Monday, 11 September 2017

The Outdoors & Fine Dining in Historic English Town Stamford

What better way to experience quaint English charm, than in the ancient stone market town of Stamford, in Lincolnshire, just 80 miles North of London. Stamford's reputation as a fine and fascinating town to visit is certainly added to by its Elizabethan Burghley House and Gardens, and the infamous George Hotel.

My various experiences of these exciting and beautiful places all lead back to the same themes: quality, and class. The classic gardens with their unique features, and the relaxed yet refined atmosphere of the Garden Room Restaurant at The George Hotel are simply why I always come back for more - bringing friends, family, and even a school trip, to share in Stamford's delights.



Burghley Sculpture Gardens and the Gardens of Surprise


Walking around the spacious and varied sculpture gardens is a delight no matter what the weather; this summer I particularly enjoyed taking my two-year-old daughter for picnics in the sun by the lake, and picnics in the rain under the trees - each equally delightful! The various twists and turns of the park lead to new and undiscovered little places each time, hills, water, and trees, with new sculptures popping up, or ones that I had missed before. They somehow add to the natural landscape of the gardens and blend so well with the colours of the trees, always looking different depending on the time of year.

The gardens of surprise are made all the more exciting and interactive with surprise water fountains, jets, and features amongst the plants and trees, along with other features - intriguing for adults and children alike. My favourites are the mirror maze and the life size game of 'Merrells' - an ancient game using a checkerboard and pawn-like pieces, although my two-year old daughter remained solidly focused upon the various water jets, as did the age 12-14 school trip I took this spring, who never ceased to be amazed and engaged on this fabulous outdoor excursion. A particular achievement given their usual self-confinement to the indoors on their various computer games and consoles! I knew, if there was somewhere that would break this cycle, it would be Burghley Gardens!

The best part about the fantastic Burgley Gardens is that is combines fun, interaction, and class, in a rarely found mix. The gardens are so unbelievably well-kept, clean and maintained. I simply can't stop taking photos each time I go, and that's without a visit to the stunning Elizabethan Burghley House.


The George Hotel


In this great English coaching inn, experience sumptuous afternoon tea, formal fine dining, and relaxed haute cuisine, all under one historic and classy roof. I even love the toilets! (With classical Nymph-type murals, crystal lighting, and a chaise-longue, who wouldn't)?

The afternoon tea at the George Hotel is a fantastic way to celebrate in the daytime, or even relax in a warm and cosy haven on a wet and miserable day (the huge orchids add a little exotic flavour too, for added warmth). From the full champagne afternoon tea, to just a set of delicious traditional scones, it is an experience to remember, and one that locals often partake in. My favourite are the smoky salmon sandwiches, soft, pink beef sandwiches, and of course the Devonshire clotted cream on the satisfyingly crumbly scones.

I took particular delight on the school trip to Burghley Gardens that I organised, watching the young (and somewhat naive) teenagers devouring the divine George Hotel afternoon tea sandwiches that we took with us for our picnic. Children who wound normally consider brown bread too exotic (not their words!) were tucking into smoked salmon and medium- rare beef, bustling and jostling for more!  


The Garden Room is such a reliably tasty and good-quality restaurant that it is without fail, the first place that my husband and I like to bring friends and family who are guests to Stamford! It is popular and busy, with a distinct upmarket and refined but relaxed atmosphere. It has a varied and diverse menu, and feels like a real treat, but one you deserve no matter where you're from, so long as you enjoy your food. Our most recent visit with two friends and our toddler daughter was a great success. When one of my friends took my advice that the lobster pasta with chilli was a great choice, I proceeded to copy her order, lest I get lobster envy. Right on.

The menu changes occasionally according to the season, however many of the popular dishes stay the same. Anything from gourmet burgers and fish and chips, to lobster and shellfish, are on offer. Everything is delicious, even the fresh bread and olives at the start (usually only a bonus found in France, which does not often cross the channel to reach us in England).  

Despite the beautiful floral garden d├ęcor, our absolute favourite time of year to visit the garden room is Christmas time, when the hotel, restaurants and bar, are transformed into a literal winter wonderland (but with the necessary class and finesse of course). An abundance of twiggy, sparkly, twinkly delights find themselves at home amongst the various mirrors, cornices, centrepieces and archways. I cannot wait to take my daughter this Christmas as she is now old enough to appreciate that special time of year, and the way The George Hotel bring it to life so well.

Prices at The George Hotel are of course a little higher than regular high street prices, but excellent value given the reliable quality (and the portion sizes)! Even Richard couldn't finish his steak on one occasion, and that is saying something.


Practical Information

Burghley Sculpture Gardens and Gardens of Surprise are incorporated into one entry ticket for around £12 per adult. This can be used for year-round entry. Visits to the House can be purchased also at the gate to the Gardens, or separately. Lunch and afternoon tea are also available in the lovely orangery restaurant.

For visits to the gardens of surprise please be aware that children and adults must wear footwear at all times. Crocs or sandals are best for getting wet and can be purchased in the lovely gift shop if you have forgotten them.

The George Hotel has two restaurants - the more formal Oak Panelled Room, and the Garden Room - which cannot be booked in advance. If it is busy, there is a very comfortable bar to enjoy drinks and snacks in, with an open fire in winter, while you wait for your table, with a table-buzzer.

The George Hotel has its own parking just for customers, there is usually space even during busy times, but rarely it may be full, in which case the station car park is just opposite.