Coast’s Choice: Rutland

Rutland is England’s smallest county, but that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t got much to offer. This week the team are sharing their recommended place to visit in this fiercely independent area, whose history can be traced back as far as the Domesday Book.

Barnsdale Gardens

These beautiful gardens are perhaps the best known tourist attraction in the county as they were created by former Gardeners’ World presenter Geoff Hamilton for the television show. Hamilton presented the show initially from a garden he owned in Rutland, but quickly he found the space was too small for experimentation. This led Geoff to purchase a Victorian farmhouse one mile down the road with five acres of land, which marked the birth of Barnsdale.

Today, Barnsdale Gardens stretches over eight acres and plays host to 38 different gardens. Widely referred to as ‘a theme park for gardeners’, visitors can enjoy creations including local flora, exotic plant life, kitchen gardens and rock features. It also includes practical concepts such as gardens for less mobile people and housing estate gardens, plus all plants are botanically labelled if you’re looking for inspiration. Many of the plants and flowers can be purchased at the on-site nursery.

Admission to Barnsdale Gardens, which is open daily, costs £6.50 in the summer and £5.00 in the winter for adults and £2.50 all year round for children. Click here to find out more.

Nearest caravan site: 8.6 miles

Jeffery Hudson’s Cottage

Rutland’s motto is multum in parvo meaning ‘much in little’ and our next recommendation certainly embodies this! On the High Street in the county town of Oakham lies a 17th century cottage, in which once lived Jeffery Hudson – the man believed to be the inspiration for the ‘Tom Thumb’ children’s stories.

Hudson was born in the cottage in 1619 and had reached 18 inches tall by the age of 30. At this point he stopped growing until he turned 30, when he spurted to a final height of three feet nine inches.

Known as the Rutland Dwarf, many of the nobility were curious of Hudson’s stature and he became a favourite entertainment of King Charles I, who took him into royal service and knighted him.

Hudson lived an even more remarkable life in later adulthood as he was captured by pirates while travelling in France and triumphed in a battle to free himself. He was also sold into slavery by Turkish pirates but once again escaped, returning to England to captain the King’s army during the Civil War.

He eventually died in prison in 1682 but his house stands strong to this day and visitors are welcome to have their photograph taken outside it.

Nearest caravan site: 6.1 miles

Rocks by Rail

Here’s something different: an interactive outdoor museum based in a former ironstone quarry! Rocks by Rail is an adventure playground for train enthusiasts, whether you want to try driving a classic locomotive, take a tour of the workshop or hop on a train for a passenger ride around the 19 acres of industrial landscape.

The ironstone exhibition brings the history of the area to life, while you can explore your surroundings today with a nature trail. If that proves thirsty work, Rocks by Rail has a 1960s inspired café in which you can site back and soak up the atmosphere. 

Rocks by Rail is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays from 11.00am – 4pm and entry is free. More information is available via the official website.

Nearest caravan site: 2.4 miles

Rutland County Museum

All the history and archaeology that Rutland has to offer is brought together under one roof in this council-run museum.

The Riding School brings rural Rutland to life with displays of the tools used by coopers and tinsmiths, while there is a display from the former local brewery, Ruddles, and an early twentieth century farm kitchen.

Other highlights including a mezzanine showcasing prehistoric objects found in the county, an exhibition on crime and punishment, tributes to the area’s dairy farms and wheelwrights and a community kept garden.

Rutland County Museum is open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10.00am – 4.00pm. Admission is free – click here for further information.

Nearest caravan site: 3.4 miles

Seaton Viaduct

Known also as Welland Viaduct and Harringworth Viaduct, Seaton Viaduct stretches over the river Welland to connect Seaton in Rutland with Harringworth in Northamptonshire.

At more than 1.6km in length with 82 arches, it is both Britain’s longest masonry viaduct and a truly breathtaking sight. Commercial trains still use it for a single daily passage between Corby and Manton Junction and Melton Mowbray and London St. Pancras, plus freight trains and tourist trip steam trains also frequent Seaton Viaduct.

The original brickwork was built using bricks manufactured and fired at the site and the viaduct structure and surface was recently restored using traditional methods to ‘smarten up’ its appearance. 

Nearest caravan site: 5 miles

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