of an underground medieval tannery in the whole country. The process was explained in detail and the area was set up so you could see how it would have been used for the work. There was another area just further on from this which was set up to show how the caves were used as bomb shelters during the second world war, and again I personally found this very interesting. There was a lot of attention to detail here, with familiar war time slogan posters and supplies decorating the area. A soundtrack was played as we sat around the edges of the "shelter" on small benches, to simulate the sounds and experience of what people would have gone through in a real air raid situation.
Overall the tour lasted about 45 minutes from start to finish. I was a little disappointed as I would have liked to see more and I thought that the actual areas of caves that we were given access to was very limited considering that the overall structure extends for a vast distance, as shown in the information printed around the caves on display. I would have liked the opportunity to take my time and spend a bit longer looking around at some parts, rather than having to follow the group, but I suppose if you're on the self-guided tour then this allows you to go at your own pace. The City of Caves is definitely worth seeing if you're around Nottingham and have some interest in the secret underground world that the caves have provided over the years.
Summary: A short but sweet tour of Nottingham's caves
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