The Lost Caves: Nottingham's Hidden Gem
The Lost Caves Bar, located 8 metres beneath the historic streets of Hockley, Nottingham, is a hidden gem if ever we’ve written about one! Hollowed out of the soft sandstone upon which Nottingham resides, the Lost Caves Bar is part of a network of caves that have existed for over 200 years. But the £50,000 underground addition to the city’s vibrant bar scene has remained notoriously hard to find since its opening, until now.
Read on to uncover the lost bar’s entry point!
Beneath the Streets of Nottingham
The Lost Caves Bar is one of around 800 caves, tunnels, and passages that lurk beneath Nottingham, with more being discovered each year. As a twisting and turning labyrinth that opens into one of the larger caves in the system, the bar offers a glimpse into the city's subterranean history. This history dates back as far as the mediaeval era. The oldest recorded name for Nottingham is ‘Tigguo Cobauc’, which, roughly translated from ancient British English, means ‘Place of Caves’.
Initially, the caves served as homes, providing shelter to Nottingham’s early inhabitants. As the centuries unfolded, they found purpose as tanneries, breweries, prisons and dungeons, storerooms, and even as hiding places for persecuted religious groups. During World War II, these timeless underground chambers were transformed into air raid shelters, offering safety to the city's residents during times of peril.
Today, the cocktail bar, Lost Caves, is a great way to see the caves as a tourist – as a local there’s probably a passageway leading off your basement – but there is also the Trip to Jerusalem pub, reputed as the oldest in England. These establishments, among countless others, demonstrate the continued evolution of the cave's functions and how they mirrored the needs of people at the time.
Creating the Lost Caves Bar
“I am always very keen for caves to be brought back into use, and frequently work with cave owners to help make this possible. It is important that caves are brought back into use where it is safe to do so and where the use of the caves does not cause harm to the cave. I have always said that the best way to protect caves is to make use of them but sometimes a lot of work is needed to make sure caves are safe to be used.”
In the 1990s the cave system suffered significant rockfall, so major reconstruction had to be undertaken to make it safe for the public to enter. Concrete was used to level the uneven surface and ventilation and emergency lighting systems were installed. With its fair share of paperwork, safe access routes, and emergency exits, the Lost Caves Bar is as safe as your average over ground bar!
“It’s been a huge task. It was a long bricked-up tunnel but behind the brickwork was another cave and we found more as we went along… There were 600 bags of rubble from the old brickwork.”
Now some of these bricks have been used to build the new bar and, where once perched barrels of beer on the rock-cut ledging, you’ll find heaps of cushions and customers ready and waiting to sample the menu. The dim, colour-changing lighting and a host of other unusual curiosities – lavish chandeliers, candlelit alcoves, stalactites, ivy-clad corners, and stuffed animals – renders the bar as moody and atmospheric as you might expect.
Fun for all Occasions
“There’s a real intimacy so it feels really special.”
Due to its layout and design, the bar has become renowned for its versatility. It offers an array of settings, from intimate corners for a romantic evening to spacious areas for larger gatherings. It's the perfect place for a quiet drink with friends, a memorable date night, or a lively celebration.
Drinking at Lost Caves
Of course, no reputable bar would be complete without an impressive selection of libations, and the Lost Caves does not disappoint. The bar boasts an array of craft beers, fine wines, and a cocktail menu that features both classics and inventive concoctions. Despite all these temptations, the bar’s true speciality is gin and it has an impressive 28 different varieties to choose from. Served in ice cold glasses, the juniper derived liquor is paired carefully with a suitable garnish and tonic – all suited to the gin in question.
To properly treat yourselves, why not attend one of their gin parties? They make the perfect work party, seasonal do, or birthday/hen celebration.
Entertainment in the Bar
As well as hosting their own parties, the Lost Caves Bar is happy for you to hire out the venue, and take the party to them! They offer a bespoke buffet and drinks package and even boast that the cave provides sensational acoustics, so live music acts and DJs are also optional.
If you do not wish to hire your own entertainment then keep an eye on their social media pages to find out when they are putting on live music events themselves. From local bands to DJs and special themed events, there's always something exciting happening underground. It's a venue that showcases both emerging talent and established performers.
Accessing the Lost Caves Bar
The Lost Caves Bar, lies beneath the Mercure Hotel, the oldest hotel in England. Part of the access process includes venturing down a dark and uninviting alley, seeking out the correct door (it's heavily disguised but keep an eye out for a polished brass skull handle!), and being led down the rock-cut steps into the depths, by escort. The experience is reminiscent of a visit to a prohibition bar.
The Lost Caves is not just a bar; it's an adventure waiting to be explored. When you visit Nottingham, take a step back in time and go for a drink at this captivating underworld. It's an experience that combines history, mystery, and merriment, all under the city's ancient streets. Once you venture underground, you'll undoubtedly find it a captivating journey through time and tradition and be counting the days until you can return!
Interested in finding more places like this? Try one of our Treasure Trails in Nottingham - untangle cryptic clues as a team, as you are taken on a journey to the most unique, unusual and bizarre corners of York.