A Rutland waterside walk

A short, but scenic, introduction to the aquatic charms of Rutland Water.


Rutland Water


4.5 miles (7.2kms)

311ft (95m)

About the walk

That England's smallest county contains its biggest stretch of inland water is impressive enough, but in fact Rutland Water's beautifully designed 3,100 acres (1,255ha) also make it one of the largest artificial lakes in the whole of Western Europe.

Work began in 1973 with the flooding of the Gwash Valley and abandonment of the two villages of Nether and Middle Hambleton, leaving Upper Hambleton (now simply called Hambleton) virtually marooned on an island in the middle of the lake. Although the reservoir was created in order to supply drinking water, Rutland Water has become a busy destination for outdoor pursuits. Sailing and windsurfing are very popular, while fishermen are to be found on the shores and out in boats in virtually all weathers. There are picnic sites along the northern edge, a museum at the preserved church at Normanton on the southern shore, and afternoon cruises on the Rutland Belle that plies the water daily between May and October. A 25-mile (40km) off-road cycling route encompasses the whole of Rutland Water, and cycle hire is available at Whitwell and Normanton in the summer months.

An ornithological feast

The nature reserve at the far western end of Rutland Water is managed by Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, and your first port of call should be the Anglian Water Bird Watching Centre at Egleton. From here you can obtain a permit to walk to the 20 different hides that are dotted around the secluded bays and artificially created lagoons, or go on to visit Lyndon Nature Reserve on the southern side of Manton Bay. Rutland Water is one of the most important centres for wildfowl in Britain – as many as 23,500 ducks have been recorded on a single winter's day, and a total of 250 different species of birds have been seen since 1975.

Ducks such as pochard, teal, gadwall and shoveler are a common sight around Rutland Water, while waders like redshank and sandpipers are frequent visitors. An hour or two in a hide and your list will probably include terns, lapwing, cormorants, grebes, and so on, plus perhaps a few more unusual sightings such as a merganser or a godwit.

However, there is one rare fish-eating bird that has had the birders fumbling at their binocular cases over the past few years. In 1996 a programme was initiated to translocate young osprey chicks from Scotland to Rutland, and since then several of these majestic birds of prey have returned from their hazardous African migration to set up home at Rutland – the first time ospreys have nested in England in more than 150 years. However, the longterm fate of the Rutland ospreys is far from secure, since the birds mate for life and have very few chicks, but with careful protection and gentle encouragement the outlook for the so-called fish eagles is hopeful.

Walk directions

From St Andrew's Church in the centre of Hambleton, walk eastwards on the long main street as far as the red pillar box. Turn left opposite the pillar box on a wide track indicated 'public footpath' that leads straight through three gates and down the middle of a sloping field.

Go through the gate at the bottom of the field and turn right on to the wide track that runs just above the shore. This popular and peaceful route around the Hambleton peninsula is shared with cyclists, so enjoy the walk, but be alert. Follow it from field to field, and through Armley Wood, with ever-changing views across Rutland Water. As you gradually swing around the tip of the Hambleton peninsula with views towards the dam at the eastern end, you can begin to appreciate the sheer size of the reservoir, and how the birds, anglers, sailors and other users can all happily co-exist.

When you arrive at a tarmac lane (which is gated to traffic at this point, since it simply disappears into the water a little further on!), go straight across to continue on the same unmade track. It turns right and runs parallel with the road a short distance, before heading left and back towards the peaceful water's edge and a lovely section of mixed woodland. Continue along the lakeside for just over 1 mile (1.6km).

Approaching The Old Hall, a handsome building perched just above the shore, turn left to reach its surfaced drive, then go right and walk along it for 160yds (146m) to reach a cattle grid.

At this point you can return directly to Hambleton by following the lane back uphill; otherwise veer left to continue along the open, waterside track, with views across to Egleton Bay and the corner of Rutland Water specially reserved for wildlife (it's out of bounds to sailing boats).

Continue for 0.7 mile (1.1km) along the track to the very far end and return along the lane to the churchyard in the centre of the village.

Additional information

Wide and firm the whole distance, several stiles

Low-lying peninsula of dipping fields and woodland

On lead in fields of stock and around nesting birds

OS Explorer 234 Rutland Water

Roadside parking in Hambleton

None on route (nearest on north shore of Rutland Water near Whitwell)

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About the area

Discover Rutland

Measuring less than 20 miles (32.4 km) across, Rutland has a resident population of around 37,000, and apart from Oakham and Uppingham most of its inhabitants live in tiny villages and hamlets like Exton. 

The county’s name possibly derives from the 11th-century word ‘Roteland’, denoting the red colour of the soil in the east of the region; or it could have been part of the estate belonging to an early landowner called Rota. Whatever the origin of the name, one thing is certain, and that is that this tiny county has had a complicated history. The modern bit starts in 1974 when it was dissolved into Leicestershire. After more than 20 years of protest by unrepentant Rutlanders the county was happily reinstated in 1997.

The major tourist draw of Rutland was created in 1975, and is Rutland Water, a body of water which, at 5,000 acres, is the largest man-made reservoir in Europe. As well as a mass of wildlife and water pursuits such as windsurfing and sailing, Rutland Water also has its own church, which is now a museum, sitting on an outcrop that juts out into reservoir.

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