Other historic landmarks include hosting the first football match to use crossbars and goalnets, at Forest’s first pitch, the Town Ground, and the first shinpads, worn by Forest’s England international centre-forward Sam Weller Widdowson, adapting his cricket pads in 1874.
The cross-city derby may date back to 1866 but the the differing fates of each club since the early 1900s has meant that league meetings have been a relative rarity in modern times. While Notts County, formed in 1862, haven’t been a regular fixture in England’s top flight since World War I, Forest, founded three years later, have twice won the European Cup.
The manager behind this success, Brian Clough, had left Derby a year or so before arriving at Forest’s City Ground. Leading both clubs to a league title in the 1970s, he helped create a bigger local rivalry that exists to this day. After Clough’s death in 2004, the road linking the two cities was named after him, league games between the two clubs also deciding the Brian Clough Trophy.
Since 2008, these have been Championship fixtures, Forest and Derby battling to regain a place in the Premier League. Shortly before the Premier League was created in 1992, Notts County were relegated after a single season in the top flight.
Back in the 1800s, it was County who had had the head start and held the upper hand. First based at Nottingham Castle then Trent Bridge cricket ground – next door to Forest’s current home of the City Ground – Notts County were founding members of the Football League in 1888.
The first lower-division club to win the FA Cup, in 1894, County have never won a major honour since and have only spent seven seasons in the top flight since World War I. The most successful period came under legendary manager Jimmy Sirrel, whose motivated players pushed County through four divisions, promotion in 1981 giving the club a first spell in the top flight since 1926. Today Sirrel has a stand named after him at County’s long-term home of Meadow Lane, and a statue outside it.
Other highlights, though, have been few and far between. Two wins over Forest in 1949-50 helped County towards the Third Division South title, and a higher rung up the league ladder than their city rivals for what would be the last time. Charlie Palmer’s late winning goal for County over Forest in 1994 bookended the last league clash between the two. A League Cup game in 2011 went to the wire, a Wes Morgan equaliser in stoppage time of extra-time saving the day for Forest, who won the penalty shoot-out.
The Clough era ending with two League Cups and relegation from the newly established Premier League, Forest haven’t played in the top flight this century.
Like Sirrel, Clough was honoured with a statue, this one in Nottingham city centre, the 5,000-plus witnesses to its unveiling a reminder of how high Forest climbed to win the European Cup – and how long ago.
Also twice winners of Europe’s premier trophy, Juventus provide another reminder of Nottingham’s lasting legacy to the game, their iconic black-and-white striped shirts dispatched to Turin in 1903 after it was discovered that the Italian club’s original pink ones were fading in the wash.
East Midlands Airport is 24km (15 miles) south-west of Nottingham. TrentBarton Skylink bus 247 runs every 20-30min to Nottingham Broadmarsh bus station and Friar Lane (£5 single, £9.50 return, journey time 1hr). Airport-recommended Arrow Cars quote £32 to Nottingham city centre. Local Nottingham Cars (0115 9 700 700) quote £22.
The Broadmarsh bus terminal is close to Nottingham train station. A direct train from London St Pancras (£20-£25 single online, off-peak return £60) takes 1hr 45min, Manchester around the same, but with a £23 day return on certain services online.
Nottingham city centre is a short walk from the bus and rail stations. The County and Forest grounds are in the opposite direction, a 15min stroll following the river, Meadow Lane closer.
Nottinghamshire Tourist Office has a database of local accommodation.
On Radcliffe Road, close to the City Ground, there’s an ever-decreasing row of affordable Victorian hotels and B&Bs, The Acorn and the Gallery recently closed or sold off. Still in operation, though, is the Grantham, with 25 rooms.
By the train station, the vintage Gresham is also currently being redeveloped. The nearby Jurys Inn is very much open for business, with 264 rooms and an in-house bar and restaurant.
Student-swamped Nottingham is full of pubs and bars, from age-old taverns to modern chains.
Sadly, Nottingham lost a quality independent venue when The Approach closed in May 2016 – although its takeover by Southbank bodes well, given the continuing success of the original sister venue by the City Ground. You can expect comprehensive TV sport, live music, varied beers and quality bar food.
Squares is a more mainstream nightspot, also open by day and lined with maxi and plasma screens for football watching. Twofers and sundry drinks offers encourage you to stay.
A more adult crowd drift to canalside Via Fossa, its huge terrace busy in summer, although rugby is generally preferred to football in terms of TV sport.
Of the traditional pubs, Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem, built into the same rock as the castle alongside, dates from 1189, making it England’s oldest inn. Labyrinthine cellars attract tourists, happy to find a seat by the open fire or in the courtyard once above ground. There’s no TV sport, though, which you’ll find for major events at Fellows, Morton & Clayton, a historic waterside establishment created from the offices of Nottingham’s most famous canal transportation company. Fine ales, food and wines are the order of the day.
Right on the main square, the Major Oak is big on local beers and TV sport, its name taken from the 1,000-year-old tree in Sherwood Forest where Robin Hood and his merry men are said to have slept.
Equally central, The Bank shows domestic and European fixtures on HD screens, as well as offering affordable meals from breakfast to 10pm, craft beers and ciders, and cocktails.
Of the chains, in the Wetherspoon group, The Joseph Else on Market Square features an industrial frieze created by the namesake pre-war artist while The Company Inn has historic links to the canal it overlooks. Lloyds No.1 occupies a high-ceilinged bank building dating back to 1674.