Sherwood Forest will be forever associated in the imagination with Robin Hood.  It's the home of a legend and its name is familar worldwide.  But the real Sherwood Forest in North Nottinghamshire may not be what you are expecting.  But if you can get over misleading preconceptions born of Hollywood Robin Hood movies (usually filmed abroad, in a totally different type of forest) you'll find a different and fascinating part of England, with many surprises.   

For a start, don't expect mile upon mile of unbroken virgin forest.  Historically the forest was never like that.  Even back in the days when this was a Royal Hunting Forest, it was a patchwork of woodland, open sandy heathland and small villages.  Later came coalmining, bringing a much higher population and expanding the population.  Really, it's a miracle that any of the ancient forest surives untouched.  But it does.  You just have to know where to look.

The Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre near the village of Edwinstowe (where Robin and Marion are said to have married) is a modest place offering basic tourism facilities - a cafe, a small exhibition on Robin Hood, a video about the history of the Forest and souvenir shops.   But what it does is provide a base from which you can walk out and explore the historic core of the Forest (now a National Nature Reserve).  The real stars of the show are the 900 ancient oak trees most of which which are around 500 years old, and the venerable Major Oak, said to be eight centuries old. These are some of the oldest trees in England, twisted into fantastic shapes by time and weather like living sculptures.  For anyone with imagination, just to walk amongst these hoary veterans is a great experience.   The Visitor Centre puts on seasonal events, including guided walks and historical entertainments, which are a good introduction to the rich ecology and history of the Forest.

If you are staying in the area there is plenty of family fun available locally, from farmparks to adventurous activities like the treetops high wire trail at nearby Sherwood Pines Forest Park.  There is quite a wide choice of places to stay, ranging from the Centre Parcs holiday village to the  Youth Hostel at Edwinstowe, and there are several camp sites within easy distance, plus farmstay B&Bs.