Someone in the 1970s had it in for Rutland. First they flooded England’s smallest county, then they abolished it entirely, absorbing it into Leicestershire.
But 40 years on, Rutland has not only regained its independence, it’s come to love its reservoir – quickly redubbed Rutland Water rather than the rather prosaic Empingham Reservoir. And not only is it a mecca for bird-watchers and sailors, it has a terrific circular cycle route.
Rutland Water is pretty much the ideal first day ride for anyone finding their cycling legs. It’s not far: just 15 miles round the reservoir, with an optional six-mile out-and-back along the Hambleton peninsula. It’s not hilly, but there are enough little ups and downs to keep you interested. And it’s almost entirely traffic-free.
Large parts of the route have a gravel surface. You’ll be fine on a hybrid or mountain bike, but we wouldn’t recommend it on a road bike. (Roadies will find plenty to occupy them on the nearby lanes, though be warned – Rutland is a deceptively hilly county!)
The route links the car parks around the reservoir. Car parks might not sound like much of a destination, but these are where the cafés, picnic tables and (often) good views of the reservoir are to be found. Oh yes, and the bike shops. Super-successful cycling retailer Rutland Cycling started here in 1981 by hiring out and selling bikes, and now operates two sizeable stores.
The villages of Edith Weston and Whitwell are just off the circuit, while attractive Manton is part of the route and has a pub justifiably popular with cyclists. But don’t pass up the county town of Oakham, linked to the circuit by a safe roadside path.
The nearest railway station is Oakham on the Birmingham–Leicester–Peterborough–Cambridge line, a couple of miles away.