Why go there?
The pretty market town of Oakham may be small but boasts several points of interest to explore, including Oakham Castle. Once the subject of a Time Team dig, the remaining hall building is brimming with ceremonial horseshoes, all hung upside down to prevent the devil from sitting in them. This unusual depiction of the horseshoe is Rutland’s county symbol.
The smallest county in England was once home to the smallest man: Jeffrey Hudson. Owing to his small, but perfectly proportioned, size he was considered a wonder of nature in the 1600s. Court dwarf to Queen Henrietta Maria, he fought for the Royalists in the English Civil war and fled with the Queen to France, where he was later expelled from court for killing a man in a duel. Later on in his eventful life, Barbary pirates captured Jeffrey. He spent 25 years as a slave in North Africa before being ransomed back to England. His house still stands, tucked-in on the high street, towards the station.
Just next to the station is the Grainstore Brewery and pub, offering a selection of delicious British beers, brewed on site.
On the town’s doorstep is Rutland water, where visitors can get on the reservoir by boat, taking a tour on the Rutland Belle or indulge in a spot of windsurfing. For those who prefer dry land, a walk or cycle along the 20-odd miles of shoreline is a pleasure, stopping for a picnic or a bite to eat at many of the pubs and restaurants to be found around the water’s edge.
Where to eat and drink?
The aforementioned Grainstore is one of many good watering holes in Oakham. The Lord Nelson is another, with excellent food and a wide range of drinks, this cosy pub is a veritable rabbit warren where patrons are able to wile away the hours.
A few miles north of Oakham lies the small village of Wymondham. One of the original production centres for Stilton cheese, it was home to Mrs Frances Pawcett in the 18th century. She supplied cheese to the Bell Inn at Stilton from her pub, The Hunter’s Arms. Closing in 1997, Wymondham now only has one pub serving the locals, but it is exceptional.
Having retained its Bib Goumand rating with Michelin for the third year running, the Berkeley Arms offers outstanding food and a welcoming drinking environment. A perfect start and end to the Wymondham Heritage Trail walk.
Where to stay?
The Admiral Hornblower in the town offers lovely rooms at reasonable prices, as does The Old Wisteria Hotel and, further out, Barnsdale Lodge. For a taste of the more luxurious, rooms are available at Hambleton Hall and Barnsdale Hall hotels, set on the edge of Rutland Water.
Tell us a secret
The signal box at Oakham station was used by Airfix as a template for their model railway sets.