As well as other amazing English Heritage sites, all within a short driving distance from Bolsover Castle in the BMW MINI, you’ll find some great places for lunch, too
So you and the kids can get out and enjoy more quality time together, the Telegraph has partnered with MINI Countryman to create fun adventures at English Heritage sites.
Here we explore more must-dos around Bolsover Castle – from ancient stone circles to Robin Hood’s Sherwood and some great eateries – perfect for hopping in the MINI Countryman to (if you’re not yet an owner, you could treat yourself to a 48-hour test drive – check the details with your local retailer)
Explore towers and tunnels at Ashby de la Zouch Castle
While it’s a 40-mile drive down the M1 from Bolsover, it’s well worth the hour or so it takes to get to this outstanding example of a late medieval castle.
One of the swashbuckling settings for Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe (alongside Conisbrough Castle in Yorkshire) it’s a splendid ruin drenched in atmosphere and history. Despite suffering substantial damage during the English Civil War, you can still climb to the top of the tower, taking in its magnificent views.
Alternatively, you can go the other way, and explore the underground passage from the kitchen, created during the same period. Whichever way you go, there’s a lively audio guide to lead you through Ashby’s colourful history.
The nearby town of Ashby de la Zouch is a pretty market town with more original Tudor and Georgian housing stock than may seem fair. The 16th-century Bull’s Head pub on Market Street is well worth your time.
Get mythical at the Nine Ladies stone circle
Eighteen miles west of Bolsover, this beautiful stone circle is set on the edge of The Peak District, close to the other major Neolithic and Bronze Age sites of Stanton Moor, and kids will love bringing a bit of noise and laughter to its tranquil setting.
The stones (there are actually 10 of them – a buried slab was discovered in 1977 and now to be seen to the east of the circle) are said to be the bodies of nine women caught dancing on the Sabbath and turned to stone.
Nearby, Arbor Low Neolithic henge and stone circle is the area’s most important archaeological site (dubbed the ‘Stonehenge of the north’) while the enigmatic Gib Hill round barrow, also dating back to our Neolithic ancestors, has been called ‘a miniature Silbury Hill’.
Finally, a stride across Stanton Moor will bring you to a more natural wonder – its natural, wind-eroded sandstone pillars.
Lunch and learn at Rufford Abbey
Rufford Abbey, around half an hour East of Bolsover, provides the best-preserved remains of a Cistercian abbey west cloister range in England, dating back to the 1140s, later forming part of a 16th-century mansion.
It’s set in Rufford Country Park, also home to 150 acres of tranquil woodland, meadow and beautiful formal gardens. There’s a Play Village for kids, food and drink at the Coach House Cafe, and a wealth of activities all year round, from falconry to Morris dancing.
There’s also Lord Savile’s Kitchen, serving delicious carvery lunches with a difference, having been restored to its 19th-century country house glories. How many other carveries have flagstone floors, an open range, two ovens, and a roasting mechanism? Roasts don’t get much better than this.
Traverse the treetops at Sherwood Forest
Believed to have once been the hideout of Robin Hood and his Merry Men, the highlight of this 450-acre nature reserve 15 miles west of Bolsover has got to be the Major Oak, under whose gigantic boughs the outlaws are said to have slept.
There’s a fun guided walk for kids led by costumed characters, and costumes and props in the shop so that kids can embark on their own forest adventures.
Meanwhile, Go Ape Sherwood would have had even Friar Tuck sailing merrily between the canopies. For over-10s there’s a 900m-long rope course suspended 9m above the forest floor that includes stirrup crossings, trapezes and a 140m tandem zip wire.
For younger kids there’s a mini version, with stepping stones and a magic carpet, while anyone over a year old can enjoy Nets Kingdom – a 2,000sq metre adventure area with bounce nets, giant inflatable balls and a treehouse.
Tuck in, chill out
If you’re feeling famished after all that fun and fresh air, head to Launay’s Restaurant, close to the Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre.
The French/English fusion menu features locally sourced dishes such as seared pigeon breast and grilled sous vide steak, and hosts popular themed nights such as hog roasts and gin tastings, as well as more sumptuous gourmet nights with seven courses in one sitting.
There are also music nights with a tapas menu, culinary sojourns to the French coast for seafood-themed Brittany evenings, and even a murder mystery night.
And for Robin of Sherwood fans, if you dine al fresco in the restaurant’s Orangery, you’ll be looking at the very spire of the church where Robin and Maid Marian are said to have tied the knot to the twang of a bow.
Get out and about with the MINI Countryman
For family days out, there’s no better choice than the MINI Countryman, the adventurous SUV, as confident in the country as it’s nifty in the city. mini.co.uk/countryman
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