Staycation: The Barnsdale, Rutland
by Helen Renshaw
Wallow in quintessential Englishness at The Barnsdale in Rutland - a historic lodge turned dog-friendly hotel that hits the laid-back luxury sweet spot
Well, Rutland – who knew? The nation’s smallest and most perfectly formed county is something of a revelation. Capturing the essence of rural England – think croquet lawns, fly fishing and tiny, picturesque villages down tree-shaded lanes – it’s a hidden gem that punches well above its weight as a charming weekend getaway. And there can be no more perfect base for exploring than The Barnsdale.
My friend Debs and I know we’re in for a treat the moment we step through the door, to be greeted by broad smiles and a welcome glass of exquisite rosé. Warm colours and an eclectic mix of antiques and elegant modern pieces gives The Barnsdale a homey feel – it feels as though we’ve been invited for some R&R at the country retreat of a kindly, much richer friend.
The hotel’s dog-friendly, too, and we’re greeted by a wiggly pair of French bulldogs and spy a smiley retriever rollicking around the gardens. In our spacious room, tranquillity descends. The beds are so comfy we’re tempted to take a nap. But we’re only here for one night and there’s so much to enjoy – so, after a thirst-quencher in the rose-laden central courtyard, we explore the grounds.
Outstanding food is one of the hotel’s main offerings, and many ingredients travel no further than from the hotel’s own kitchen garden, which bursts with strawberries, runner beans, fennel, artichokes and tender salad leaves. We wander past the croquet lawn, swing by the chicken and duck shack, and poke our noses (not literally) into the hotel’s beehives.
Once we’ve clocked up enough steps around nearby Rutland Water to justify three courses, it’s time for the main event of our visit – dinner in the 1760 Brasserie.
Over a G&T, we stare dumbly at the menu. It’s short, but we want everything on it. After umpteen changes of mind, we settle on velvety pea velouté and earthy smoked duck and ham terrine for starters. The mains are better still. I go for a crispy-skinned Rutland Water trout doused in a nutty shrimp beurre noisette, with the acid tang of capers.
Debs selects a succulent roasted cod fillet perched on pearl barley and baby spinach in a creamy lobster bisque sauce and dressed with salty samphire, which packs a powerful flavour punch. We bicker good-naturedly over who made the best choice, but there are no real winners – the food is all outstanding.
The next morning, over an excellent breakfast which includes a coconutty homemade granola that’s so good The Barnsdale really should market it, we ponder our options for the day ahead. There’s loads to keep us busy – stately homes, country pursuits, hiking trails and idyllic villages are all in abundance nearby.
But our time is short, so we head five minutes up the road to Barnsdale Gardens, created by Geoff Hamilton for BBC Gardeners’ World – it’s a feast for the eyes and packed with inspiration to take home.
How to book
The Signet Collection recently opened The Barnsdale as the third hotel in its collection. The 45 rooms and suites have all been given a characterful redesign with a focus on laid-back luxury, and a spa is coming soon. Doubles from £120 a night, including breakfast. barnsdalerutland.com.