I was invited to visit Rutland for a midweek break and having never heard of the county, let alone visited, I jumped at the chance.
Whilst Rutland is the smallest of England’s counties, it could be argued it is also the prettiest, and as my friend and I made our way through the rolling green countryside we were left in little doubt that this would be the perfect escape from city life for a few days.
Our first day in Rutland proved to be a quintessentially English affair, our first port of call
being Barnsdale Gardens (barnsdalegardens.co.uk) in the quaint town of Oakham. Barnsdale is home to 38 pocket sized, themed garden ‘rooms’ with different styles and planting themes. I am not green fingered in the slightest but I couldn’t help but be inspired by the abundance of colour and cascading blooms all around us. As we wandered through the rose garden, cottage garden, herb garden and my particular favourite, the formal pool and knot garden, a large water feature garden with cast bronze statue fountains and a mass of scarlet roses, I was rather awe inspired.
Finishing off our visit in the tearooms, we enjoyed a delicious lunch overlooking the gardens with a glass of wine – all rather decadent! Barnsdale gardens is a wonderful way to spend a few hours relaxing and whether you are a keen gardener, looking for inspration, or maybe just admiring the view, I would recommend a visit.
Next we headed for our hotel in Uppingham, a beautiful and distinctly charming market town and our home for the next couple of days. The Falcon Hotel (falcon-hotel.co.uk), is a stunning 16th Century coaching inn that is situated in the pride of Uppingham’s historic Market Place. Our room was beautiful and huge! Furnished in subtle plaids, traditional in style but with contemporary facilities, The Falcon has an air of luxury whilst remaining a comfortable home from home.
Next stop on our whistle stop tour was Barnsdale Lodge (barnsdalelodge.co.uk) and we were really in for a treat. Steeped in over 250 years of history and enjoying a reputation for excellent dining, we had been invited to enjoy afternoon tea in the maginficent gardens. I know
afternoon tea has been a bit of a thing for the last couple of years, but honestly, this was something else. No curly sandwiches or stale scones here. Everything was absolutely delightful and appeared like it had been staged for a glossy magazine! A delicate selection of tasty sandwiches and indulgent sweet treats, my favourite being the rhubarb! You can take the girl out of Yorkshire….
I imagine that this hotel would be the most beautiful backdrop for a wedding – so if you are searching for a venue, it’s a mere two hour drive from Leeds.
We were also treated to ‘A gentleman’s tea’ which was belting. A minature burger, pork pie and black pudding pasty served with, pickle, fries and a pint of beer (which we swapped for a glass of wine). Now I like a cake, but this was more my kind of thing!
It was fantastic to speak with MD, Edward Burrows after dining, who told us a little of the history of Barnsdale Lodge. His passion for Rutland was infectious and although it seems that the county is relatively undiscovered, it’s certainly treasured by a lucky few.
In the evening we were invited to attend a cookery class with highly experienced chef Robin Stewart. Based just outside Oakham in purpose built kitchens, Rutland Cookery School (rutlandcookeryschool.co.uk) caters for all levels of ability and offers an array of courses from bread making to vegetarian, knife skills to patisserie, and Classic British to South East Asian.
Robin is passionate about great tasting food using good quality ingredients and loves nothing more than to help others develop skills in the kitchen, passing on tips, techniques, short cuts and insights which he has learned during his 25 year career working in some of the world’s top 5* kitchens including the Dorchester and Connaught Hotels in London, Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland, Kulm Hotel in Switzerland, and the Regent Hotel in Sidney.
The Falcon made a more than comfortable haven for the night as we relaxed before our 2nd day of adventure. After a toothsome breakfast we were back on the road and heading for market day in the county town on Rutland, Oakham, which boasts its own food and drink festival, a pure classic Italian cars and food market and festival with the arts. We meandered through the streets
admiring the the history of the town by walking the heritage trail – highly recommended, and also obviously, a spot of shopping. Check out Mill street for an eclectic collection of boutiques, or pick up a bargain in the towns market – market days are Wednesdays and Saturdays and every 3rd Saturday there is a farmers market.
One cannot visit Rutland without mentioning Rutland Water – the playground of the East Midlands with Water Sports, Nature Reserves, Outdoor Adventure Centre, Cycling & Walking facilities. Hiring a bike or an electric bike being one of the most enjoybale ways to take in the spectacular scenery. Rutland cycling (rutlandcycling.co.uk) offer cycle hire (passport required to hire electric bikes) and can advise of route options. Rutland water is set in 3100 acres of countryside making it one of the largest man made reservoirs in Europe so you can choose to make a day of it if you so wish, and if you get the weather then take it from me, it is absolutely enchanting.
It also happens to be home to Aqua Park Rutland, (Aquaparkrutland.co.uk) a floating inflatable assault course with climbing walls, trampolines. rockers, rollers and the UK’s biggest slides! For the adrenaline junkies among us this is a cracking way to spend a few hours.
Our last evening was spent in the The Lake Isle restaurant with rooms (www.lakeisle.co.uk) where we had dinner reservations.
A five minute walk from our hotel, and we were enjoying an aperitif or two before what turned out to be of the standout highlights of the trip. The food here is unbelievebly good with locally sourced and seasonal produce being the mainstay of their success along with excellent service and a true knowledge of food and wine.
On a parting note, Rutland’s county motto is ‘Multum in Parvo’ meaning much in little, which both my guest and I had found to be true, so much so that I have actually booked a return visit to have a drink with my new friends at The Vaults in Uppingham, a charming local hostilery where vistors and locals alike gather. See you in August folks!
Visit www.discoverrutland.co.uk for further information, places to stay and visitor attractions. Tell them I sent you…