England's smallest county centres on Rutland Water, a vast artificial reservoir created by the damming of the Gwash Valley in 1976. Covering 1255 hectares, the reservoir attracts numerous bird species, including ospreys, best viewed from the hides at the Rutland Water Nature Reserve near Oakham.
At Skyes Lane near Empingham, the Rutland Water tourist office has a snack kiosk, access to walking and cycling trails, and information on the area.
A mile down the road, the Whitwell Centre has a vertigo-inducing high-ropes course, an outdoor climbing wall and bikes for hire (from £16.99/9.99 per adult/child per day) for a gentle pedal around the lake shore. In the same compound, Rutland Watersports offers aquatic activities, including sailing and windsurfing. You can rent gear, take lessons or enrol in governing-body-approved certification courses.
The Rutland Belle offers afternoon cruises from Whitwell to Normanton on the southern shore of the reservoir, where a stone causeway leads out across the water to Normanton Church, saved from inundation by a limestone barrier wall. Inside are displays on the history of the reservoir.
Close to the boat jetty, the Normanton Centre offers bike hire at the same rates as the Whitewell Centre. Just down the road at Edith Weston, Rutland Sailing School rents out boats and runs sailing courses.
The nearest places to stay are in and around Oakham, and Stamford, Lincolnshire.