The East Midlands, in its broadest sense, is the eastern part of central England.
It is made up of five counties, which share common characteristics which distinguish the region from other parts of the country whilst also having their own distinct identities. Visitors are attracted to the East Midland's diverse offerings - ranging from the beautiful Peak District and wild woodlands to cosmopolitan urban centres and fascinating history.
The heart of England, the region gives visitors a friendly welcome (don't be surprised to be greeted with a jolly "ey up me duck" from a local!) and a chance to glimpse what England is like off the typical tourist trail. But don't let anyone suggest that the East Midlands doesn't have big attractions - it includes the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, one of only four copies of the Magna Carta, a stunning National Park, beautiful country villages and world-famous food all in one region.
The East Midlands include several traditional English counties:
A relatively rural county with market towns and villages peppering the countryside, perhaps best known as the home of UK motor racing and hosts the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Visit for: market towns and motor racing
Despite being dominated by the vibrant and multicultural city of Leicester, the rest of Leicestershire also has plenty to offer visitors. The county has a famous history as the final resting place of the infamous King Richard III but also boasts modern attractions such as the National Space Centre and Twycross Zoo. The county's culinary heritage is also world famous, as the home of Melton Mowbray pork pies and stilton cheese, while Leicester's history of South Asian immigration means the city is proud of its many curry houses. Visit for: history and local food
Whoever coined the phrase 'the great outdoors' may well have been thinking of Derbyshire. The county is home to the Peak District National Park, which is dominated by craggy peaks, sweeping hills and wild woodland. Added to the mix are a collection of traditional villages, quaint market towns and grand county houses reminiscent of Downton Abbey - such as Chatsworth House. The city of Derby offers an impressive shopping scene as well as a look into the region's rich industrial heritage. Visit for: industrial history, stunning landscapes and hiking
Nottinghamshire is a county steeped in history and culture dating back a millennium. The county is home to the legend of Robin Hood, which attracts visitors to the ancient Sherwood Forest, while the city of Nottingham is home to one of England's oldest pubs - which served crusaders travelling to the Holy Land 800 years ago. The largest city in the East Midlands, Nottingham is a large and vibrant city, with an impressive range of attractions and a lively nightlife scene. Visit for: history, Robin Hood and nightlife
Largely flat and agricultural, Lincolnshire is the second largest county in England but is also one of the most sparsely populated. Along the coast are a number of traditional English seaside resorts - most notably Skegness - although these have been allowed to decline in the 2010s. The historic city of Lincoln is dominated by its castle and cathedral - once the largest structure in the world - and features attractive traditional streets and shopping. Woolsthorpe Manor, near Grantham in the south of the county, was the birthplace of the county's most famous son, Sir Isaac Newton. Visit for: history, traditional buildings and seaside resorts
The smallest of England's historic counties, Rutland has only two towns. At the centre of the county is Rutland Water, a large artificial reservoir which is popular for boating and cycling and an important breeding site for birds. Visit for: birdwatching
Cities and towns
- 1 Derby (Derbyshire) - a city with a rich industrial heritage. A good base before heading into the Peak District.
- 2 Leicester (Leicestershire) - a vibrant, multicultural city. Home to the National Space Centre and the resting place of King Richard III.
- 3 Lincoln (Lincolnshire) - filled with winding streets full of traditional architecture and dominated by its cathedral and castle, which holds one of the four original copies of Magna Carta.
- 4 Nottingham (Nottinghamshire) - with the largest urban area in the East Midlands, Nottingham is full of history and has a famous nightlife and shopping scene.
- 5 Buxton (Derbyshire) - picturesque ancient spa town in the Peak District.
- 6 Matlock Bath (Derbyshire) - pretty spa town, popular for its natural setting and views from the nearby Heights of Abraham.
- 7 Northampton (Northamptonshire) - county town of Northamptonshire, home to top-flight Rugby Union team Northampton Saints.
- 8 Oakham (Rutland) - county town of Rutland, pretty Oakham hosts an historic market once a week.
- 9 Stamford (Lincolnshire) - historic stone town at the southern tip of Lincolnshire, beautiful architecture and interesting buildings.
- 10 Cromford (Derbyshire) - the region's only UNESCO World Heritage Site, preserving sites that were at the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution.
- 11 Peak District National Park (Derbyshire) - stunning national park with breathtaking landscape - perfect for hiking and mountain-biking.
- 12 Sherwood Forest (Nottinghamshire) - ancient forest, associated with the legend of Robin Hood.
- 13 Vale of Belvoir (Leicestershire) - picturesque collection of villages in North-East Leicestershire, with Belvoir Castle at its centre.
- Spring: Experience Spalding's annual bulb festival with floats made of tulips.
- May: Enjoy over 70 cheeses in a region famous for its culinary produce at the Artisan Cheese Fair (the UK's largest) in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire.
- June: Rock with major headliners in Donington Park, Leicestershire at Download Festival, the UK's largest rock festival.
- June-August: Enjoy Shakespeare in an open-air enchanted woodland at the Rutland Open Air Theatre.
- July: Watch the excitement of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, Northamptonshire - the home of British motor racing.
Many people will pass through the East Midlands to reach Yorkshire or South East England without ever stopping to explore the region. This means that they are missing out on experiencing six counties with a unique yet diverse culture, stunning natural scenery and a fascinating history.
Despite being influenced by the culture of the region's northern and southern neighbours, the East Midlands has a distinct identity which also distinguishes it from the adjacent West Midlands. The historical basis for the region dates back to the 1st century AD when the territory of the Corieltauvi tribe roughly fit the boundaries of the current East Midlands. Similarly, the region corresponds with the territory of the Five Boroughs of the Danelaw from the 10th century, which significantly influenced the distinct East Midlands accents heard today. The medieval legend of Robin Hood - who was based in Nottinghamshire's Sherwood Forest - is famous worldwide and, while the outlaw's historicity is fiercely debated, many in the region are proud of its association. East Midlands history dating back centuries can be seen in historic buildings across the region, ranging from the medieval Lincoln Cathedral to traditional stately homes such as Derbyshire's Chatsworth House or Nottingham's Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, which claims to be Britain's oldest pub.
Starting in the 18th century industrial development in the region helped the East Midlands to define itself as an industrial powerhouse, when the world's first mechanised factory was established in Cromford, Derbyshire - a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The region became famous for lace produced in Nottingham's Lace Market district and steel produced in Corby while many communities were centered around the mining of coal, although the decline of industry in Britain has meant that the region has sought to redefine itself. Its location in the middle of the country and easy access to the M1 motorway means that logistics represent a growing proportion of the East Midlands economy today. As a largely agricultural region, it has also historically been known for its food, which is exported around the world. Visitors can enjoy popular produce from the region, such as red Leicester and stilton cheeses, Lincolnshire sausage, Melton Mowbray pork pie, and Bakewell tart and pudding.
Despite a fierce pride of the East Midlands identity (as distinct from being 'Northern' or 'Southern'), visitors to the region will find significant diversity. While the East Midlands English dialect is common, significant variations exist across the region - often just miles apart from each other. Dialects, along with political attitudes and outlooks, are also influenced by location within the region - with considerable differences between rural agricultural areas and industrial/mining towns. At the same time, immigration into the region in the 20th century means that the distinctive culture of the South Asian communities is apparent in the cities, particularly Leicester. Strong rivalries also exist between the different cities, particularly with regard to football (Nottingham Forest and Derby County FC have a particularly strong rivalry).
The region's geography is also diverse, covering three major landscape areas: the relatively flat coastal plain of Lincolnshire to the east, the river valley of the Trent which contains the large cities, and the southern end of the Pennine hill range in western Derbyshire that makes up the Peak District National Park. Protection by the Pennines in the west means that the East Midlands is one of the driest regions of England.
This mixture of strong local identities, different cultures, extensive history, industrial heritage and stunning scenery make the East Midlands both a unique place to visit but also a microcosm of Britain off the beaten track. Within easy reach of London, the region offers the quaint English towns, villages and countryside that many visitors seek but it also provides an accurate representation of modern Britain outside of South East England while giving a glimpse of the country's famous industrial past - often at a cheaper price than other destinations in the UK.
East Midlands Airport
Transport to/from East Midlands Airport
To Nottingham: Direct train from East Midlands Parkway station to Nottingham railway station; takes 18 minutes.
To Derby: Direct train from East Midlands Parkway station to Derby railway station; 17 minutes.
To Leicester: Direct train from East Midlands Parkway station to Leicester railway station; 16 minutes.
To Lincoln: One direct train per hour from East Midlands Parkway station to Lincoln Railway station; takes approx 90 minutes.
Visit National Rail Journey Planner to plan routes to other destinations.
East Midlands Airport is close to Nottingham, Derby, Leicester and Loughborough and serves destinations in Europe with mostly low-cost carriers. It is a small modern airport with a decent range of restaurants, shops, and bars inside. A number of buses serve the airport for onward travel and an hourly shuttle bus service - Railink - runs to the nearby East Midlands Parkway railway station. There is no need to pre-book a ticket for Railink, simply buy your ticket on arrival and wait for the next service. A number of local taxi services are also available.
Humberside Airport in northern Lincolnshire is a small airport domestic flights to Aberdeen and international flights to a limited number of destinations in Europe. From the airport, get a taxi to nearby Barnetby railway station (3 miles away) from where East Midlands Trains services run to Nottingham, Leicester, Lincoln and East Midlands Parkway as well as a number of large towns in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire.
Doncaster Sheffield Airport in Yorkshire is the closest airport outside the region. Buses are available from the airport to both Doncaster and Sheffield railway stations, where you can then catch trains onto East Midlands destinations.
Of the London airports, Luton and Stansted are most convenient. Trains leave Luton airport hourly and take is 1 hour to Leicester and 1.5 hours to Nottingham. Stansted has hourly trains to Leicester that take 2.5 hrs.
East Coast Main Line
In the east of the region, the East Coast Main Line runs services between London Kings Cross and Edinburgh (with other major stops including York and Newcastle. At least two trains run per hour in each direction. In the East Midlands, this line includes stops:
- Grantham: where passengers can change for trains to Nottingham. Trains take approx 70 minutes from London.
- Newark: where passengers can change for trains to Lincoln. Trains take approx 80-90 mins from London.
Midland Main Line
In the west of the region, the Midlands Main Line runs services from London St Pancras to Yorkshire. In the East Midlands, it stops at Kettering (55 minutes from London), Wellingborough (45 minutes from London), Nottingham (105 minutes from London), Leicester (65 minutes from London) and Derby (90 minutes from London) as well as some smaller towns. This service also stops at East Midlands Parkway railway station, where you can change for East Midlands Airport.
The M1 motorway provides direct access from London, Sheffield and Leeds to the region and the three main urban centres of Nottingham, Leicester and Derby. The A1 road runs from London to Edinburgh and operates as a motorway in many sections, providing access to much of Leicestershire and Lincolnshire.
A cheaper way of reaching the East Midlands from major UK cities is via coach. MegaBus and National Express operate coaches to the main cities of the region at a lower price than the train, although journey times are significantly longer (3+ hours from London).
Public transport in the East Midlands is reliable and frequent for intercity travel and for travelling to major towns. The network becomes less extensive when venturing into rural areas and car hire or taxis might be a more convenient option.
The region's intercity train network is extensive, meaning that travel between the main cities is easy. The exception is trains to/from Northampton, which is on the separate West Coast Mainline and thus requires a change in Birmingham New Street.
- From Nottingham: Direct trains to Lincoln, Leicester, Derby.
- From Leicester: Direct trains to Nottingham, Derby. For Lincoln, change in Nottingham.
- From Derby: Direct trains to Nottingham and Leicester. For Lincoln, change in Nottingham.
- From Lincoln: Direct trains to Nottingham. For Derby or Leicester, change in Nottingham.
- From Northampton: Change at Birmingham New Street for trains to Leicester, Nottingham or Derby.
Most of the large towns and even some villages in the region are also located on the railway network, with direct access to one (or more) of the big cities.
In the cities and towns, bus cities are generally extensive and are an inexpensive way of travelling throughout the city. As most cities don't have metro services, the bus is the primary form of public transport for most locals and this can mean that they are busy during the rush hour. Intercity buses are also available between most cities and large towns.
In rural areas, bus services are often the only public transport links available to most villages. Despite this, the rural services are often infrequent and may take a long route meaning that you will reach your destination slowly. In some cases, a village might only have one bus service per day. It may be more useful to get the bus as close as you can to your destination before ordering a taxi.
The East Midlands has an extensive road network, which is typically in good condition. Its location in the centre of the country means that several major motorways run through the region, making north-south travel particularly efficient. In many cases, it might be the case that travelling by car is faster than public transport and may be the only option when visiting the most rural areas. Be aware however, that car parking charges in city centres can be high. Car rental will be available in all the cities and from East Midlands Airport.
The region's industrial past means that there are a number of canals crossing the county. These provide the opportunity to travel via narrow boat, although this is typically done for enjoyment rather than for speedy movement. It is often possible to hire narrow boats in advance for a number of nights.
- The Peak District National Park: Despite what the name may suggest, this area contains only rounded hills and is in fact named after an historical tribe. This national park is dominated by bleak "Edges" of hard rock, and caves of limestone at Castleton in Derbyshire. The village of Eyam, known as the 'plague village', is famous for the villagers voluntarily quarantining themselves to prevent the spread of the black death (bubonic plague) to other villages in the mediaeval period. It also contains significant items of historical interest. There is very good walking in this area, and is the start of the Pennine Way long distance footpath.
- Nottinghamshire contains the remnant of Sherwood Forest, legendary home of Robin Hood. Although much of the forest park is a modern plantation, there is still an ancient tree known as the "Major Oak" associated with the area.
- The River Trent in Nottinghamshire has a spectacular tidal wave or "Aegier". Well worth visiting.
- On the east coast the wildlife sanctuary at Donna Nook is an excellent place to watch seals, but check they will be there when they visit. There are beaches, but they tend to be chilly.
- Lincoln's castle, cathedral and old town are well worth a visit. The cathedral was once the largest building in the world and has been described by some as the most beautiful building in Europe. The city's castle also has one of the four surviving original copies of the Magna Carta on display. There is a fascinating old town with cobbled streets and unusual shops.
- Derwent Valley Mills is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Cromford, Derbyshire. It consists of a collection of 18th and 19th century cotton mills from the start of the Industrial Revolution, which include the world's first fully mechanised factory.
- The City of Caves in Nottingham gives visitors the chance to explore the city's network of caves and learn about their interesting history.
- The final days of the infamous King Richard III can be tracked at the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre in Leicestershire. The King's remains were later found in Leicester and his tomb can be viewed at Leicester Cathedral.
- Leicestershire's Woolsthorpe Manor, the birthplace of Sir Isaac Newton, showcases the history of the scientists life. The highlight is being able to view the apple tree which allegedly inspired Newton's theory of gravity.
- The Workhouse in Southwell, Nottinghamshire is the best preserved institution of its kind in England. The attraction tells the sad story of how the poor and destitute suffered in the workhouses in Victorian Britain.
The region contains a number of well preserved stately homes that give visitors a glimpse of real-life Downton Abbey.
- Chatsworth House, Derbyshire - one of the most famous stately homes in England with a picturesque water feature in the grounds.
- Belton House, Lincolnshire - lauded as one of the best examples of an English country house. It includes formal gardens, woodland and a large adventure playground for children in the grounds.
- Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire - rebuilt in the 19th century in a gothic revival style, the castle has a central tower reminiscent of Windsor Castle and is home to the Dukes of Rutland.
- Althorp House, Northamptonshire - for over 500 years, Althorp House has been home to the Spencer family and is the resting place of Diana, Princess of Wales.
- National Space Centre, Leicester - fantastic museum dedicated to spaceflight and astronomy. Includes upright rocket exhibits and some of the only Soyuz spacecraft in the west.
- National Holocaust Centre and Museum, Newark - an interesting museum dedicated to the story of the holocaust.
- National Justice Museum, Nottingham - housed in the city's old courthouse and jail, visitors follow the path of convicts as they are put on 'trial' and sent to the cells! A unique and interactive insight into harsh Victorian justice.
- Twycross Zoo, Leicestershire - a large zoo, home to the largest collection of apes and monkeys in the western world.
- National Memorial Arboretum, Derbyshire - the UK's permanent memorial to the war dead in 150 acres of beautiful woodland.
- Football - Each of the region's four major cities have football teams playing in the English Football League. Leicester City FC compete in the Premier League, which they famously won as 5000-1 outsiders in 2016. Nottingham Forest FC has a rich history as European Champions in 1979 and 1980 but today they compete in the second tier of English football, along with Derby County FC. Notts County FC and Lincoln Town FC compete in the lower leagues. It is possible to get tickets to watch during the football season (September-May), although this is easier and cheaper for matches featuring lower league clubs.
- Cricket - Nottingham is home to the famous Trent Bridge cricket ground. Home to Nottinghamshire, who play there during the cricket season (April-September), the ground also regularly features international test matches played by the England national team.
- Rugby Union - Top-flight Premiership Rugby is played in Leicester (Leicester Tigers) and Northampton (Northampton Saints) from September-June.
- Tennis - A figure of the ATP Challenger Tour and the WTA World Tour, the Nottingham Open in June sees players compete on grass as part of the buildup to Wimbledon.
A region rich in beautiful outdoors landscapes and varied terrain, the East Midlands offers a range of options for hiking. A selection of options include:
- Peak District National Park. Offers a range of hikes and walks with stunning views for walkers of varing abilities. Popular starting points include the villages of Bakewell and Castleton. Mountain biking is also popular.
- Lincolnshire Wolds. An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the hills of the Wolds are popular with walkers. Many trails start in the town of Louth, including the 76 mile Lincs Wolds Way which takes in the best of the area.
- [dead link] The Viking Way. A 147 mile long trail which spans the length of the East Midlands, starting on the banks of the Humber in the north of Lincolnshire and ending at Rutland Water.
Theatre and concerts
- In the summer months, a number of stately country homes put on a range of evening outdoor concerts - including Belvoir Castle (Leicestershire), Burleigh House (Lincolnshire) and Holme Pierrepont Hall (Nottinghamshire).
- The major cities all have large theatres, which host performances throughout the year and all put on a traditional pantomime at Christmas. Nottingham's Theatre Royal and Playhouse in particular offer a range of renowned productions.
- The region includes a number of woodland and nature venues for cinema and theatre, offering a special way to experience productions. These include the Kilworth House Theatre (Leicestershire), Rutland Open Air Theatre (Rutland) and Kinema in the Woods (Lincolnshire).
Generally, the food available in the East Midlands is typical of food served across much of the UK with classic British fare available universally, alongside a myriad international and fusion options. However, the region is renowned for some of its local produce, which is exported across the world. Classics include:
- Melton Mowbray pork pies - chopped pork and pork fat, surrounded by a layer of jellied pork stock in a hot water crust pastry eaten cold. From Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire.
- Stilton cheese - produced in blue and white varieties. Can only be called Stilton if it is produced in Derbyshire, Leicestershire or Nottinghamshire.
- Red Leicester cheese - a reddish-orange cheese with a nutty taste from Leicestershire.
- Bakewell tart and Bakewell pudding - associated with the town of Bakewell, Derbyshire. Shortcrust pastry with layers of jam, frangipane and almond.
- Bramley apple - a cooking apple variety which originated in Southwell, Nottinghamshire.
- Lincolnshire sausage - a distinctive variety of pork sausage, which includes the herb sage.
Many towns still hold a weekly market and farmers markets are common across the region. These are a good place to buy local produce at reasonable prices, including many of the regional delicacies. Many of the dairies (such as Cropwell Bishop Creamery, based in Nottinghamshire) have online stores from which you can buy regional cheese directly.
Large towns and cities will contain the usual chain restaurants found across the rest of the UK but there will always be quality independent restaurants to discover as well and there are at least 5 Michelin Star restaurants in the region. Smaller towns might have a more limited range of restaurants available. In rural areas, traditional pubs now often offer food which is sometimes of very good quality and the venues are often attractive.
The large South Asian population in Leicester means that is has a great range of Indian restaurants and food quality vegetarian options are widespread in the city.
The East Midlands is dotted with numerous traditional pubs, particularly in rural areas. In some cases, these can be hundreds of years old and Nottingham is one of many cities which claims to be home to the country's oldest pub (Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem was allegedly established in 1189). As with anywhere in the UK, the quality of pubs can vary greatly with some being particularly unpleasant while others could be mistaken for posh restaurants at the other end of the spectrum. Locals should be able to provide you with advice on which pubs are the best nearby, although bear in mind that a good pub for one person might mean a quiet place to enjoy a pint with friends while someone else wouldn't be happy if there wasn't loud music and a big crowd.
Pubs will often serve some local beers brewed in the East Midlands. Real ale is brewed across the region and some brands are exported internationally. While lager will typically remain consistent in a pub, the real ale often changes and many establishments have a different 'guest ale' each month. You can often ask for a small taste of an ale before committing to buying a full pint.
Pubs in the region have improved their food offering and many offer a full menu. While the quality of pub food will vary, in many places the village pub might be the best place around for a meal. This can range from a simple menu offering sandwiches chips to meals that wouldn't go amiss in a high quality restaurant.
Bars and nightclubs can be found in the cities and large towns. Although the 'clubbing' scene in some towns will consist of some fairly low quality nightclubs, the major cities are destinations in themselves for a night out with dancing and drinks. Nottingham is a particularly well known destination for those looking to frequent nightclubs, which are in abundant supply due to the two large universities in the city.
- Continue your adventure through the Midlands with a trip to England's second city Birmingham and the West Midlands, home of Shakespeare. Direct trains to Birmingham are available regularly from each of the big East Midlands cities.
- Head north into Yorkshire, visiting Sheffield just over the border from Derbyshire or travel over the iconic Humber Bridge to Hull, the 2017 UK Capital of Culture.
- Direct trains to London mean that the capital is in easy reach for a day trip or to continue your travels.