Rufford Abbey, a crumbling monastery-turned-country-house, ended up being one of my favorite attractions in Nottinghamshire, and possibly in all of England. It used to be within what was officially considered Sherwood Forest (home of the Major Oak), but as the forest's land has been divided up it's now its own Rufford Abbey Country Park. It's not too far from where a major thoroughfare used to be in Medieval times, and it is believed that if Robin Hood truly existed he most likely would have taken shelter in the monastery when he passed through the area, as it was a popular place to spend the night out of harm's way.
I loved how when you first approach Rufford Abbey, it just looks like a beautiful country estate — especially if you come from the right side. But then you see how it's crumbling, and you can walk right through the entrance and stand where the great hall used to be. You can also walk down the stairs and around the back to see the intact chapel and the Cistercian monks' headquarters. These monks lived a very bleak life, as they were forbidden to speak or wear underwear.
As a bonus for visitors, Rufford Abbey Country Park's cafeteria-style Orangery serves great food. I had a Stilton-and-broccoli quiche that I really enjoyed. Certainly better food than what they ever served in the monastery!
Rufford Abbey is also said be one of the most haunted places in England, which is no easy feat as there seems to be a lot of angry ghosts roaming around the ancient buildings there. But that's a whole other post…
Comped but never compromised: I went on a complimentary press trip with Visit Britain, but I am free to write whatever I like.