- Time your ride perfectly to catch the sunset over Normanton Church, Rutland Water. Image courtesy of local photographer Andrew Dejardin.
One of our favourite routes. The quiet Rutland lanes, winding through open countryside, are reminiscent of Tuscany. The perfect ironstone and thatch village of Exton, built around a village green, is a postcard idyll of England. The award-winning Olive Branch at Clipsham is a fine choice for lunch, dinner or a drink. When you are refreshed, cycle under English oak trees along a picturesque bridleway. Time your route perfectly and you can watch the sunset colours over Normanton Church and Rutland sailing boats on the last stretch.
- Distance: 17.5 miles
- Typical Time: 2.5 to 3 hours
- OS map: Landranger 130 & 141
- Start & finish: Rutland Cycling shop, Whitwell car park
- Terrain: Country lanes and bridleways
- Getting there: Whitwell car park is on the A606, between Oakham and Stamford
- Refreshments: You can't go to Clipsham without visiting the award-winning Olive Branch inn, tel: 01780 410355. The Fox & Hounds at Exton is also recommended - English and Italian food, tel: 01572 812403.
- Turn away from Rutland Water, cycle back through Whitwell towards the A606, then turn right down Church Walk before reaching the main road. Dismount at the church and follow the path to the A606. Cross with care and cycle down the lane directly opposite. Go straight over a crossroads, then at the next junction turn right, signposted: 'Exton Village Only'.
- Cycle past Exton's village green, turn left onto High Street, then left onto West End. Follow the road round a right hand bend to reach a sign saying 'Private Road, No Motor Vehicles'. Beyond, you'll see a yard with green barns in it. Go into the yard then turn left over a cattle grid. Ignore a track to the right, then take the right fork ahead and cycle through the impressive Exton Park (see below for more details). When you reach the road, turn right.
- In 250m turn right again. Turn right again at the end of the road, and follow the cycle path into Greetham.
- In Greetham, take a left onto Great Lane and cycle uphill. At the end of the road, turn left. At the next junction turn right, and cycle past a quarry.
- Go straight over two roundabouts (following signs to Clipsham), cycle through Stretton and then downhill through trees into Clipsham, where you will find the wonderful Olive Branch Inn. You can also take a 1-mile detour (see below) to see the Yew Tree Avenue topiary.
- Cycle down the grassy bridleway opposite the Olive Branch (south). It leads downhill into a quarry. Turn left, through trees, signposted 'Bridleway'. When you reach a field, cycle along the left hand edge, keeping the trees of Pickworth Wood on your right.
- You will now have reached a grassy track. When the track bends round to the right, look out for a footbridge on your left. Cycle through a brief woodland section to emerge in a field. Go straight across it to reach a bridleway junction. Turn left, to reach a road.
- Turn right, away from Pickworth. At the end of the road turn left, then take the next right, under a bridge signposted 'Exton'. Go straight on and through Empingham to reach the A606.
- Turn right and cycle along the A606, and then turn left into Sykes Lane car park, following signs for the Anglian Water Visitor Centre.
- When you see the Visitor Centre, turn left, away from it, towards the sculpture next to Rutland Water. There's a lovely view across to Normanton Church from here. Follow the shore track until you reach the Watersports Centre sailing boats. Turn right uphill to reach the starting car park opposite.
- The Olive Branch at Clipsham makes a good refreshment stop
Points of interest
EXTON HALL AND PARK
Exton Hall is a grand house surrounded by a country park with ornamental lakes, gardens, follies and avenues of trees. A manor at 'Exentune' was recorded by the Domesday Survey. The Exton Estate has been in the hands of the Noel family (Earls of Gainsborough) since 1629.
YEW TREE AVENUE TOPIARY AT CLIPSHAM PARK WOOD (1-mile detour)
Yew Tree Avenue is a unique collection of 150 clipped yew trees, most over 200 years old. The Avenue was once the carriage drive to Clipsham Hall, the centre of the Clipsham Estate. The topiary was begun in 1870 by Amos Alexander, the estate's Head Forester who lived in the gate lodge at the foot of the avenue. The trees are clipped each autumn by the Forestry Commission's local craftsmen. Cycling is permitted throughout the woods and the Yew Tree Avenue.
Yew Tree Avenue is one mile north-east of Clipsham Village - pass the Olive Branch pub on your left and head in the direction of the A1.
- Yew tree topiary at Clipsham - cyclists are welcome all year round.
About this route guide
This route is adapted from 20 Best Local Bike Routes, a guide book featuring 20 favourite local routes for cycling in Rutland and the surrounding area. It is available to buy from Walkers bookshops in Oakham, Stamford and Sleaford.
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