The Inspector calls at 'absurdly priced' Hambleton Hall in Rutland

Impeccable service but browning flowers on the dinner table, breakfast fruit ‘dispiritingly covered in clingfilm’ and ‘absurd prices’… the Inspector is not a fan of Hambleton Hall in Rutland

  • Hambleton Hall was built in 1881 by keen foxhunting bon viveur Walter Marshall  
  • Now? A ‘formal hotel with fussy food, pelmets and carpets everywhere’ 
  • The Inspector pays £510 for dinner, bed and breakfast  
  • Remember, the Inspector pays his way… and tells it like it is…

Walter Marshall, the mad-keen foxhunting bon viveur who built Hambleton Hall in 1881, had as his motto: Fay ce que voudras — ‘do as you please’.

And his sundial on the terrace is inscribed with the words Nunc Hora Bibendi, ‘Now is the time for a drink’.

Hambleton Hall’s owner, Tim Hart, whose sons Sam and Eddie run the popular Barrafina Spanish restaurant chain, makes much of this in the hotel directory — and yet the atmosphere in his hotel is strictly regimented.

Hambleton Hall has an atmosphere, says the Inspector, that is ‘strictly regimented’

‘Please dress smartly in your own way,’ is one instruction. ‘Please order your breakfast the night before,’ is another. 

And, on arrival, the receptionist reminds us that we are down to have drinks at 7.30pm and will be sitting down for dinner at 8pm. ‘And so don’t be late,’ she might have added.

Hambleton Hall, occupying a glorious position overlooking Rutland Water, is a reminder that the Colefax and Fowler style of country house hotel, which burst on the scene in the 1980s, is still with us.

Formal, impeccable service, fussy food, pelmets, carpets everywhere and sky-high prices. We’re paying £510 for dinner, bed and breakfast, and despite what the Good Hotel Guide says about all rooms having views of ‘garden or lake’, ours looks out over the kitchen yard at the side of the building.

The Inspector says Hambleton Hall occupies a glorious position overlooking Rutland Water, pictured


Hambleton Hall, Oakham, Rutland, LE15 8TH.

Doubles are priced from £375. For more information call 01572 756991, or visit


But it’s pretty in a flouncy sort of way, with floral headboard, curtains and blinds, high ceiling, neutral carpet. The large bathroom is so brightly lit that it startles even during the day.

We have pre-dinner drinks in the grand drawing room, where we’re presented with menus and four tiny canapes, before being ushered into the dining room, where it’s eerily quiet. We must avoid a row here, unless we want the whole room to hear it.

One surprise is the white carnations on the tables — which have turned brown. The food is a throwback to the 1980s, too, when Brussels sprouts on the menu meant one teeny weeny Brussels sprout leaf on the plate. It’s far too fancy, far too minimalist — and absurdly priced.

Because breakfast has been ordered the night before, your fruit compote — or whatever — is waiting for you at the table, covered in clingfilm. This might be helpful for the staff, but there’s something dispiriting about it for guests.

A breath of fresh air beckons as we pack up and get ready to leave — in every sense of the phrase.

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