First, the small matter of pronunciation. In these parts 'Belvoir' sounds like 'Beaver', although quite why this should be is unclear because its history dates back to Norman times when William the Conqueror gave the land to his standard-bearer Robert de Todeni. The original castle was called 'Belvedere', a term still used in landscape architecture to denote an elevated room offering good views. Belvoir Castle passed through many hands over the centuries, and was virtually destroyed on more than one occasion. The most recent was during the Civil War, when Woolsthorpe's original church was also reduced to rubble (the present one dates from 1848).
In 1508 the castle came into the hands of the Manners family, and is currently home to the latest in the line, the 11th Duke of Rutland. However the present castle dates mainly from the early 19th century and is in the 'romantic' style of the day, with elaborate turrets and battlements.
Both the castle and its grounds are open to the public from Easter to September (visit www.belvoircastle.com for precise opening times). There is an impressive collection of artwork and period furniture, costumed guides giving a glimpse of life 'below stairs', and a restaurant and ice-cream parlour. Regular special events are held throughout the summer including country fairs, concerts and medieval jousting.
A lost canal
In contrast to the bustle and activity of the Grand Union Canal at Foxton Locks, the Grantham Canal appears rather forlorn and overlooked. It was built 1793–7 and provided a 33-mile (53km) link between Nottingham and Grantham via Leicestershire. Despite competition from the Nottingham–Grantham railway it was initially profitable, and was used to transport local produce such as iron ore from the hills above Woolsthorpe, which was taken via the Trent and the Erewash Canal to the ironworks at Ilkeston. But the waterway's business was finally dashed by the construction of the (now defunct) Belvoir branch ironstone railway in 1883, which you can see running parallel with the canal to join the Nottingham–Grantham line to the north.
The canal was abandoned in 1936 and, despite the intentions of a restoration trust to make it navigable, it is now a quiet and largely overlooked thoroughfare. There are clear stretches, and British Waterways has kept most of the permissive tow path in a walkable state, but in places the weeds and rushes and luxuriant vegetation have almost choked the waterway.
Walk northwards out of the village of Woolsthorpe by Belvoir on the pavement of Sedgebrook Road, the continuation of Main Street, towards Bottesford. Turn right into the wide-verged lane for the Rutland Arms public house (signposted) and cross over the canal bridge at Woolsthorpe Wharf.
Turn left and follow the straight, grassy bank along the Grantham Canal until Stenwith Bridge (No 60). Climb the steps to your right, just before reaching the bridge, and turn right on to the road. Follow this over the old railway bridge and out along a lovely wide lane of oak trees. After 700yds (640m) it bends left, and here turn right.
Follow the initially hedged and unmade Longmoor Lane for just over 0.75 miles (1.2km). When you reach the far end turn left before the bridge, to join the gravel tow path, and walk along this as far as an elegant wooden arched bridge ('Bridle Bridge').
Cross over the bridge and head out across the middle of a wide arable field. Go over the course of the old railway again and continue up the left-hand side of a sloping field. At the top, turn left on to a well-walked track.
Follow this pleasant route with lovely views out towards the hills surrounding Grantham. Where the track kinks left, after a fenced section, go straight on right across a wide field – follow the direction of the public footpath signpost and aim for the hedge opening at the very far side. Go across Cliff Road for a track into woodland.
At the far side of the woods, cross the stile and turn right to follow the field-edge down the bumpy, grassy slope back to Woolsthorpe. There are excellent views across the head of the Vale of Belvoir to Belvoir Castle opposite. At the bottom of the slope go over the stile behind the cricket scorebox, along the edge of the pitch (the football ground to your left), and down the drive of the pub to reach the village centre.
If you want to extend the walk to visit Belvoir Castle, turn left into Main Street, then right into Belvoir Lane. At the end of this cul-de-sac go over a small bridge and continue ahead across fields towards the hilltop fortification. After the third stile, cross another stile to your right and follow this wide track uphill to the road, then turn left to the castle entrance.
Tow path, field and woodland tracks and country lane, several stiles
Steep wooded hills and open arable land
Excellent throughout, but on lead around livestock at very end
OS Explorer 247 Grantham
Main Street in Woolsthorpe by Belvoir
None on route (nearest in Grantham)
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
Much of the fenland around the Wash has been drained of its marshes and reclaimed as highly productive farmland. Further north, the coastline, with its sandy beaches, has been developed to accommodate the holiday industry, with caravans, campsites and the usual seaside paraphernalia. The main resorts are Skegness, Mablethorpe, Cleethorpes and Ingoldmells. Inland, the chalky margin of the Lincolnshire Wolds offers an undulating landscape of hills and valleys, designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Lincoln, the county town, is dominated by its magnificent cathedral. Most of interest in the city is in the uphill area, Steep Hill, ascending from the River Witham; the Bailgate spanned by the Newport Arch, and the Minster Yard with its medieval and Georgian architecture. Boston, on the banks of Witham, was England’s second biggest seaport in the 13th and 14th centuries, when the wool trade was at its height. There are market towns all over the county still holding weekly markets, including Barton-upon-Humber, Boston, Bourne, Brigg, Crowland, Gainsborough, Grantham, Great Grimsby, Holbeach, Horncastle, Long Sutton, Louth, Market Rasen, Scunthorpe, Sleaford, Spalding (the centre of the flower industry), and the elegant Edwardian spa resort of Woodhall Spa.