‘We visited this iconic landmark in the early hours of New Year’s Day 2024,’ wrote Robert.
‘As always, it didn’t fail to impress. The neon lights and street lighting made haunting shadows on the road and the light rain only added to the ambience.
‘It is a truly magical place and one can only stand in awe at the architectural genius.’
This is the only review Robert has written for TripAdvisor, a platform that allows people to review local attractions and recommend their top picks for things to do.
But Robert wasn’t describing London’s Big Ben, Paris’ Eiffel Tower or New York City’s Times Square.
No, he was talking about the ‘NatWest Hole’, a literal hole in the wall by a branch of the bank in Ilkeston that is the town’s number one thing to do, according to 143 TripAdvisor users.
Top five things to do in Ilkeston
According to countless TripAdvisor rankings – which the company then combs through to check for quality, quantity and consistency – these are the top attractions in Ilkeston.
1. NatWest Hole
Well, you’re reading a story all about it, after all.
2. Erewash Museum
With a four-and-a-half star rating, the museum offers exhibitions on World War Two and the Stanton Ironworks, an ironmonger once a bedrock of the town’s economy.
3. Bennerly Viaduct
Stretching 400 metres through the East Midlands, the foot and cycle bridge was described by one TripAdvisor reviewer as a ‘major achievement of Victorian engineering’.
4. Straws Bridge
Sat on the border of Ilkeston and West Hallam, Straws Bridge is, according to its website, ‘a beautiful nature reserve comprising three lakes and has picnic tables and a free car park’.
5. Victoria Park
The green space just north of the town centre has been rated four-and-a-half starts by locals, with its flower beds, picnic areas and ‘lots of bins’ being earning heaps of praise.
The wall on Bath Street was built during a 1990s refurbishment so people using the ATM could see if anyone was standing on the other side eyeing up their PIN.
Since 2018, the some 38,000 people in Ilkeston, a former coal mining town in Derbyshire, have come together to flood the hole’s TripAdvisor page with five-star reviews.
Popular mentions include, among other things: ‘Buckingham Palace,’ ‘unforgettable experience,’ ‘hidden gem’ and, of course, ‘wall’.
With so many raving reviews, the hole is the number one tourist hotspot in Ilkeston, beating the Erewash Museum and Bennerly Viaduct.
TripAdvisor even had to briefly suspend the tongue-in-cheek posts in 2020 after an ‘influx of review submissions that do not describe a first-hand experience’.
On a recent solo trip to the NatWest Hole, user Sunshine67605635779 was floored by what she saw.
‘A truly remarkable experience, architecture that would grace the palace of Versailles let alone Ilkeston,’ she wrote.
Top five places to eat in Ilkeston
Family-owned restaurants and hole-in-the-wall takeouts (no, not the NatWest Hole) make up Ilkeston’s food and drinks scene.
For TripAdvisor foodies, it seems good old-fashioned British food is mainly on their menu.
However, when searching for top restaurants in the town, a few come up that are actually in nearby villages, such as Stanton-on-Dale or Kirk Hallam.
1. The Durham Ox
A Trip Advisor Travellers’ Choice in 2021, the bar on Durham Street was once used as the town’s jail – complete with secret tunnels to take prisoners to the local church to be tried for their crimes.
2. Emma’s Thai
As one user put it: ‘I’ve lost count how many times I have visited this restaurant and yet again we have had an excellent meal prepared by Emma.’
3. Kitchen HQ
Simply put: ‘Sunday Dinner of Hangover Dreams.’
4. The Burnt Pig
The pub on Market Place boasts a five-star rating on the platform for being a ‘beer lover’s paradise’.
5. Sir John Warren
Another spot on Market Place, the Green King pub is apparently where a lot of people bring their mums, with ‘my mum’ being one of the top mentions.
Disco F, who swung by the hole last September, said in his more than 350-word review: ‘Picture, if you will, a sojourn to the Great Wall of China, an awe-inspiring marvel to be sure. Yet, the Nat West Hole affords a narrative equally enthralling!
‘As you draw nigh, an air of palpable anticipation envelops you. Will it be in operation this day? Will the queue be an arduous affair or a fleeting respite?
‘These mysteries, akin to the enigma of an ancient scroll, are unravelled at the Nat West Hole.’
Though, with the bar so high, it’s hard to blame some users for poking holes in the hole’s reputation.
‘What is going on here, a round hole in a wall which is part of the NatWest branch next to a cash machine,’ wrote John in 2019.
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