15 Best Things to Do in Worksop (Nottinghamshire, England)

This market town in the north of Nottinghamshire is the jumping off point for the Dukeries, four connected ducal estates.

Of these, Clumber Park is a National Trust site, while Thorseby Park and Welbeck Abbey feature museums and galleries.

Moments from the town is Creswell Crags, a limestone ravine honeycombed with caves that were inhabited by prehistoric humans for tens of thousands of years.

And you would never guess to see it from the outside, but Mr Straw’s House is one of the town’s top attractions.

This Edwardian house looks like an ordinary suburban home from the street, but within very little has changed in more than 85 years.

Also make time for Worksop Priory, which has held onto much of its Norman stonework despite big changes in the 20th century.

1. Creswell Crags

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Creswell Crags

On Worksop’s west flank is an enclosed magnesian limestone gorge, something to behold in its own right, but also layered with human history dating back 43,000 years.

Europe’s northernmost cave art and flint tools from a succession of prehistoric cultures have been discovered in Creswell Crags’ many caves, fissures and rock shelters.

Among the finds was the Ochre Horse, a bone engraved with horse’s head found in Robin Hood’s Cave and dating back as far as 13,000 years, on show at the museum here.

You can tour Robin Hood’s Cave to learn about life during the last Ice Age, while Church Hole features the oldest cave art in the UK, with 13,000-year-old images of birds, reindeer and bison, and arcane symbols.

The gorge itself is free to visit, while the museum and various themed tours come with a small fee.

2. Clumber Park

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Clumber Park

Owned by the National Trust since 1946, Clumber Park used to be the seat of the Dukes of Newcastle, who abandoned the property in the early 20th century.

The estate, composed of parkland, woods and farmland is more than 3,800 acres in size, and while the house was demolished after a fire in 1938 lots of outbuildings remain.

There’s a cathedral-like Gothic Revival chapel, garages, a stable yard and decorative entrance lodges.

The four-acre walled kitchen garden grows local varieties of fruits and vegetables and is astonishing for its 137-metre glasshouse containing vineries, a palm house and apiary.

An inspiring feature at Clumber Park is the Lime Tree Avenue, the longest in Europe at two miles.

This was planted in 1840, and has 1,296 common limes, while a splendid cedar avenue funnels cold air away from the walled garden in winter.

Clumber Park is massive, so a good way to see it all is by hiring a bike from the National Trust’s Discovery Centre.

3. Welbeck Abbey

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Welbeck Abbey

The story of this stately home, the seat of the Dukes of Portland, in 15,000 acres, goes back to the middle of the 12th century when a Premonstratensian monastery was founded here.

This monastery was powerful, and the Abbot of Welbeck oversaw all of England’s Premonstratensian communities until it was dissolved under Henry VIII.

After that the abbey was converted into a mansion by Sir Charles Cavendish, son of Bess of Hardwick, a giant of Elizabethan society.

The house was heavily reworked in the 19th century by John Bentinck, 5th Duke of Portland, who even added a 1,000-yard tunnel between the house and the riding school.

Tours of Welbeck Abbey’s state rooms are held daily throughout the month of August, but are booked up a long time in advance.

The tour lasts 90 minutes and takes you into rooms that have welcomed statesmen, aristocracy and royalty, and are embellished with paintings by Joshua Reynolds, John Wootton and Peter Lely.

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The Harley Gallery

Sitting in Welbeck Abbey’s courtyard gardens is the award-winning Harley Gallery, established in 1977 and devoted to contemporary exhibitions by prominent artists.

These shows are updated five times a year and among the artists featured at the gallery are Peter Blake, David Hockney, George Stubbs and Euan Uglow.

In spring 2019 there were exhibitions by the jewellery artist Romilly Saumarez Smith and the Belgian re-collector and multimedia collage artist Sylvie Franquet.

The museum is free to enter, and is next door to the Portland Gallery, displaying the fine and decorative art amassed by the Dukes of Portland over hundreds of years.

Among the outstanding pieces are paintings by Van Dyck and Michelangelo, and the pearl earring worn by Charles I when he was executed in 1649.

5. Thoresby Park

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Thoresby Park

The estate at Thoresby Park was in the hands of the Pierrepoint family from the 1600s until 1955 when the Earl Manvers title became extinct after Gervas Pierrepoint died without a male heir.

In the 18th century the parkland was landscaped by Capability Brown, while the current Thoresby Hall is an Eclectic Victorian building designed by Anthony Salvin and completed in 1860. The house is now a luxury hotel and spa, but the 1,000 acres of parkland are open to the public, and Thorseby’s magical Walled Garden is a must in the spring and summer months.

The old stables courtyard boasts a military museum (more below), a cafe and a set of craft workshops.

Among these is a glassmaker, jeweller, fabric shop and a craft corner selling everything you need for your own projects.

6. Worksop Priory Church

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Worksop Priory Church

The Norman lord, William de Lovetot founded the Augustinian Worksop Priory in 1103. After the priory was suppressed under Henry VIII in the 16th century the domestic buildings were lost, but the nave was saved as a parish church.

This is joined to modern transepts, lady chapel, crossing tower, sanctuary and east end, all built from the 1920s to the 1970s.

But there’s a lot of history to be found in the west towers and nave.

The towers are from the 1100s to the 1300s and have four original gargoyles.

The main entrance below these is a well-preserved Norman Romanesque doorway with three layers of ornamented archivolts and jambs with foliate capitals.

To the north you can view the remnant of the cloister wall, while the nave also has Norman round-headed arches with dog tooth patterns and stiff-leaf capitals on the piers.

7. Mr Straw’s House

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Mr Straw’s House

At 5-7 Blyth Grove, Mr Straw’s House is an Edwardian semi-detached built in 1905. Up to the late-20th century it was home to two bachelor brothers, Walter and William jr.

They had inherited the property from their mother Florence whose husband William passed away in 1932. The house was last decorated in 1923, but as a Victorian woman in mourning, Florence never updated the decor again and left many of her husband’s possessions in place.

Walter passed away in 1976, and William jr. lived here alone until 1990, but over these 60+ years neither had redecorated, choosing to live frugally without any modern conveniences.

Mr Straw’s House now belongs to the National Trust, and is a perfect time capsule for early 20th-century domestic life, with heirlooms and personal possessions in situ.

You can visit Tuesday to Sunday, from March to November.

The garden is a joy, with its own orchard, while Walter Straw’s cactus collection is still growing in the greenhouse.

8. Tropical Butterfly House Wildlife and Falconry Centre

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Tropical Butterfly House Wildlife And Falconry Centre

Now open for more than 25 years, this animal attraction is closer to a fully-fledged zoo than its name makes it sound.

But rather than relying on just static displays the Tropical Butterfly House Wildlife and Falconry Centre gets you close to its inhabitants with a series of encounters all day long.

This might be a spectacular bird of prey flight demonstration, a lemur walk-through, a meerkat talk and an otter feeing session.

There’s also an indoor rainforest environment, home to crocodiles, bats, exotic birds and a variety of invertebrates including tropical butterflies.

Kids can meet more familiar animals at the Farm Barn, and be entertained at the Camelot-themed adventure playground, a splash play area and an indoor activity and craft centre.

9. Langold Country Park

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Langold Country Park

Minutes north of Worksop there’s 300 acres of parkland on a historic estate that was landscaped by the Gally Knight family in the 18th century.

They were responsible for the man-made lakes here, well stocked with bream, tench and roach, and a hotspot for anglers.

The park also merges with Dyscarr Wood, a Site of Special Scientific Interest as a standout example of limestone ash-wych elm wood.

Back in the park there’s a water play area for smaller children in summer, a bandstand, a skate-park, a cafe and a large meadow left to cultivate wild flowers and attract butterflies.

10. Chesterfield Canal

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Chesterfield Canal

This waterway between Chesterfield and West Stockwith was a big catalyst for growth in Worksop after it opened in 1777. The Chesterfield Canal shipped lead, limestone and coal out of Derbyshire to West Stockwith on the River Trent.

Going in the other direction into Chesterfield were iron, timber and grain.

The canal was last used for cargo in the 1960s, and thanks to a campaign soon after, the eastern portion of the canal, between Worksop and West Stockwith has always stayed navigable.

West of Worksop a big stretch has been restored so that all but nine of original 46 miles are open.

The countryside east of Worksop is very rural, and you can walk for miles amid pastoral fields and without seeing as much as a house from the towpath.

On Sundays in summer you can board the Hugh Hensall, a narrowboat moored at the Lock Keeper Pub in Worksop for an hour-long cruise.

11. The Canch Park

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The Canch Park

Straddling the River Ryton there’s a park rated among the very best in the country.

The Canch is a Green Flag Winner, and mixes ornate formal flowerbeds with all sorts of facilities for the community.

On the south side are the peaceful Memorial Gardens, with specimen trees, shrub border plantings and a pond around the old Carnegie library building.

You can also spend a few minutes in the Sensory Garden, which was planted in the park’s disused lido.

Among the facilities there’s a splash pool in summer, a skate park, a multi-use games area, outdoor gym equipment and playgrounds for juniors and toddlers.

12. The Queen’s Royal Lancers & Nottinghamshire Yeomanry Museum

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The Queen’s Royal Lancers &Nottinghamshire Yeomanry Museum

Part of the courtyard at Thoresby Hall is occupied by this military museum for three renowned cavalry regiments, the South Nottinghamshire Hussars, the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry and the Queen’s Royal Lancers.

The collections encompass more than three centuries of conflict, recalling the days of horseback warfare and cavalry charges, through the tank battles of the Second World War, to 21st-century engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq.

There are lots of graphic panels, models and video presentations, complemented by medals, weapons, horse-riding paraphernalia and uniforms.

Among the outstanding pieces are a tin of chocolate from the Boer War, a British red coat from the American War of Independence and a bugle used in the ill-fated charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaklava in the Crimean War.

13. Hodsock Priory

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Hodsock Priory

Owned by the Buchanan Family since 1765, Hodsock Priory is another glorious mansion, wrapped in gardens on an 800-acre estate.

The house is closed to the public except for weddings and special events.

But you can visit the gardens during small windows in late winter to see a haunting carpet of snowdrops, and then again in spring for the bluebells.

At this time the formal gardens are also ablaze with other early blooms, like daffodils, winter honeysuckle, cyclamen, hellebores, acers, irises and aconites.

Your visit will also feel momentous as you approach the house on a mile-long drive, headed by a fine Tudor gatehouse.

14. Horse Riding

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Coloured Cob Equestrian Centre

Coloured Cob Equestrian Centre is out in the countryside near the Creswell Crags Museum and Heritage Centre.

Right on a bridleway, Coloured Cob offers some truly extraordinary pony treks, for all ages, and with a range of ponies and horses to match all sizes and ability levels.

Children can take their first ride at Coloured Cob, while grownups can witness Creswell Crags on horseback or take a four-hour adventure into the Clumber Park Forest.

Up to 25 riders can take part at one time, and one of the most popular rides is the remote Elm Tree Pub a couple of miles away in Elmton.

Coloured Cob also has a menu of riding lessons, hacks and carriage driving sessions, as well as a choice of long-term courses for people based in the area.

15. School of Artisan Food

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School Of Artisan Food

The Lower Motor Yard on the Welbeck Estate is home to the only not-for-profit school in the UK devoted to artisan cooking and food preparation.

If you have money to burn and time to spare, you could sign up for a host of courses for anything from French patisserie to butchery, home dairy skills, curing and smoking, preserving and pickling, artisanal bread-making, sausage-making and foraging and wild-food cooking.

Some of the courses are vocational and last for weeks or months at a time.

But you can also join one-day introductory courses to learn the fundamentals, while many of the more focussed entry-level courses for skills like curing and smoking or cheesemaking are never more than one or two days long.

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