Rutland: the Smallest County

In continuing our focus on British Tourism Week, the smallest county in England, Rutland, is lucky to have one of the best waterside areas, Rutland Water. Apart from sailing, boating or fishing there is a popular pastime in walking and cycling around. This week there is a discount off bicycle hire. Strange to think that Rutland Water is only about 30 years old and that it is man-made. What life was like in the villages that disappeared can be found in the Normanton Church Museum.

Like a lot of other local tourist destinations, there is also a free offer just for residents. Barnsdale Gardens (they were the ones developed and featured by Geoff Hamilton on BBC’s Gardeners’ World) are open to locals for no cost this week (www.barnsdalegardens.co.uk).

Rutland is one of those places that is avoids bustle. The county only has a population of about 35,000 yet 1,600,000, visitors come each year to see the 152 square miles. So what do they come to see other than Rutland Water? The peace and quiet? Even the bigger villages like Oakham (the county town) and Uppingham only display a hurriedness in the rush hours. Best seen on foot or bicycle to best advantage, this is one county which is a favourite with Londoners looking for a weekend retreat. Oakham is the current holder of a Britain in Bloom award and, in a few weeks time, as this long winter ends, the spring flowers will be quite a sight.

At one of the very smallest of Rutland villages, Stoke Dry, the Gunpowder Plot was supposedly hatched. Is it true? All that is really known was that Everard Digby, one of the conspirators who was hung drawn and quartered was born and lived there. For a village of this size it also has one other historical appeal. In the Digby chapel, there are some murals that have been dated to the 1280’s which seem to show native Americans some 200 years before Columbus got to Peurto Rico.

Now that more and more short breaks are appealing to us, Rutland is one of those places conveniently situated for just about anyone in England to visit. See www.discover-rutland.co.uk

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