When one conjures up idyllic days spent in England, one might naturally lean toward historic castle visits, afternoon teas, and other calm, indoor pursuits. But I’m quickly learning that the English are an active bunch. And particularly on those most cherished days, when the clouds push off and the sun warms everything up, people here flock to bikes, boats and jogging paths.
A great place to pursue outdoor adventure in England is at Western Europe’s largest man-made lake, Rutland Water. Built as a reservoir in 1977, it supplies water to 500,000 people in five neighboring counties.
But while the area might be “new,” it doesn’t lack interest, even of the historical variety. You’ll find 24 miles of path that runs around the perimeter, providing shoreline views throughout along with woodland and pastures. Sheep graze right up to the path and will move out of your way as you breeze by.
There is a great deal of activity both on the water and surrounding the lake. Here is my recommendation for a great day out at Rutland Water.
- Begin your day by renting bikes for a couple of hours at the Rutland Cycling bike hire and shop, located at the Normanton Car Park (postal code LE15 8HD). They’ve got a wide range of quality bikes, and all sorts of options if you plan to bring kids along.
- A perfect 2-hour route would be to head northwest on the path toward Normanton Church. This church was one of the few sites saved when the reservoir was constructed. It dates back to medieval times, although portions have been reconstructed. It is only open for tours seasonally, so call ahead to 01780 686800. But even if you can’t step inside, it’s beautiful enough to admire from the outside.
- From Normanton Church, continue cycling along the path to the dam. As you cross the dam, you’ll be able to admire the water on your left and the picturesque village of Empingham on your right.
- After you’ve crossed the dam, you’ll come upon the Rutland Visitor’s Centre, as well as a quality adventure playground for the kids. Another great spot to take a break and enjoy the water views or some playtime. This stop has amenities such as toilets and snacks.
- We finished the first half of our cycle ride by continuing on to The Harbour Café and marina. Here you can purchase lunch and picnic along the water, or dine indoors and take a break from the elements. From there, we turned around and headed back to the Normanton Car Park to return our bikes. Naturally, we had to get a few ice cream cones before heading home at the outdoor café.
I have no doubt we’ll make a return to Rutland Water for a lot of other activities, though. If you’re not into cycling, and would prefer a more leisurely experience, than start your visit at the marina and book a ride on the Rutland Belle, a large boat that will take you around the lake. You’ll find all the details on the Rutland Water Cruises website.
You can also easily spend hours birdwatching here. The area is famous for being home to thousands of osprey, which are easy to spot April through October. More information about the nature reserve at Rutland Water is here.
You may need a rest after all this fun and adventure. If you don’t want to part ways with the spectacular water views, then book a night at the Normanton Park Hotel, just across the path from the Normanton Church. The house-turned-Best Western dates back to the 1800s, and offers two restaurants and a playground. If you’re looking for a property that’s closer to more amenities, then search for lodging in the nearby towns of Oakham or Stamford. If you’re up for roughing it a bit, you could camp at several of the camping areas available around the water.
So when the forecast calls for sun, do what the Brits do, and grab your “sun cream” and head for a day of fun and adventure at Rutland Water.