Castle Donington : The Hidden Gem of the East Midlands

Photo by Thierry Maffeis/

Castle Donington : The Hidden Gem of the East Midlands

Castle Donington is a small country village in Leicestershire and arguably among the most well-known area in the East Midlands. The small town is a lovely mix of the old and new which makes it a lovely place to visit and explore. There are numerous iconic historical buildings that tell the history of the area such as the Elvaston Castle and Donington Hall. The small town is, however, best known for its race circuit and for being the venue of the annual Download Festival. The town’s rich history and natural beauty coupled with its role as a host city for a variety of events make it a lively and charming town to visit all year round.

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Castle Donington : The Hidden Gem of the East Midlands

1. East Midlands Aeropark

The East Midlands Aeropark is among the most fascinating places to visit while in Castle Donington. The Aeropark boasts of an intriguing collection of well-preserved aircraft making it a lovely place to learn about the history of aviation not only in the region but also the country at large. As well as the outdoor exhibits there are other aircraft under restoration granting visitors an insider look into the restoration process. Adjacent to the aeropark is the region’s international airport where visitors get spectacular views of take-offs and landings from two viewing mounds within the park. The views are stunning and unobstructed making it a lovely relaxation spot as well as photographing location.

2. Donington Park

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Donington Park was among the first road circuits to be built in the United Kingdom and is also the oldest in operation. The circuit was once part of the Donington Hall Estate before staging races from the 1930s. During the Second World War, the circuit and the entire estate was requisitioned for the war effort becoming a critical storage area for the military. After the war, various hindrances hampered the resumption of racing until the late 1970s when the park was bought and redeveloped by Frederic Bernard Wheatcroft. The circuit has since then been the home of racing in the north hosting both motorcycle and car races every fortnight or so. It is also the venue of the Download Festival, a popular annual rock festival that attracts scores of rock lovers to the area for a weekend of awesome music.

3. Castle Donington Museum

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Castle Donington Museum is located at the heart of the village in a 17th Century stone building originally used as a farm. It is aptly described as a village museum and tells the history of the area through its artifacts and exhibitions. There are two main display rooms; a reception area with information and displays on the village and an exhibition room that houses its annual exhibitions. Outside is a wonderful garden with a small display of artifacts. There is also an interactive computer room where visitors are able to learn the history of the area through visual displays. This small museum is the best place to learn about the area as you embark on your tour. It offers free admission and parking making it a must visit

4. Tarpey Gallery

The Tarpey Gallery was opened in 2009 and has since then become the premier destination for art lovers in Castle Donington. The gallery showcases artwork by leading regional and international artists in different disciplines. It is located in an equally distinctive thatched cottage that was once a barn surrounded by beautiful gardens and farmland. The gallery has four main exhibition spaces with the main exhibition gallery on the ground floor. The upstairs galleries feature a rotating collection of celebrated works by renowned artists. The gallery has a diverse range of artwork including sculptures, photographs, print, and paintings. There is always something new and intriguing at the gallery courtesy of its permanent and temporary exhibits making it a treasured landmark as well as an awesome place to discover and purchase iconic artwork.

5. Calke Abbey

Photo by Simon Annable/

Calke Abbey is a magnificent country home and estate located in the nearby village of Ticknall. It rose to prominence in the 1980s when its poor state of decay was documented. This led to the formulation of better ways to manage and preserve iconic buildings and estates to avert similar situations. Even so, the estate stands out among the great houses of the United Kingdom having been preserved in its rundown state. The house has a remarkable collection including the iconic state bed, clothes, toys, portraits, silver, books, and a taxidermy collection. The surrounding trees and parklands are a wildlife sanctuary home to a wide variety of fungi and insects adding to the allure of the estate.

6. Staunton Harold Reservoir

The Staunton Harold Reservoir is located in Derbyshire, England and was built in 1964 to provide water for the neighboring towns and villages. The reservoir is huge and although no villages were lost in its construction, several iconic farms were submerged and lie below its surface. It is under the management of Severn Trent Water and is an ideal location for watersports while in the region. Swimming is not advised as the waters are deep however you can go sailing courtesy of the Staunton Harold Sailing Club located alongside the reservoir. The reservoir is home to an abundance of wildlife especially in the Dimminsdale Nature Reserve and Spring Wood Nature Reserves making it the perfect location for an outdoor adventure with family and friends.

7. Attenborough Nature Center

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The Attenborough Nature Center is a fantastic nature reserve located in the outskirts of the Nottingham city center. The reserve covers over 140 hectares of grassland, wetland, scrub, and a lake. The reserve was opened in 1966 by renowned naturalist and nature broadcaster David Attenborough who also opened the Nature Center upon its completion in 2005. The center is managed by the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust and acts as a refreshment point, shop, car park, and as an educational facility for the reserve. There are numerous nature trails and wildlife walks aiding visitors in the exploration of the beautiful eco-park. The center also runs various hands-on educational programs for various age-groups making it a lovely place to visit with your family and friends alike. There are also live cameras bringing you the up-close action of bird nests as well as other wildlife making it a perfect eco-tourism destination.

8. Whatton House and Gardens

Whatton House was built in 1802 for Edward Dawson who sold it to the first Lord Crawshaw when he moved to Launde Abbey with his family. Not long after a fire disaster struck and the house underwent an extensive restoration build in 1876. It has been occupied by several generations of the Crawshaws and remains their family home. It also temporarily served as a maternity hospital during the Second World War and over two thousand babies were born during that period. The house is not open to the public but the exquisite gardens are, and what a sight they are. Covering over 15 acres, the gardens are peaceful, stunning, and colorful through all seasons. The gardens offer an ideal setting for a private gathering as well as a romantic outing.

9. Elvaston Castle Country Park

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Elvaston Castle Country Park is a fantastic country estate that lies on 320 acres in Derbyshire. The iconic country home was designed by the renowned British architect James Wyatt in the early 17th Century and is one of the finest examples of the Gothic Revival architectural style. Its well-manicured gardens are magnificent and the best example of topiary in the world. Both the house and the gardens are registered nationally due to their historical and architectural significance. There is a children’s play area, a lake, and a nature reserve within the estate making it the perfect destination for a family outing. The estate also hosts weddings as well as many festivals adding to its attractiveness. With many pathways and lots of areas to discover, it wows and entertains all in one go.

◎ Closing

While looking for a fun place for a getaway, you can do no better than Castle Donington. Whether you are looking to relax, play, explore, or meet new people Castle Donington has got you covered. Visit the fortnight farmer’s market at the Castle Donington Community Hub or the annual May Medieval Market and sample the best of the region’s produce and goods as you interact with the friendly locals. There are also several iconic shops as well as renowned outlets making it a lovely shopping destination. Plan your visit and enjoy the charming nature of this beautiful town.




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