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Cotswolds Ten Days in Great Britain: London and the Cotswolds

Terry

100+ Posts
By teaberry from USA, Fall 2012
September 22 to October 3, 2012 Terry and her husband spent three days in London and a glorious week in the Cotswolds, touring, hiking and visiting with friends.

This trip report was originally published on SlowTrav.

Arrival

We landed at Heathrow at 10:02am; it started to rain at 10:03am. That marked the start of a recurrent theme throughout our trip. But we were not deterred from thoroughly enjoying Great Britain, both in London and in the Cotswolds.

Jetlag hit us a little harder than usual, so our first day included limited activity. Our trip from the airport to our accommodations was an easy (and cheap) hop on the Piccadilly tube line from Heathrow, getting off at Green Park. We loved our hotel (a Holiday Inn) in the Mayfair section of London. I got a great rate at this higher end hotel (do not think American motor lodge), thanks to a successful PriceLine bid – yea bidding! Located on Berkeley Street, it was just up the block from the Ritz, and we found the entire neighborhood to be quite upscale and fun to walk around, even if it was raining.

We were prepared with our rain ponchos and umbrellas, and strolled around the area’s backstreet nooks and crannies. Also went along Piccadilly Avenue, where we enjoyed the many chi-chi shops, and considered our time well spent exploring the famous Fortnum & Mason’s – a shopping playground for the rich and famous, including the Queen. Later, we landed at Le Comptoir restaurant for dinner, where they serve up delicious Mediterranean fare. Still damp and chilly from being outside, we couldn’t have enjoyed our homemade tagines any more if we tried. Lemonades flavored with pomegranate and orange blossoms were the perfect foil for the meal, and homemade baklava with minty tea rounded out the dinner just fine. A good night’s sleep was had by all.
 

Terry

100+ Posts
Ponchos on, Ready to Roll

Next day ... rain. Ponchos on, we hopped on the tube and went out to the British Museum. A real treasure (and free admission, too), the place is huge. You could spend days there and not make a dent in all there is to see. We both really enjoyed this museum, but I especially enjoyed the mummies, and seeing one of the Cleopatras.

Later, still jet-lagged, we went back to our hotel for an after-lunch nap. When we woke up, it had stopped raining. We walked to Buckingham Palace, and then to Westminster Abbey, and enjoyed a stroll along the South Thames. Dinner on the top floor of Oxo Tower at their brasserie, where we enjoyed the most beautiful view of London, and a very delicious meal. After dinner, the view of the Tower Bridge at night was breathtaking, so we crossed it and walked back to our room.

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Inside the British Museum
 

Terry

100+ Posts
Seeing the Sights, and a Great SlowTrav GTG

Tuesday morning brought some sun. We tubed over to Covent Gardens and snooped around the theater district, the market, and the many side streets and various shops. Lots of fun. When we found ourselves at the Portrait Gallery, we took advantage of the free admission and explored. We skipped the Tudors, and instead viewed the 20th century portraits and the Queen. Fabulous collections. From there we walked over to Trafalgar Square and basked with our picnic lunch in what little sunlight was left. An enjoyable visit to the National Gallery (another free and glorious British treasure) brought us close to the great Impressionist and Dutch masters, most enjoyable. On to Westminster Abbey for a walking tour – unfortunately, as soon as we arrived, it started pouring, so we decided to preclude our tour and enjoy some R&R in our room.

Soon, it was time to meet Panda, a SlowTrav friend, and her husband for dinner at the nearby Fishworks, where we wined and dined quite well. I thoroughly enjoyed my very properly done fish and chips. The petit Chablis was very good, too, as was the company.

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Terry

100+ Posts
Cotswolds, Here We Come

Wednesday, and we’re off to the Cotswolds for a week in a rental. We took the Tube to Paddington station, and from there we hopped on the Great Malvern train to Oxford, about an hour’s ride. No problems. Our prearranged car rental via Kemwel was with Europcar, and we picked up our cute little automobile, a Toyota Arius (they surprised us with a hybrid, with excellent gas mileage) without a hitch. Bringing along with us our trusty GPS with a downloaded UK map was one of the better moves we made, and bailed us out of many a wrong turn.

Adjusting to driving on the opposite side of the street, and a car with the driver on the opposite side of the car, took some getting used to, and I’m not sure I ever fully adjusted, but we never incurred a scratch in the car nor a near-miss on any road, so I consider our driving a total success. The new driving patterns did incur a little straining on the marital bliss front, but nothing we couldn’t navigate there, either.

On the way to our home in the Cotswolds for the next week, we stopped first in the town of Witney, where we were advised to pick up food munitions at their local Waitrose (thank you, Pauline!). Good advice – their food was excellent.

Onward to Chipping Campden, our storybook town for the week. We found our Kettle Cottage rental without difficulty, thanks to great communications with the manager. It was a two-story little cottage, attached to the back of a home right off the main street. We had privacy, quiet, and a view of St. James Bell Tower from our windows. It was perfect.

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Kettle Cottage
 

Terry

100+ Posts
Hike from Chipping Campden to Broadway Tower, and Back

Thursday: we woke up to a sunny, cloudless day – joy! Walked around and explored our cozy hometown, with some buildings dating back to the 14th century. The smell of burning hearths, the cool fall temperatures in the air, milk in bottles delivered at doorsteps – this was our little slice of heaven for the week.

We decided to take a hike – there are innumerable footpaths throughout the region, including the famous Cotswold Way (which actually starts in Chipping Campden) that crisscross all over the Cotswolds. We followed a trail to Dover’s Hill, just above our town, that afforded us beautiful and expansive views to the west. From there, we hiked onward to Broadway Tower, which was built in the late 1700s. From the top of the tower, you can see as far as 60 miles away - just breathtaking. Unfortunately, on the horizon, we could very clearly see what looked like a decent sized storm approaching, so we decided to take our leave and the return hike home. We got caught in the storm anyway, about half-way back. After finding the shelter of a generously-leafed tree, we waited out the rain, about a half hour’s worth, and soggily hiked back to our cottage under sunny skies.

We enjoyed dinner that night at the Fleece Inn, a 16th century pub, in the nearby town of Bretforton.

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Broadway Tower
 

Terry

100+ Posts
A Day at the Races

Friday, we awoke to an early morning drizzle. We walked over to the St. James Church, which we can see from our cottage windows. It dates back to the 13th century, and was a major wool center of the medieval Cotswolds. The bell tower was built around the 17th century. From there, we hopped in the car and drove about 20 minutes north to the Stratford Racetrack, to enjoy an afternoon with the ponies.

My husband loves horse racing, and we always try to visit a local racetrack during our travels. The shape of the track at Stratford was triangular, with a few hills and dips, and there were hurdles for the horses to navigate. It was fun to see the differences between US and UK racetracks. By the time we left, it was ... starting to rain again. We did not visit Stratford-upon-Avon for that reason, and went back for a nap in our digs. That night, we had a fabulous dinner at Eight Bells Inn in Chipping Campden.

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Stratford-on-Avon racetrack
 

Terry

100+ Posts
Avebury, Lower Slaughter, Stow-on-Wold

The next day was sunny, and we decided to make the one hour drive to Avebury, to see the Neolithic stone circles. Incredible to see, nobody is quite sure of what their purpose was, but it’s neat to ponder and walk around the ancient grounds and touch the massive stones. Our original plans were to go to Stonehenge from there, but the crowds and tour buses were pretty heavy at Avebury, plus the extra strong winds that day made it quite chilly and we felt very under-dressed for the weather.

On that note, we decided to opt out and drove instead to Lower Slaughter, a picture perfect village along a winding stream. We ate lunch at an old mill tea room at the edge of town, overlooking the stream – idyllic!

Later we drove to Stow-on-the-Wold, a more touristed town but great for shopping and poking around. We found a cafe called the Cream Tea Room that served, in addition to their wonderful offerings of scones and sweets, some mighty tasty dairy free scones, and since I have problems with dairy foods, I bought a half dozen to take back to the cottage with us. Their tea selection was amazing, too.

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Stone in Avebury
 

Terry

100+ Posts
Day Hike from Bourton-on-the-Water

Sunday was windy, cloudy, and cool. We drove to Bourton-on-the-Water, which was a very quiet, scenic place in the early morning. We took a lovely hike from there, which included a visit to the small village of Little Rissington. It’s a tiny town, and we found their 12th century church up on the hill. We somehow got lost on the hike back to Bourton, and ended up taking a two hour wrong turn. When we got back to Bourton, another very popular stop for all travelers, it was mobbed! We returned to our cottage that evening and enjoyed another pre-made dinner that we had bought at Waitrose.

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Little church in Little Rissington
 

Terry

100+ Posts
Sudeley Castle, and the Stanton Hike

We visited Sudeley Castle on Monday. The castle was once home to Katherine Parr, the last wife of Henry VIII. The historical artifacts are all well displayed, and we were fascinated with the history of the castle. The grounds and gardens are also elegant – a very worthwhile visit.

From there we went to Broadway to pick up some sandwiches, then we drove to the tiny village of Stanton, where we began our next hike. Of course, it rained upon us again, but this was probably our favorite hike, and at this point, the rain was bothering us less and less – seemed normal to rain! That evening we enjoyed dinner at the Lygon Arms, an atmospheric pub with great food and cider, in Chipping Campden.

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Gardens at Sudeley Castle
 

Terry

100+ Posts
Hidcote Manor, Painswick, and another great ST GTG

Our last full day in the Cotswolds started in Moreton-in-Marsh, where they were having Market Day. It seemed more like a flea market to us, with only one stall selling fresh produce. But we did pass by a local pub called the Bell Inn, which, according to local legend, was the inspiration for JRR Tolkien’s Prancing Pony Inn in his Lord of the Ring series. From there, we took the short drive to Hidcote Manor, one of the most beautiful gardens I’ve ever visited.

In the afternoon, we drove down to the South Cotswolds to the town of Painswick to visit SlowTrav friends, Pauline and Steve. An entirely different character to this Cotswold town, and just as quaint and lovely. We took a hike just outside their doorway, and of course, got caught in more rain. We walked through the town’s church-grounds with 99 yew trees planted – it was enchanting. Back at their home, we enjoyed a yummy dinner with more SlowTrav friends, Jonathan and his wife Philippa. SlowTrav friends are among the very best!

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an October blooming garden at Hidcote
 

Terry

100+ Posts
Time to Go Home

The next morning, we drove to Heathrow and returned our rental car. With fond memories to fill our dreams til our next trip, we embarked on the flight home.

We loved our visit to Great Britain, and enjoyed the people, the culture, the food, the sights, the streets, the architecture, the history, the countryside, and the walking paradise in the Cotswolds. We only scratched the surface; we hope to return to England and discover more.
 

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