All spires lead to Southwell!

Starts and ends with a Castle and a Minster in the middle!

Okay, so we get that jaw-dropping scenery from the bus window can be unforgettable at times and it’s impossible to tire of clifftops views, humungous mountains and languid lakes, but sometimes as much lasting, really meaningful satisfaction can come from under-rated scenery and maybe a day out off the beaten track on a route that might not be ‘wow factor, let’s do a selfie snap’ though is always compelling and unlocks a hidden gem or two. One of our favourite days out in 2023 involved two routes in Nottinghamshire, that entwined seamlessly at the same bus stop at Church Street in Southwell. The hourly 28 from Stagecoach East Midlands in Newark to Southwell takes around 32 minutes. From Southwell, the 26 to Nottingham from Nottingham City Transport enjoys a half-hourly frequency and the trip lasts approximately an hour. The fare is £2 on each bus. Bargain!

This is also a trip that starts with a castle in Newark, ends with one in Nottingham and with a Minster in the middle!

Newark’s noteworthy nuggets

We made the trip up from our Surrey HQ via King’s Cross on LNER to Newark and made the 10 minute walk from Newark North Gate station to the town centre, passing fairly grand buildings, cobbled streets with decent architecture, St. Mary Magdalene Church and to a bus station that was hidden away behind Asda and where the customer service from the staff was pro-active, friendly and the facility was spotless.

Newark itself boasts a wealth of attractions that cater to history buffs, culture enthusiasts, and those seeking outdoor adventures. A trip to Newark Castle is really compelling – it’s a medieval, gothic fortress with a rich history dating back to the 12th century. Explore its well-preserved ruins and enjoy panoramic views of the River Trent.

Delve into the town’s past at the National Civil War Centre, an interactive museum that vividly recounts the events of the English Civil War. The nearby Newark Air Museum showcases an impressive collection of aircraft, appealing to aviation fans.

Take a leisurely stroll through the cobbled streets of Newark’s market square, where you’ll find a mix of traditional markets, charming shops, and inviting cafes. The town is renowned for its antique shops, making it a haven for collectors and those seeking unique treasures.

Retreat to the Riverside 

For a nature escape, visit the scenic Riverside Park, offering picturesque walks along the River Trent and opportunities for relaxation. Explore the nearby Sconce and Devon Park, a historic site with earthwork defences and ample green space. There’s also tearooms, pubs and restaurants aplenty in Newark and the vibe is always friendly.

Boarding the Stagecoach East Midlands number 28 bus, the driver was chirpy, giving our reviewer copious information about the journey to follow and he beamed proudly when explaining the fare to Southwell was only £2. He was a real conversationalist and with a big beaming smile too! It was raining but we cared not as he’d given us a cheery welcome and in any case, the visibility from the window was still excellent as the bus made its retreat through deserted country lanes, twisting and turning regularly with farmyard animals on both sides of the road, perfectly manicured gardens and quaint cottages.

Blidworth Church, which dates back to the 12th century is an interesting sight, so too the beautiful St. Michael’s Church in Farnsfield, within rolling hills and field before another church, St Giles’ in Edingley, set in trees. We passed Halam, a very pretty village and then green fields gave way to the delightful Southwell with its independent shops – and guess what – another church, a Minster in fact.

From our pew at the front of the bus, we get a great view of Southwell Minster which is stunning and showcases intricate architecture and a rich history. Don’t miss the chapter house, home to the famous “Leaves of Southwell,” a collection of stone carvings depicting foliage in exquisite detail.  Wander through the Southwell Workhouse, a well-preserved Victorian institution providing insight into the lives of the destitute in the 19th century. For a peaceful escape, head to the Southwell Minster Gardens, where beautifully landscaped grounds surround the cathedral.

The 28 continues to Mansfield, but we’ve long alighted and are deep in the throes of enjoying the fabulous Southwell. It’s well worth exploring the independent shops and boutiques, discovering unique treasures and local crafts, as well as enjoying a leisurely stroll along the scenic River Greet, offering picturesque views and a tranquil atmosphere.

Meanwhile, history buffs can visit the Southwell Heritage Trail, tracing the town’s past through its historic landmarks. Additionally, Southwell Racecourse provides a thrilling experience for horse racing enthusiasts.

Byron, Boult and Paxton of the Palace!

Southwell has been home to or associated with several notable individuals throughout history. One of the most famous figures associated with Southwell is Lord Byron, the renowned poet, and leading figure in the Romantic movement. Byron resided at Burgage Manor in Southwell during his early years, and you can visit his former residence to explore the Byron exhibition.

Another notable individual linked to Southwell is Sir Joseph Paxton, the Victorian horticulturist, and architect. Paxton, who designed the Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition in 1851, lived in Southwell at Rock House, which is now a private residence.

In the world of music, the town can claim connections to Adrian Boult, a distinguished conductor, and composer. Boult spent part of his childhood here. Meanwhile, Southwell also has ties to the literary world through the novelist Bruce Chatwin, who spent his formative years in the town. Chatwin’s experiences in Southwell influenced some of his works.

Dizzying dynamism awaits after the driver delights on the 26

Onto Nottingham City Transport’s 26, we ventured, for the bright lights of Nottingham, the Lace City, where Robin Hood hung out and of markets, football, county cricket, ice-hockey, a castle and nightclubs! The driver on this bus was another chatty chap – it must be a Nottinghamshire thing. He literally sucked customers on-board, magnetising them with his conversation and quips and making sure they were all smiling by the time they sat down!

Southwell Rugby Club and the local leisure centre are left behind as more charming villages are traversed, of more field and woods on this languid but lovely journey. We passed St. Helen’s Burton Joyce Church with its elegant spire and the white-bricked Cross Keys public house as the bus meandered through Gedling, Carlton and Sneinton with its pretty, well-kept terraced houses and history. The congregation on board this bus are literally lapping up the enthralling scenery!

Nottingham soon approaches with its hustle and bustle and the landscape changes dramatically. However, as full of anticipation we were, the lovely scenery, almost off the beaten track yet in the centre of the UK, surrounded by vibrant towns and of course an oh so dynamic city in Nottingham, was hard to forget and was, in truth, the highlight of our trip.

This was a journey that couldn’t fail to appeal to any tastes, whilst it’s a paradise of churches (and castles!), it has so much to offer and provided by two of the most renowned and customer-centric bus companies across the nation in Stagecoach East Midlands and Nottingham City Transport. To check out these routes which seamless combine to provide a fab day out, go to….

28 Mansfield – Newark – Great Scenic Journeys

26, Nottingham to Southwell – Great Scenic Journeys