How would like to be transported back to a time when fairies and pixies roamed the forests. And where trolls and gnomes may lurk behind every shadow cast by bewitching trees? Eh…nope. We’d rather be in the beautiful countryside of what can be considered quintessential rural. Well, the best that can be found within an easy drive from the major cities of England.
Such is the charm of driving in the countryside of the Cotswolds.
Nestled between Wales to the west, the midlands to the north and Greater London to the south & east, it is quintessentially England and dotted with villages teeming with B&Bs.
We had chanced upon this area while making our way to London after a business trip to the former seaside resort of Southport. While driving through the region, we stayed for 2 nights to sample the environment in which Shakespeare might have lived. Ok, perhaps it would not be anywhere close but that was the aspiration!
Small is beautiful
Now there are many famous cities in this region such as Bath and Stratford upon Avon, but we skipped them all in favor of the smaller villages with their pretty honey-colored stone houses. For you may see a lot more touristy sites in the bigger towns and cities, the small village charm of the country is of a different flavor. But be aware though that the small country roads to these sites are narrow and could barely fit two cars, so it was quite an effort to not scrap the sides of the rental as we made our way. First stop – we visited the famous row of weavers’ cottages at Bibury.
Named after the work that was done in them, these cottages are now preserved for all to see how hard life was in those days. While they look so picturesque today, imagine having to squeeze a large family into such a small house! Did you know they were originally built to store wool for the local monastery? As these heritage properties are under protection, we were unable to gain access to the interior. Not sure if that’s changed today though.
The river that flows through the town with its little walking bridges is called Windrush. Interesting name right? Just one of many in the country if you look it up! Well we were in the tiny town of Bourton-on-water, considered today as
Venice of the Cotswolds. You might have to come early though, because it gets a little popular with local tourists from other parts of England and foreign ones (like us) too! We probably have to let the pictures do some of the talking…
Don’t be fooled!
At the village of Broadway (not the road in NYC!), we came up against an impressive tower that overlooks all over the valley beneath. In the middle ages, such fortifications would have been the keep of lords. It make it easy to survey their serfs or when rival lords came approaching! Today it is an excellent vantage point to see all around instead.
Oh what a bluff!
This 20m high “Saxon” tower was designed and constructed in the late 1790s. It’s called a folly because it simply an ornamental building that did not serve any particular purpose. Set on a hill a thousand feet above sea level, the hill it was built where beacons were lit on special occasions. Some wealthy lady was said to have sponsored its construction simply because she wanted to know if the beacon of light can be seen from her home 20 miles away… so you’d know that it is not only wealthy folks today who behave eccentrically…
Because it is late autumn, we saw was an expanse of grazing land surrounded by hedged plots of cultivation. It is now November and the days were short. While it does not yet snow, the temperatures are low and the wind chill where we were did not help. Thus, be prepared for such inclement weather with some warm clothe especially in November.
Multi Million pound row
In the charming village of Chipping Campden, there is a road lined with beautiful cottages. They are called the million pound row for the simple reason that they cost well over £1 million each (and this was in 2004). Here the roads are quiet and the community small and tight knit. Really postcard views of what middle England is. Fancy investing in one?
One of the most relaxing things to do is to walk along these rows of beautiful homes in the early morning or late afternoon. The peace and quiet of this place is really enchanting, quite a difference from the hustle and bustle of London.
Some of the best preserved thatched roof homes in Europe can be found here. They are so well kept that you’d think it’s newly built. But people here have the ability to do the re-roofing ever so required (lot of $$$, or rather £££). Do you know what that is?
This off the beaten track way of seeing the country really reaped us benefits as we captured scenes that you cannot see on multi lane highways between the major cities. Here we are in late autumn, driving along fields stripped bare after the hay had been collected and rolled into large bundles. Our bed and breakfast was in Willersey, located in the middle of the Cotswolds and easy driving distances to all the small villages that we had read about.
Spending 2 days is definitely insufficient to full explore the Cotswolds and we recommend you to look at 4-5 days to fully harness the time to soak in the relaxing atmosphere. Take time to move from one B&B to another. This is the route we took:
It is so easy to find out about the places you want to visit in the UK tourism web sites and blogs these days. Definitely hire a car and run free on the road. You should never get lost since every little stop might yield you a hidden gem. Our trip to the Cotswolds was short,
but it was nevertheless enjoyable. From the large English breakfasts to the local bakery, we enjoyed not only the food but the gorgeous scenery that greeted us at every corner.
There you go, the beautiful and tranquil countryside that is so accessible from metropolitan London (a couple of hours’ drive away). A wonderful retreat if you are looking for some peace and quiet. This part of England truly has a gem to be discovered in every corner. Yes it is rather pricey, but you’d be surprised with beautifully adorned guest houses, the food and the fresh air that energizes you each morning. Maybe you might see Harry Potter hiding around the corner somewhere…
This journey took place in November 2004