The county of Leicestershire is right in the middle of the UK, land-locked but vibrant, with small picturesque villages, a rich industrial heritage and many attractions to make sure the visitor returns again and again. If you are staying in a Leicestershire hotel, then you are in for a treat because it is a great base from which to explore this county.
One of the things that Leicestershire is most famous for is fox hunting and it all seems to be mostly down to one particular man – Hugo Meynell. He first began to hunt the foxes that strayed onto his estate in Quorn in 1753. He also bred dogs that could go the distance and this speed gave an added excitement to the chase.
The sport soon became so fashionable that by 1800 many aristocratic families were joining in the hunt and professional men in towns out in the country were forming hunting clubs. Soon it became a large social event, bringing together the rural community as a whole.
The town of Melton Mowbray is in the middle of three hunts – the Cottesmore, the Quorn and the Belvoir. Many young men would congregate here to hunt and then enjoy a drink or two in the evening. One very drunken night in 1837 the Marquess of Waterford and pals threw red paint all over the night watchmen and then proceeded to paint the town walls. The famous phrase ‘to paint the town red’ comes from this jape. Melton Mowbray is also famous for its pork pies, which have a worldwide reputation.
If you want an experience more out of this world, take a trip to the National Space Centre in Leicester. This centre successfully attempts to bring space science and the sheer magnitude and greatness of it to normal human beings. There are interactive displays on cosmic myths, the history of astronomy and the development of space travel. While not solving all the mysteries of the universe, it does have an area where you can check out the status of all the current space missions.
Another museum in Leicester worth a visit is Jewry Wall, one of England’s largest Roman civil structures, where you can wander among excavated ruins of Roman public baths, which date back nearly 2,000 years.
About half an hour from the county’s capital is the pretty town of Market Harborough, which has the third finest high street in the country lined with many Georgian constructions. Right in the middle of the town is a school on stilts! The Old Grammar School is a timber frame building dating from 1614. It was built on stilts because there was a butter market held underneath and people could shelter from the rain there. The school is no longer functioning there but stalls still operate underneath on market days.
For a peaceful walk not far from Market Harborough, take a look at Foxton Locks, a flight of ten locks that are set on a hill. Many narrow boats have to negotiate these tricky manoeuvres of gates and paddles. The area is teaming with wildlife like herons and ducks.
You can find luxury hotels in Leicestershire anywhere in the county that will suit your requirements, from city based ones to cosy farmhouses and country hotels. A Leicestershire hotel offers comfort at a price you can afford whatever your budget. You can stay in a Victorian town house, listed buildings or even on a university campus!
If you happen to be in Leicester in February, try and get tickets for the Comedy Festival, the country’s longest running such festival. There’s also the Caribbean Carnival in August and Diwali in the autumn where the extensive Hindu community celebrates this Festival of Light. It attracts visitors from all over the world as it is the biggest of its kind outside India. Leicestershire itself has many county fairs, mainly during late spring and summer, where rare breeds are paraded and trade exhibitions are put on.
Out in the wilds of Leicestershire is Belvoir Castle, where peacocks roam in the grounds of this Gothic fantasy that was rebuilt in the 19th century. It is home to the Duke and Duchess of Rutland and houses collections of weaponry, medals and art, particularly works by Gainsborough, Reynolds and Holbein.