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Rutland Flag

As England’s smallest independent county at a mere 18 miles long and 17 miles wide, Rutland may also be one of England’s less-visited counties. However this quiet, landlocked region in the East Midlands offers a huge amount to do and lots to see away from the crowds, and certainly lives up to its official motto of ‘Much in little’.

Days out in Rutland

The landscape of Rutland is distinctly rural and gives locals and visitors the ideal opportunity to relax and unwind in its open countryside. While peppered with smaller villages in its compact land area, there are only two towns, the county town of Oakham and the market town of Uppingham. Despite its size, Rutland can still offer some cracking days out and places to visit.

Oakham is home to the 12th-century, Grade I listed, Oakham Castle. It’s not a castle in the traditional sense, but actually the restored Great Hall of the original, large manor house that once stood here. Frequently used as a wedding and civil service venue, Oakham Castle is famed for its exceptional Norman architecture and provides a fascinating look into this historically significant site. Look out for the display of over 200 horseshoes on the east wall, including some that are over 500 years old.

Just a few yards away, the octagonal Butter Cross and stocks is another Grade I listed, historic building that leads to the old open-air marketplace. The nearby Rutland County Museum houses a collection of some 11,000 objects from local archaeology digs in and around Rutland. It’s well worth a visit to discover more about the county’s history.

Outside the town centre, Oakham is well served with nature and outdoor space. The Gorse Field Nature Reserve is a wonderful area of woodland and open grassland covering 33 acres. It’s a perfect place to take in the surrounding nature and wildlife, plus some great views. Six miles south, the smaller market town of Uppingham is a charming place. Steeped in history, you can spend hours exploring its boutiques, antique shops, art galleries, and weekly market.

The picturesque village of Lyddington is the site of the 12th-century Lyddington Bede House – a Grade I listed building and former Bishop’s palace. Normanton Church is an impressive Rutland icon on a causeway overlooking Rutland Water. In Cottesmore, near Ashwell, the Rocks By Rail Museum covers 19-acres of quarry land, railway tracks, and nature trails – an ideal attraction for locomotive enthusiasts.

But perhaps the jewel in Rutland’s crown is Rutland Water. A man made reservoir – one of the largest in Europe – in the centre of Rutland and set in 3,000 acres of open countryside, it’s a paradise for activities on and around the water. You can walk or cycle its 17-mile perimeter, taking in the magnificent wildlife and views or take to the water with a range of sailing activities and watersports.

Topography, geology, and climate

The relatively small size of Rutland shows a county of two halves in terms of soil types, and its land qualities show a variety of moderate to high fertility levels.

On the west of the county, soil types are largely seasonally wet, base-rich, but mildly acidic loam and clay. There are, however, several pockets of highly fertile lime-rich loam and clay alongside free-draining loam. The east tells a different story and is predominantly made up of free-draining, lime-rich, loamy soils, with patches of base-rich, but mildly acidic loam and clay.

With a temperate maritime climate, Rutland is well-positioned to escape any extreme weather, hot or cold. With summer temperatures peaking at around 21ºC (70ºF), temperatures across the winter months average at just above 1ºC (33ºF). Rutland’s annual rainfall across the county stands at around 600mm (24”).

Rutland’s parks and gardens

With Rutland’s small footprint, parks and gardens in the county are in relatively short supply. However, alongside Rutland’s most famous garden attractions, there are several gardens of interest just a stone's throw beyond the county lines that offer colour and interest all year round.

Barnsdale Gardens, just east of Oakham, are an inspiration for all gardeners and horticulturalists. Covering just 8 acres, Barnsdale squeezes in a wonderful 38 individual gardens and has been called “a theme park for gardeners”!

Created by former Gardener’s World presenter, Geoff Hamilton, and used as the show’s base, Barnsdale is something special and features plenty of inspirational highlights. With most gardens being the size of a typical house garden, there’s much to explore in each space without feeling overwhelmed, all giving you the inspiration you need for your own garden.

Over a visit of several hours, don’t miss the Rose garden with over 50 varieties to fill up your senses, the Country garden with its woodland walk, herb garden, and herbaceous border, Versailles with its formal design and stunning borders, and the First Time garden, designed to help novice gardeners with what to plant and where to plant it.

Clipsham Yew Tree Avenue and Wood near Stretton is part of the wider Clipsham Park. The avenue itself is over 200 years old, measures 500 metres long, and was once used as the main carriageway to Clipsham Hall. Containing more than 150 Yew trees, all clipped and trimmed into shapes, objects, and animals for added interest, the area is a peaceful retreat, perfect for walking and exploring.

Just across the northern border into Lincolnshire, you’ll find Easton Walled Gardens. Set in 12 acres, the peaceful gardens include a range of different areas. Highlights include the Meadows, a two acre space dedicated to different meadow styles filled with spring bulbs and summer scent and colour. You’ll find the bright and seasonal Velvet Border, the White Space garden with contemporary displays, lawns and borders, and the Cottage garden filled with raised beds and a tranquil water feature.

Across the southern border into Northamptonshire, Deene Park near Corby features a wonderful set of formal gardens inside the grounds of a historic country manor house. There’s lots to explore across several gardens, including the Golden garden with perennial aconites, irises, and crocosmia, the Rose garden with many varieties providing rich colour and scent across the summer, and the box hedge parterre with geraniums, nepeta, and salvias as well as four topiary teapots. There are also acres of parkland estate to enjoy with walking routes, footpaths, and bridleways.