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On our first trip to England, I was obsessed with visiting a “real” city, off the tourist circuit. That said, I wanted to spend a day somewhere beautiful, with plenty to do. With the help of a handy day trip book I bought used on Amazon, I randomly selected Stamford, Lincolnshire, which sounded like it had the right mix of historical touring and nice restaurants. And wow was I happy with my choice.
All in all, this was the one very minor mistake on our part. The train trip was extremely expensive on the day we picked, in the middle of summer (remember, you have to do the calculation - sometimes you can get a deal if you book early, but then the days of your trip are locked down. If there’s bad weather, illness, or interest in doing something else, you’re stuck). That said, looking at the tickets online today, if you plan better than us, it looks like you can get there much more reasonably. It’s a quick, roughly two-hour trip, which makes for a very easy day trip. Stamford has a sweet little train station very close to town (it’s maybe a 2 minute walk until you’re right in the middle of where you want to be). WC.
My husband has known me long enough to know I must be fed upon arrival. So, in the interest of having a fun day, we had lunch right away (it was around 11:30 AM by the time we arrived and got off the train). We selected The William Cecil, a small hotel in the middle of town. Simply walk straight there from the train station - you’ll get a quick view of the downtown and then can enjoy a nice lunch and relax. Outdoor dining is available.
From The William Cecil, we walked to Burghley House, the 16th century manor of Queen Elizabeth’s Lord High Treasurer (you know you knew that name from some period piece or another) and, perhaps more importantly, home of Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s Rosings in the 2005 Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen. The house is still owned by the Marquess of of Exeter, though he resides in the U.S.. His cousin lives in the house with her young family. Burghley is also home to well-known horse trials each year. If that interests you, stop by, if not, make sure that your visit doesn’t coincide with the trials, as Stamford is packed and access to the house may be limited. Closing dates are posted on their website.
We chose to walk from Stamford (it’s about a mile walk - safe with a trail on the side of the road - avoid if you are not sure footed); however there is a public bus that can get you there from downtown (we took that on the way home - pay with coins when you hop on the bus). The bus service is hourly - so keep an eye on the time if that is your ride home.
If you know when you’ll be visiting, buy your tickets in advance to saw a few ‘bob.’ A ticket is available for the gardens only, but in my opinion, the house cannot be missed. There is a nice family package to help on expenses, if small ones are along for the journey. Take your time touring the home - we opted for the self-guided version. Armed with a map and with plenty of docents to help you along the way, that’s generally my preferred approach. Check-out the gorgeous gardens and get your fill of snaps of the mansion.
When you’ve finished with the house, stop by The Orangerie for a quick snack before heading back to Stamford.
Spend a few hours walking around downtown. I hit up a few nice house shops for my beloved Portmeirion. We looked in St. Mary’s church - you will have been looking at its gorgeous spires all day. Much of the town was built, in the 17th and 18th centuries, in stunning, uniform limestone. It is reminiscent of Bath, without all the tourists dressed like Jane Austen. There are over 600 listed buildings in the town and surrounding area - a fact you won’t need to be told, once you’ve started noticing them all! Several of the main shopping streets are pedestrian-only. With good reason, Stamford itself has appeared in several films, including Mertyon in the aforementioned 2005 Pride and Prejudice and the 1994 Middlemarch (a personal favorite of mine).
Before heading back to the station, we grabbed a lovely dinner (and split a bottle of nice wine) at The Bull and Swan. The food was good and the location was perfect - right on the way to the station - we didn’t have to go out of our way, as we were tired after a long day.
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