Oo-de-lally! That was our battle cry as we entered Sherwood Forest for the Robin Hood Festival, still fresh off rewatching Disney’s Robin Hood for the zillionth time on the drive up. If you haven’t seen Disney’s animated take on Robin Hood the fox and Maid Marian the vixen, you’re missing out. My kids were a little bit confused when Little John wasn’t a giant bear, but they readily accepted that Robin Hood was actually a human as we entered the forest.
We had arrived at noon on a Wednesday for the weeklong festival. Luckily, we found parking in the last row of their final overflow lot. I had anticipated it would be this full on the weekend, but not on a weekday. We knew the times of the shows and performances from the website, but I hadn’t been prepared for the sheer size of the event. We were in a forest after all… If the full parking lots weren’t indication enough, the festival was PACKED. We slowly made our way towards the Visitor Centre to find food and buy the kids Robin Hood hats. Jesters were performing in the center court, but it was nearly impossible to watch with so many people standing around.
We got our food and waited in an endless line for the women’s toilets. Then we set off towards the Major Oak to find a place to set up our picnic blanket and enjoy our lunch.
The ten-minute walk through the forest was magical. We separated from the huge crowds and passed booths where artisans taught passersby their craft within the context of the medieval time period. With limited time until we needed to make it back towards the arena for the jousting event, we continued on our way.
We passed Robin Hood and Maid Marian along the path and a costumed minstrel made my daughter beam when he bowed and referred to her as “your majesty” in reference to her princess attire. My kids were eating it up. In addition to the Robin Hood hats, I’d also been persuaded to purchase two toy bows and arrows. Little eating was done as my kids frolicked around our forest picnic attempting to use their bows.
By the time we arrived at the arena, there was no area to be found with a view of the show. Tired of attempting to watch from my shoulders, my kids happily chose to play on a hill and occasionally peer over at the jousting happening in the arena. They’d boo with the crowd at the Sheriff of Nottingham and chant Robin’s name, but they quickly lost interest in following the performance. The older kids in the audience, however, were mesmerized.
The jousting lasted nearly an hour and, to our surprise, most people began leaving afterward. Not wanting to get stuck in the parking lot forever, we opted to circle around the event areas another time. Best decision ever. This was how the festival was meant to be enjoyed.
We sat in the grass just a few rows back from a lively magician performance. For just £3 my five-year-old got an individual archery lesson followed by a chance to practice her new skills. My three-year-old shot a crossbow at a dragon at another booth.
They ran through the forest paths with their bow and sword looking for the evil Prince John. They even threw giant rats through a large post. I kid you not. There was a medieval rat thrower leading the game. It was awesome.
There were carnival rides set up behind the arena, but we chose to avoid those and enjoy the forest activities. The kids had a blast. There wasn’t a ton for young children to do, but they enjoyed having the freedom to run around and play once the crowds had thinned. Attending the festival meant a total of four hours in the car, so I’m not sure it’s an event we’d do every year, but it certainly was a memorable experience. I mean, how many people can say they’ve attended a Robin Hood Festival in THE Sherwood Forest? Exactly.