Situated in the East Midlands sandwiched between Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire lies Rutland. Known for being England’s smallest county, what it might lack in size it more than makes up for with beauty and charm. Having resided here for the last couple of years I have gradually hiked my way around many of the county’s scenic trails and have acquired a little local knowledge as to what I believe are some of the finest walks and when are the best months to try them. Admittedly, all of the routes are perfect during the warmer parts of the year, but I have selected two that I believe to be great choices for those colder months due to how pleasant and pleasing on the eye they are and also the fact that you will not be knee high in mud upon completion. If you have never visited Rutland before I would highly recommend that you come and see this special part of the country to witness the fantastic hiking trails and beautiful scenery first hand, whilst I hope that the recommendation of these two routes is helpful to those visiting and who also reside in the area. Here are my winter walks in Rutland-I hope you enjoy!
Rutland Water Walking Trail
Nestled amongst 4200 acres of sprawling countryside lies the beautiful rutland water. Without doubt the county’s most popular attraction and with good reason, as the beautiful surroundings provide the perfect setting for you to admire the views whilst taking a stroll or cycling around one of its many trails. There is a full circuit that stretches all the way around the reservoir that amounts to an impressive 24 miles in total, or 16 miles if you decide against taking in Hambleton Peninsula. This is popular amongst cyclists and given the distance, cycling makes for an efficient way of getting around. But if you would prefer to walk and feel as though 24, or even 16 miles is too much to manage, then you needn’t worry as the circuit can be broken down into smaller pieces with various car parks scattered around the perimeter providing you with ample opportunity to park up and select a smaller part of the trail to walk. The terrain is easy going for the most part whilst signposts and markings point you along in the right direction, although be sure to keep your eyes peeled as like with most hiking markers they can be a little tricky to spot.
Quite possibly the most popular walk along the trail and one that is perfect if you decide that you are looking for a smaller distance to cover, is to start at Normanton and walk across the dam to Sykes Lane and then back again. The walk is relatively flat and easy going, whilst you have the added bonus of passing and being able to visit the beautiful Normanton Church; Rutland’s most famous landmark provides a stunning backdrop and is the perfect place to pull up a seat and admire the views. Especially pretty during sunrise or sunset, make sure that you have your camera at the ready to capture this unique setting as the sun goes down and the sky lights up. Access to Normanton Church is straight forward with a car park located in Normanton village that for a small fee you are able to use. The area surrounding this side of Rutland Water is also a nice area to explore, with Ketton and Empingham close by it is extremely popular amongst cyclists and those who visit.
Rutland Water is great to experience at any time of year. The more popular months of spring and summer are often accompanied by warmer weather, longer mornings and evenings, picnics, water sports and beautiful sunrises with long sunsets. Whilst in the colder months of autumn and winter you can expect to enjoy a real serenity and quietness with some rather spectacular colours from the foliage and if you’re lucky, a little snow. This is why I believe that hiking during the colder months is the perfect time as you practically have the place and views to yourself. The trail is pet friendly for those who are looking to bring their dogs along with them and very family oriented with a children’s play area and mini golf helping to keep the children occupied. Most importantly there is a real genuine, welcoming atmosphere as the locals are friendly making it not only a great place to walk and cycle, but equally enjoyable to just park yourself and relax in your own quiet spot with a book in hand whilst admiring the scenery.
Exton-Greetham Walking Trail
The second walking trail that I have chosen and would highly recommend is the Exton to Greetham loop. Starting in the beautiful village of Exton, the walk should take between 3-4 hours and again like with the previous route around Rutland Water, the length and duration it takes you to complete depends on whether you choose to walk the full loop or decide to branch of along the way. The total distance is approximately 7 miles and is along easy terrain due to it largely being on a dirt track for quite a substantial part of the duration. An alternative would be to miss out the village of Greetham and come back on yourself around to Exton, or if you are feeling a little more adventurous you can extend your hike by venturing out to the village of Empingham. Whatever you decide, the trails are signposted and marked clearly allowing you to navigate your way around quite easily. The village of Exton is rather pretty in its own right and worth exploring before or after your hike. There is a popular pub located around the village green whilst the rather beautiful village church is also worth a visit.
One of the more popular and pleasing parts of the trail is the stretch starting from Exton village to the beautiful Fort Henry. No more than 2 miles in distance and on a relatively flat track, the scenery is quite stunning and can be rather spectacular on those clear, crisp winter mornings when the sun pops its head up and lights up the the sky and surrounding areas. Fort Henry itself is a rather unique, gothic building that resides over a lake in a particularly charming pocket along the trail and is all the more pleasing on the eye during sunset where you can marvel in the views whilst watching the evening sun go down. The loop then sweeps around the back of Fort Henry where you can follow the signposts to the village of Greetham before then embarking on your journey back towards Exton, or by taking the shorter but just as scenic route straight back to your starting point.
The trail is also dog friendly and how long you spend and what route you decide to take is entirely down to yourself. You are able to cycle from Exton to Fort Henry, but from then on in the trail is more suited for hiking as the track opens up into fields and becomes a little more slippery under foot. There is something uniquely charming about the Exton to Greetham walk that really appeals to me. There is a real calm, secluded feel that I find enjoyable and relaxing, whilst the scenery is quite beautiful as the fields seem to roll on for miles in all directions. It just feels as though you are tucked away from the hectic nature of day to day life in a part of Rutland that seems to be simplified with its quiet and gentle way of living, making it for those reasons one of my favourite walks that I have encountered in Rutland and one that I often return to on a regular basis and implore you to try yourself.
So those are two of my Winter walks in Rutland. Are you looking to discover new walks? Have you visited or are thinking about visiting Rutland? Let me know in the comments.
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