A stunning country house and an impeccable stone village offer the perfect "Midsomer Murders" backdrop for a day trip from London.
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**Post updated May, 2019
On our first trip to England, I was obsessed with visiting a “real” English city, off the tourist circuit. That said, I was also fairly rigid about my tourism standards - wanting to spend a day somewhere beautiful, with plenty to keep me occupied. With the help of a handy day trip book, I literally, randomly, in all honesty, 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!
Getting to Stamford from London
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. Regardless of price, it’s actually quite a quick, roughly two-hour trip, which makes for a very easy day trip.
Upon arrival, 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).
Lunch in Stamford
My husband has known me long enough to know that it is an absolute imperative that 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, which I suppose is a normal time for lunch).
For a nice bite to eat, we selected The William Cecil, a small Inn, smack dab 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, depending on the weather.
From The William Cecil, we walked to Burghley House, the 16th-century manor of Queen Elizabeth’s Lord High Treasurer (I know 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 manor home is actually still owned by the Marquess of of Exeter, though he now resides in the U.S.. The Marquess's cousin lives in a portion of the house, closed off to the public, with her husband and 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 the town of Stamford is packed and access to the house may be limited. Closing dates are posted on their website.
We chose to walk from Stamford to Burghley House. It’s about a mile walk each way - safe with a bumpy walking trail on the side of the road - avoid this approach if you are not sure-footed. However, there is a public bus that can get you there from downtown. We took that approach on the way home - just 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, I would recommend buying 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.
Absolutely plan to spend a few hours exploring downtown Stamford. I hit up a few nice home wears 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 the structure and architecture of Bath, but with far fewer tourists. Several of Stamford's main shopping streets are refreshingly pedestrian-only.
There are over 600 listed buildings in Stamford and surrounding area - a fact you won’t need to be told, once you’ve started noticing them all. 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).
Dinner in Stamford
We loved Stamford so much that we stayed for two meals - a rare feat for us. 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.
Thanks again for stopping by and I hope you enjoy Stamford as much as we did! Happy Travels! xx
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