I’ve wanted to take Little Miss on a bike ride around Rutland Water for a while now. Last time we went to Rutland Water in autumn, it was too cold, so we made do with a brisk walk to the playground and some jumping about in autumn leaves. So a couple of weekends ago, with the sun shining and nothing else to do, we packed a picnic lunch and headed out to Rutland Water.
Rutland Water is a man-made reservoir about 15 minutes west of Stamford. There is a 25-mile path that goes right the way round – perfect for biking, walking or running. The path is sealed in some places.
Bike hire at Rutland Water
We don’t have our own bikes, so we hired. There are two places you can hire from – Rutland Cycling, Whitwell (on the north shore) and Giant Rutland, Normanton (on the south shore). Bike hire costs the same from both, so it doesn’t matter which one you go to. We’ve always hired from Whitwell, as that is closer for us coming from the Stamford direction.
There are quite a few options when biking with kids, depending on their ability. For the wee ones, there are rear-fitted bike seats (suitable from 18 months +) and bike buggies (can take two kids from 18 months +). Once they’re confident on a bike, you can hire them their own bike, or a trailer bike (which attaches to the back of your bike). You hire either in a two-hour block, or all-day.
I was planning on hiring a bike seat for Little Miss, but as soon as she saw the buggy, that was it. She climbed in, sat her teddy bear beside her, got out her lunch box and refused to budge! So the bike buggy was attached to my bike (of course she didn’t want to go behind Daddy’s bike!) and off we went.
Mummy gets stuck
We opted for a two-hour hire, so set off clockwise around Rutland Water, with Normanton as our destination (an easy 45 minute ride according to the lad who sorted out our bikes). I have to admit it was quite hard going with the buggy on the back and I had to remember I was quite a bit wider than normal when passing other cyclists or walkers. I couldn’t cycle up any of the ‘hills’ (which were really just small inclines), and had to dismount and push. I also had a very embarrassing incident trying to get bike and buggy through one of the gates. Got completely stuck – Little Miss’s Dad had taken off on his speedy bike – and I ended up with three people helping to get me through! Little Miss found it quite funny, and spent the rest of the ride saying ‘Mummy got stuck, Mummy got stuck’.
But, it was a lovely ride on a sealed pathway the whole way to Normanton. I really enjoyed it and Little Miss loved being in the buggy. We kept the cover off so she could see out. There were so many families out and about walking and on bikes.
On the way back to Whitwell there was a head wind, and I nearly came to a standstill, so we swapped bikes, and I got to ride the speedy bike – what a difference! We got back to Whitwell with about 20 minutes to spare, so decided to ride a little in the other direction (towards Barnsdale).
I was glad we hadn’t gone that way first, as there were two huge hills (proper hills, not the small inclines that I had encountered on the way to Normanton), and Little Miss’s Dad very gallantly biked up them both. After about 5 minutes the sealed pathway finished and gave way to a firm, but unsealed path. This was a bit muddy in places – poor Little Miss got mud flicked all over her (we still had the cover up) and started to cry, so we turned around and headed back and called it a day.
What else is there at Rutland Water?
There’s quite a lot to do at Rutland Water, aside from biking. At the Whitwell car park there is also the Rock Blok which has an abseiling tower, trampoline and high ropes course. From Whitwell you can also take a cruise on the Rutland Belle, which sails from April to September. And if you’re feeling slightly more adventurous you can hire a canoe, windsurfer or rowing boat from Rutland Watersports (also based at Whitwell).
At the Sykes Lane car park you’ll find the adventure playground – well worth a visit. On our previous visit we spent about an hour here on the swings and balance beams.
At the western end (Oakham end) of the reservoir is the Rutland Water nature reserve (managed by the Wildlife Trust). I’ve never been to the nature reserve – never managed to bike that far! They run quite a few events throughout the year.
But our favourite new ‘find’ is the outdoor gym at Whitwell. The gym includes a full range of outdoor equipment some of which is disabled-friendly, including arm and pedal bikes, cross country skier, rowing machine, arm press and leg press. It was great. There were adults and kids of all ages playing on the equipment; mums and dads racing each other on the bikes, two kids on the leg press trying to get it to move. I’m not sure it’s what the designers had in mind, but it was really nice to see adults enjoying themselves as much as the kids.
All the important bits
There are four main car parks: Normanton (south shore), Sykes Lane, Whitwell and Barnsdale (all on the north shore). It costs £1.50 for an hour, £3 for three hours and £5 all day. For bike hire, park either at Normanton or Whitwell. For those people coming from Stamford direction on the A606, the Whitwell car park is the second one (so ignore the first sign for car parking on the north shore – that is Sykes Lane).
Bike hire starts at £9.99 for an adult’s bike and £6.99 for a child’s bike for two hours. A child seat costs £2.99, and the bike buggy is £5.99 (for a two hour hire). See the Rutland Cycling website for more prices and options.
Both the Whitwell and Normanton bike hire shops are open Monday – Sunday, 9am – 5.30pm. The car parks are open from 9am until dusk.
Eating and drinking
There are lots of options for food and drink around Rutland Water. There is a small tea rooms at each of the car parks, selling crisps, chocolate, ice creams and hot and cold drinks. For something more substantial, try the Harbour Bar Café at Whitwell which is a licensed café and bar serving light bites, hot food and evening meals. On the way round the reservoir there are also a number of pubs and restaurants you can stop at. And of course, you can bring your own picnic – there are plenty of tables and benches at the car parks, and along the reservoir.
There are toilet blocks at each of the car parks. They don’t have baby changing facilities.