How To Spend A Weekend In Stamford

By Nicola Venning

1 month ago

This ancient Lincolnshire town is a real gem


Short breaks don’t get more gorgeous than a few days in and around the unspoilt Georgian haven that is Stamford, says Nicola Venning. She checked into Woolfox for a home-from-home escape.

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A Restorative Weekend In Stamford

Stamford is a honeypot of golden stone, gracious squares and ancient churches, all surrounded by gentle sheep-dotted countryside – which makes it a delightful area to explore. My husband and I started our two day visit with a walk through the town centre, past Red Lion Square and the Sheep Market, the woolly source of much of Stamford’s age-old wealth. In the thirteenth century, it was one of the 10 largest towns in England, and so important, Parliaments even met here. These days, the town takes pride in its past and ensures its antiquated good looks are well maintained.

We passed the postcard worthy mediaeval almshouse, Lord Burghley’s Hospital (now used by people who have lived and worked in Stamford), and wandered through a bustling market before discovering the hidden gem of St George’s Square which is as perfect now as it was in the early 1800s. In fact, it’s so unspoilt, the square became a well-used location in the BBC’s adaptation of Middlemarch, as well as in the film version of Pride and Prejudice.

Officially a ‘Gem’ town (there are more than 600 listed buildings in this rural bolthole), Stamford is not, however, set in aspic; it has a vibrancy about it. If you need a little chic shopping, you can do it here. We picked up some handy birthday presents at Hotel Chocolat during our stroll, though there was lots of choice with many independent shops. Walkers is great for booklovers, I loved browsing in St Martins Antiques Centre, and Nelson’s Butchers is a local institution with award-winning Melton Mowbray pies. Yum.

Two houses at Woolfox beside a lake in Stamford

Tapping into all this energy, is shiny new luxury lifestyle members club Woolfox, located just outside the town. It comes with golf, a pool, a gym, yoga, a Tarka kids exercise club, countryside views and a waiting list of 300 people. Day guests can use the golf course and the on-trend padel tennis courts, as well as visit the Scandi-orientated Woolfox Café where we relaxed over a delicious lunch of halloumi wraps and matcha tea. Real devotees can also buy one of the larch-clad, high-end stone holiday homes being built by the golf-course, or rent them short term – perfect for a country bolthole and early morning pilates.

From here, it was only a 10 minute drive to splendid Rutland Water, the man-made lake and reservoir which is also a centre for sport and nature reserves. Though tempted to take the gentle circular (6.5 km) walk around pretty Hambleton Peninsula, we donned our walking shoes and headed to the quieter south shore and Lyndon Nature Reserve, home of nesting ospreys. The centre had live webcams on a pair of birds, but it was just as much fun hiking along the lakeside to the hide where local enthusiasts had set up a telescope trained on a magnificent hawk, sitting on her nest. The chicks, when they eventually appear, will be part of over 250 that have successfully hatched since Rutland’s Osprey Project started almost three decades ago.

A living room at Woolfox

Suitably awed, we stumbled back to our car and headed to nearby Rutland Nursery, a garden centre with a difference. When they are not selling bedding plants and perennials, the Nursery holds yoga classes and floristry workshops as well as grilling cooking courses run by former English cricketer Matthew ‘Hoggy’ Hoggard. Which sort of explained why it was so busy. I think we were lucky to get a table.

That evening, we drove slowly down some of Rutland’s quietest lanes, with sheep wandering over them, past fields with herds of deer and even the odd hare, to check in at the Olive Branch & Beech House pub and hotel in the tiny village of Clipsham. The higgledy-piggledy charm of this rural inn, all odd-angled roofs, crooked walls and ancient beams, was more than matched by the hospitality and menu. My monkfish with ham and mussels was mouth-watering and my husband loved his Guinea Hen. We stumbled back to our room in the Beech House, a converted cottage just over the road, to a blissful sleep.

On our final morning, we returned to Stamford for a long stroll across The Meadows over the River Welland, through the town to the Capability Brown designed open parkland that surrounds the limestone turreted grandeur that is Burghley House. In a weekend of remarkable variety, my husband, a history buff, was particularly looking forward to this visit.

Home of the Cecil family and built by their formidable ancestor Sir William Cecil, Lord High Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth I, Burghley House is open daily from spring through to the start of winter and has many regular events – including, of course, the popular Burghley Horse Trials. It’s a vast, fascinating home with lovely gardens, and my only regret was that we could not spend more time there. Never mind. Like much of Stamford and its beautiful surroundings, it would be well worth another visit. Only next time, I would come for longer.

EXPLORE

Plots for homes at Woolfox start from £585,000; finished houses start from £1.6 million; short-term rentals for a four/five bedroom house start at £680 per night. woolfox.uk

Discover more about Stamford at visitlincolnshire.com