The Barnsdale at Oakham hotel review: ‘A lesson in pure relaxation’ next to Rutland Reservoir

Sister hotel to The Mitre and the third hotel in The Signet Collection is now open, but does it live up to the standards set by its siblings? We sent Lucy Ford to find out.

Overlooking Rutland Water in the East Midlands, The Barnsdale at Oakham offers cosy luxury in a rural setting.

The former hunting lodge was integrated into The Signet Collection’s portfolio at the end of last year, joining The Retreat at Elcot Park near Newbury (opened June 2022) and The Mitre in Hampton Court (opened September 2020).

Following an extensive interior refurbishment of the rooms and main areas by London based team Taylor and Turner, it reopened to the public in May.

The Rooms

The 46 rooms are a lesson in pure relaxation, decorated in muted tones — olives, beige, creams and pale pinks. There are several categories to choose from depending on your preferred style and budget, such as the Cosy room, featuring a single bed for solo travellers, and the Fort Henry Suite which boasts a copper, roll-top bath.

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Mine was a Culture room — situated on the ground floor, off of a central courtyard. Highlights included a welcome plate of delicious shortbread, a power shower and very comfy super-king size bed, and a dog bed and bowl for my eight month old puppy, enjoying her first night away from home. Dogs are very welcome in all areas of the hotel, including the brasserie, and staff were very kind (and very patient) with her which was greatly appreciated.

Eating and drinking

The brasserie — named 1760, after the year the original lodge was built — is one of the first things you see when you walk in through the front door. It’s light, airy and continues on through to a beautiful conservatory with an enviable flagstone floor, bar area and more intimate dining areas.

I was looked after the hotel’s head of restaurants, Frank O’Mahoney, who once worked for the Orient Express, and helped launch the Northern Belle train service. He’s reasonably new to the Signet team, but already seemed passionate about it all and heads up a crack team of super friendly staff (all wearing Vans trainers) who went out of their way to create a relaxed dining experience.

Make sure you order the crispy cauliflower popcorn with teriyaki and soy (you will find it under the Nibbles section of the menu). Pair with a glass (or bottle) of The Pale by Sacha Lichine.

Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day — and the one I most look forward to when I’m in a hotel — and Barnsdale’s didn’t disappoint. I went for a traditional English fry-up, made with locally sourced produce.

How they keep you busy

The grounds accommodate a booming wedding business and croquet lawn with views over the surrounding countryside. Tour the kitchen garden or listen to one of the live music acts in the central courtyard. A farm shop and spa is in the works (the latter promises an indoor pool, salt flotation room, state-of-the-art gym, three treatment rooms and a beauty salon) and there are plans to set up an e-bike station.

What else to do while you’re there

Normanton Church on the water’s edge of Rutland Reservoir

Rutland Water is the largest reservoir in England, by surface water, and is located directly opposite the hotel. The 22.1mile circuit (15.1miles if you skip out the peninsula) is popular with walkers and cyclists.

Alternatively take to the water and go sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, canoeing or stand-up paddle boarding.

There are even cruises around the reservoir in daylight hours between April and October.

Who is it for?

Couples and families who don’t want to leave their canine friends behind. And anyone with a helicopter — there’s a handy helipad on site.

What gives it the ‘wow’ factor?

The foundations are there, but The Barnsdale still has a little way to go before it reaches the same heady heights as The Mitre and The Retreat. I’m looking forward to seeing how it does.

The one thing we’d change?

Some more thought could’ve gone into where the in-room desk lights were situated. It made turning them on and off tricky.

Rates at The Barnsdale from £120 a night, on a B&B basis — call 01572 724678 or book direct at