Much in little: Rutland, Britain’s smallest county


Cocooned by Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire, the UK’s smallest county – Rutland – has a beauty and quaintness, which means there is plenty to offer visitors.

Its motto multum in parvo or ‘much in little’ was adopted by Rutland County Council in 1950 and is perfectly fitting, given the volume of historic castles, stately homes, gardens and museums either in the county itself or just over county lines.

Rutland County Museum is probably the best starting point for visitors who want to discover Rutland. Different areas detail the story of Rutland, told via extensive displays; be sure to visit the Poultry Hall, which used to be used for judging chickens, ducks and turkeys. Now it contains a display centred on crime, including the only remaining ‘New Drop’ gallows in England.

A maze in Barnsdale Gardens, Rutland © Chris Lobina

Barnsdale Gardens make for more a beautiful attraction. The eight-acre site boasts no less than 38 individual gardens. The Herb Garden, the Rose Garden and the Woodland Garden are all beautiful, but there are more obscure areas, like the Land’s End Garden, complete with a beach house – a quirky touch for a landlocked county!

One of the grandest attractions to see when you stay in Rutland is undoubtedly Belvoir Castle, which takes its name from the French for ‘beautiful view’. Based just over county lines in Leicestershire, it has been home to the Duke and Duchess of Rutland for 500 years. The current building is the fourth castle to stand on this site since Norman times and is a picture of 19th-century elegance inside and out. Incredible antiques, paintings by the likes of Holbein and Gainsborough and luxurious tapestries can be found throughout the house, although there is a also opportunity to see what life was like for the staff at Belvoir, with the kitchen and bakery open for visitors, too.

Windsurfer on Rutland Water © William Kirstein

Rutland Water is a must for lovers of the great outdoors. At one end, visitors can go sailing or windsurfing, in the middle anglers can enjoy fishing for trout while the west of the reservoir is home to a nature reserve and wildfowl sanctuary: there are even hides for bird-watching.

Finding somewhere to stay – whether you are looking for gorgeous, cosy, typically English or all of the above – isn’t hard in Rutland. Our pick would be The Falcon Hotel in Uppingham, a 16th-Century coaching inn that boasts open fires, roll top baths and in some rooms, four poster beds. It manages to be comfortable and rather grand at the same time, and is in the heart of Rutland. The historic market town is host and home to a festival of food, Uppingham Feast, which will take place on 23 June 2013.

Rutland County Museum © Chris Lobina

The fourth annual Rutland Walking Festival is from 18 May to 1 June; a perfect reason to visit and explore all the area has to offer.

To find out more about Rutland and other places in this pocket of the east Midlands, look out for our Hidden England feature in the next issue of BRITAIN, out on 4 April in the UK.