The East Midlands area of England is often bypassed by time hungry tourists intent on hitting the big attractions. But if you want to discover England’s green and pleasant land full of history, heritage and beautiful architecture then a trip into the East Midlands should be right at the top of your itinerary.

Made up of the counties of Derby, Leicester, Lincoln and Nottingham, a well-planned itinerary can include everything from the natural beauty of the Fen country, the mountains of the Peak District, historic houses, museums, art galleries and a day in Robin Hood’s well,…hood.

Take a look at our hidden gems guide to the East Midlands and make sure you don’t miss out on these magical places.

Derby – Trams and Trees

When it comes to family holidays it can be difficult to keep everyone entertained but a trip to Derby will leave everyone satisfied. Kids of all ages will love a day at the Crich Tramway Village in the heart of Derbyshire and at the foot of the Peak District National Park. Here you’ll find the National Tramway Museum and a wonderfully recreated period village. There are unlimited tram rides on offer and a flexible family ticket covering two adults and up to three children costs £35 and can be used again anytime within 12 months.

If you have time to add in a visit to a stately home to your schedule then it has to be the magnificent Hardwick Hall. Built by Bess of Hardwick, a woman well ahead of her time, in the late 1500s and at a time when glass was prohibitively expensive it was known as ‘Hardwick Hall more glass than wall’. The hall was designed by English architect Robert Smythson and 2014 marks the 400th anniversary of his death. Celebrations include workshops, events, tours and talks all about Elizabethan life and architecture. So if you’ve ever fancied your hand at stone carving now’s your chance to have a go.

Leicester – Royalty and Rockets

The long lost grave of Richard III was discovered in Leicester in 2013. An exhibition outlining everything you ever wanted to know about the search for King Richard III and how it was that this royal found himself interred in a council car park is running at The Guildhall until 01 June 2014. You can also go on an audio tour, facial reconstruction tour and a guided walk.

If you are more interested in the future than the past you can always bypass long dead kings and head straight for the National Space Centre. A hugely inspirational attraction focused on all things intergalactic, the National Space Centre includes over 150 hands on challenges, six interactive galleries, the UK’s largest planetarium and that iconic rocket launch tower. The Brickish Association will be hosting a weekend of space themed LEGO creations from 10-11 May 2014.

Lincoln – Rediscover the forgotten county

Lincoln is quite different in character from the surrounding counties and is sometimes called ‘the forgotten county’ by locals. But don’t let this deter you from visiting because as well as being home to the charming and quintessentially English town of Stamford, this famously flat land is home to the Fens, one of England’s most astonishing medieval cathedrals and the bright lights of Skegness.

If you only visit one small town on your trip make it Stamford. This gorgeous town has maintained its historic character allowing you to wander from timber-framed pubs with lashings of period atmosphere through unspoilt cobbled streets and on to pretty country walks with nary a glance at the 21st century.

Nottingham – Brave Sir Robin and the caves

Nottingham is of course famous for being the home of Robin Hood and his band of merry men who made their home in Sherwood Forest. Today you can still visit the forest and places related to the stories like Nottingham Castle where the Sherriff hung out plotting Robin’s demise – well, according to legend that is.

Nottingham is also famous for its City of Caves under the streets of the city of Nottingham. These sandstone caves date back to the Dark Ages and were used right up until the 1940s for everything from homes to pubs, factories and even air raid shelters. The whole family can go on a tour of the caves with guides in character as friendly archaeologists – so no spooky ghosts to worry about down here.

Located in the heart of the region on the M1 providing easy access to surrounding towns including Nottingham, Derby and Leicester Radisson Blu Hotel, East Midlands Airport is the perfect base from which to explore.

Which of the Merry Men is your favourite?