Castling on the East Midlands canals

PLAN A VISIT TO BELVOIR CASTLE – an immense stately pile that’s walking distance from the remote and beautiful Grantham Canal

Belvoir Castle


Some locals like to call the Grantham Canal the “romantic canal”, and one of the reasons is its proximity to the immense stately pile of Belvoir Castle, the fourth castle to stand on this spot. The current building is an elaborate German-style fantasy of a castle that remains the family home of the Duke of Rutland. It is walking distance from the Grantham Canal, a Site of Special Scientific Interest which is currently being restored for boating but is a great spot for bird spotting, walking and cycling.

The first castle at Belvoir was built by the Normans. This was a ruin by 1464, so in 1538, Thomas Manners, the 1st Earl of Rutland began to build a second castle. This became an important location during the English Civil War, when it was a stronghold for the Royalists – the king himself spent a night here. As a result, it was destroyed by Cromwell’s forces in 1649. The third castle was then completed in 1688 and in 1703 the 9th Earl of Rutland was made Duke of Rutland. The castle was that redesigned in a Gothic Revival style, partially destroyed by fire and then reconstructed in the same style in 1832.

Visitors can now see priceless works of art and family heirlooms, or explore the gardens which include Japanese woodlands and areas based on the original landscaping of Capability Brown. It is an opulent piece of architecture – its name means beautiful view, and that’s exactly what it is. Treasures include Old Masters as well as works by Reynolds and Stubbs. Dramatic interiors include the Kings Rooms, a suite of three rooms designed for the Prince Regent – later George IV – who was a regular visit. These rooms were also used by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert when they visited Belvoir in 1843.

Grantham Canal has more subtle charms. It runs close by Belvoir and a previous Dukes of Rutland even constructed a private tramway from Belvoir Castle to the Muston Gorse wharf on the canal. This carried coal from the canal to the castle along narrow tramcars pulled by horses. Even the rich needed the canals to keep them warm in winter.