Great British Boltholes: Hambleton Hall, Hambleton, Rutland

Suzy Palmer heads to Rutland, England’s smallest county, for a charming autumnal escape

Suzy Palmer heads to Rutland, England’s smallest county, for a charming autumnal escape

Why go: A weekend away on a reservoir in the East Midlands might not sound a scintillating prospect, but Rutland Water is a hidden gem – a stunning water park surrounded by nature reserves and glorious English countryside. Set on a peninsula in a quaint village with spectacular views over the water lies Hambleton Hall, a small, charming country house hotel with roaring fires, four-poster beds and a Michelin-starred restaurant. Book in for a few nights and you’ll enjoy a real slice of luxury – it’s the ideal antidote to the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Light my fire: the entrance at Hambleton Hall

Best for: English romantics, foodies, loved-up couples and fans of the great outdoors. Hambleton Hall is the perfect spot to explore the clearly marked 25-mile cycle and walking track around Rutland Water (no map reading skills required). There’s plenty of pub and cafe stops along the way (plus cycle hire facilities if you don’t bring your own), while on the water there’s sailing, windsurfing and fishing if you’re so inclined. Our autumn stay has the added bonus of a spectacular burnished gold and red backdrop thanks to the abundant trees changing colour under the crisp, blue sky.

The look: The former Victorian hunting lodge, which played host to Noël Coward on many an occasion, comprises a bar, lounge, dining room and 17 bedrooms, all beautifully decorated in classic English style – think florals mixed with stripes, comfy sofas, casement windows, and paintings of fancy-looking ladies and gents. From the warm and welcoming staff, to the sweet posy and tin of heart-shaped shortbread waiting for us in our room, the attention to detail is excellent. The terraced garden, outdoor pool, croquet lawn and tennis court would add bonus points for a summer visit.

Classic comforts: a superior bedroom at Hambleton Hall

I’m hungry: That’s good, because you’ll hardly be able to move after a very indulgent dinner by chef Aaron Patterson. Unsurprisingly, dining is an elegant, candle-lit affair, which for us comprised langoustines and crab salad followed by poached turbot, venison casserole, and to finish a delicious pear terrine served with deep fried custard (who knew such a thing existed?) and a fabulous selection of cheeses from Leicestershire, Yorkshire and Hampshire. The pinot noir and Loire Valley sauvignon blanc the sommelier selects are both a hit. A three course à la carte lunch or dinner costs £73 a head excluding drinks.

By breakfast time the following morning, we haven’t quite worked up our appetites, but it is hard to resist the beautifully cooked sausages, bacon and eggs (all locally sourced) or the amazing bread, muffins and brioche produced by the Hambleton Bakery – set up a few years ago by the hotel proprietor Tim Hart and voted ITV Baker of the Year in 2012. Drinking tea out of beautiful china cups, looking out over the garden as the sun streams in through the French windows, is the perfect start to the day. And we certainly have enough fuel on board to tackle that big cycle ride.

Autumn strolls: Normanton Church at Rutland Water Nature Reserve © VisitEngland/Discover Rutland

While you’re there: If you really want to venture further afield than the reservoir or sleepy Hambleton village, there are the characterful nearby market towns of Oakham, Stamford and Uppingham, with shops, churches and antiques stores to explore. Or for something more grand, visit Burghley House (burghley.co.uk) which has a Christmas Fair 27-30 November. You can also stock up before you leave with delicious fresh bread from Hambleton Bakery (hambletonbakery.co.uk) by ordering at the hotel, or visiting one of the shops in Exton or Oakham.

Dress code: While Hambleton Hall retains all the splendour and charm of a bygone era, the atmosphere the owners and staff convey today is far more modern, with no expectations of ties, stuffy suits or strings of pearls. Having said that, we spot a few of those and you wouldn’t want to turn up for dinner in jeans and trainers. Save that – and your walking boots – for outdoor pursuits.

Book now: Hambleton Hall, Hambleton, Oakham, Rutland, LE15 8TH (0800 089 3929; prideofbritainhotels.com). In November double rooms with breakfast cost from £265, or a one-night Autumn Break costs from £190 per person including dinner and breakfast, based on two sharing. Wifi and a morning newspaper are complimentary. A taxi from Oakham rail station takes around six minutes and costs £8.

Info: Find more information and things to do at discover-rutland.co.uk.

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