The East Midlands is a central region of England dominated by the old cities of Nottingham, Derby and Leicester. This is Midlands not just in name, as Leicester is the farthest city away from any shoreline in Britain. Nottingham brings to mind visions of an evil sheriff and the legend that tells of his do-gooder counterpart, Robin Hood, with many famous sites in the area. Derby is also an historical hub and gateway to the Peak District, England’s most popular national park. Road access to all these places is straightforward, using the M1 motorway as your spine for touring the area.
Who to Book With
There are several hundred car rental agencies, including top companies such as Avis, Europcar, and Hertz, located all over the East Midlands region. There are plenty of locations in Derby, Leicester and Nottingham, as well as at East Midlands Airport, which lies in the middle of all three cities. To identify your most convenient location for pick up, search and book online before arrival.
Best Time to go
The East Midlands is a year-round destination, but if you are visiting nature areas like the Peak District or Sherwood Forest, the barren winter is best avoided. For better weather, go during spring or summer, although do expect more tourists at this time, particularly during school holidays.
Need to Know Essentials
To pick up your rental car, you must provide the following documents:
- A an EU or international driving license valid for the UK
- Photo ID, such as a passport, alongside your licence
- Details of the credit card used to make the booking
- Confirmation of your booking
For more info read our FAQ's.
Getting around the East Midlands by car is convenient using the two major north-south roads of the A1 and the M1. The A1 is built to motorway standard, although the M1 is the most useful. Also cutting east-west through the East Midlands is the motorway-grade A14 trunk road.
Derby, Leicester and Nottingham are all within a couple of miles of the M1. Each of these cities has an inner ring road, making navigation easy. Car parks are well signposted on entering the cities and are mostly located close to tourist sites or retail areas.
Getting into the Peak District is very easy; the usual way from the East Midlands is to take the A6 north of Derby that will take you right into the heart of the park, although there are several other routes in and out. Sherwood Forest can be reached by access roads off the A614.
See our guide to the UK for more information on driving here.
Derby, Leicester and Nottingham are crisscrossed by a useful rail and road network. Fares are reasonable, especially with the ‘plus bus’ ticket, which combines rail and bus journeys into a single low cost price and can also be used on the urban tram system in Nottingham.
Leicester has the advantageous position of being connected to Nottingham and Derby via the national rail network. The maximum journey time between Leicester and Nottingham is 30 minutes, and about the same to Derby. To get between Derby and Nottingham, you need to take a local bus, a journey of about 40 minutes. See Traveline for details.
Buses and Trams
All the urban areas, and also a lot of rural areas, are well served by buses. Nottingham also has a modern tram system, which the city is extremely proud of, offering a very convenient way of getting around. Traveline has a journey planner for all public transport options in the East Midlands region.
You will have no trouble getting a minicab in Derby, Leicester or Nottingham and surrounds, including airport transfers. In Derby, you can call Click-a-Cab on 01332 960014. In Leicester A B C Taxis is best, on 0116 255 5111, and Nottingham, call D G Cars on 0115 960 7607. In Nottingham, there are also traditional Black Cabs available that you can hail, which run on a meter.
The East Midlands is home to England’s best-loved park, the Peak District. Favoured by climbers and hikers, its accessibility, as well as its sheer natural beauty, makes it a hit with visitors from all over the country. Sherwood Forest is an ancient wooded area of Britain steeped in history because of its most famous temporary inhabitant, Robin Hood. It is easily accessed from anywhere in the East Midlands. The history does not stop there, since you can visit Melton Mowbray, the picturesque home of England’s best loved picnic food, the Pork Pie.
The Peak District - This is Britain’s second-oldest national park after the Lake District in the north. With stunning craggy peaks, great hiking trails and a central location, it is no wonder that this protected area is Britain’s most popular park. Access is easy from Derby when following the A6 into the heart of the park. There are also several other main roads in and out of the Peak District.
Sherwood Forest - You can get a feel for the legend of Robin Hood by taking a drive to Sherwood Forest. Located close to Nottingham, you can combine your walk in the woods and visit to the information centre with a trip to the Castle in the city. Here, you can learn more about the tale of the famous man in tights who stole from the rich to give to the poor.
Melton Mowbray - This is the home of the great pork pie, a favourite British snack along with cucumber sandwiches and afternoon tea. To get a sense of merry old England, visit Melton Mowbray by heading up the A607 from Leicester or the A606 from Nottingham. The drive takes about 30 minutes from either city.