A perfect rural retreat

Just as Oundle Mill combines the rustic with the chic, so the surrounding area brings different worlds harmoniously together. Water meets landscape, the natural blends with the cultural, and the historic rubs shoulders with the contemporary.

Nearby Oundle, famed for its school, is a traditional market town of stunning beauty, one of many such town's and villages whose spires dot the rolling countryside, replete with honey coloured stone and Collyweston roofs. Explore its architecture, sample the pleasures of the internationally renowned Oundle Festival of Literature (in mid to late March), Oundle International Festival (mid July) or take in the towns quaint independent shops. The surrounding countryside is wonderful for exploring, walking, or simply enjoying the rich wildlife (Red Kites and deer are a regular fixture in Rockingham Forest) but for the perfect escape, the River Nene's idyllic waterways are home to a wide variety narrowboats and cruisers. And if messing about in boats isn't enough to bring out your inner child, the World Conker Championships at nearby Ashton (on the second Sunday in October) has never been known to fail.

It's an area rich in history, too. There are the picturesque streets of Stamford, the backdrop to many a historical drama, including Pride and Prejudice and Middlemarch, and the nearby Burghley Estate House and sculpture garden. Only a short distance from Oundle lies Lyveden New Bield, with its intriguing Elizabethan lodge (which was never completed) and moated garden.

Also worth visiting are the beautiful grounds of Kelmarsh Hall; Fotheringhay, where Mary Queen of Scots met her grisly end; the vintage engines of the Nene Valley Railway; Boughton House, with its superb collection of Old Masters (including El Greco and Van Dyke) and the breathtaking 82-arch Victorian viaduct at Harringworth.

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