Thanks to a husband who’s willing to drive on the left-hand side of the road, we were off to this quintessential English countryside.
POSTED BY PINKY
I first laid eyes on this idyllic part of England on a bus tour taken when I was in my 20s. As most bus tours go, they give you just a taste of the places you see, then you decide later on which ones you’d like to go back to in the future. That’s the way I see it anyway.
The Cotswolds (“wolds” means rolling hills) is located northwest of London and is about a 1-1/2-hour drive away. Covering six counties with lots to offer – from honey-coloured villages and busy market towns to castles and rural settings, I wanted my family to see the thatched roofed cottages that I first fell in love with…a few years ago.
Initially considering the Lake District (another picturesque section of England that I’d come across on that “destination shopping expedition”), famous for inspiring the works of William Wordsworth, Samuel Coleridge, and Beatrix Potter (Tale of Peter Rabbit), I just thought that the energy of the Cotswold villages would be a better fit for our boys. You get a bit of the rural and a bit of the village-y feel, but one that isn’t too serene. If you get my drift.
I should warn you, though. There are many Cotswold towns and villages to choose from. So you might have to do some research into which ones you’d enjoy the most. I find that Cotswolds.info also includes villages that actually border and are not officially part of the Cotswolds (like Stratford-upon-Avon) but the site does give you a fair idea of what each place has to offer.
Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire
We decided on Chipping Campden as our base because of its charming town center, where a 400-year-old Market Hall still stands reminiscent of its trading past. Small yes, but this market town has several inns and hotels and a few good pubs and restaurants. Always a good sign.
Ironically, the thatched roofs that caught my imagination years ago didn’t seem to be as common in the Cotswolds, but luckily, quite a few still existed in Chipping Campden.
We were lucky enough to stay in a highly-rated B&B that had an open field behind the property where our boys played and ran with the owners’ dog. It was owned and operated by a family originally from London and sadly, it seems they have closed the B&B.
However, these fine restaurants we’ve tried are still doing very well.
* Eight Bells on Church St.
Housed in a highly-rated traditional Cotswold inn with the same name, this pub and restaurant serves excellent food and boasts of using only the freshest ingredients in season. We dined in the restaurant as kids weren’t allowed in the pub, but there was something for everyone. Our boys even had burgers BUT they weren’t your typical burgers, I must say. These were prime cut steaks that the chef ground, seasoned, and grilled to juicy perfection.
* The Maharaja on St. Catharine’s Square
Craving for Indian food one night – and Britain is known to have the best Indian food outside of India and what has developed into Anglo-Indian cuisine – the boys found this restaurant for me behind another well-rated inn. We had their lamb biryani and chicken tikka masala. The Maharaja did not disappoint.
A 20-minute drive from Chipping Campden is this market town made famous by the annual fairs that were held there when the Cotswold wool industry was at its height. As many as 20,000 sheep were sold at a time!
Another curiosity for tourists are the wooden stocks or pillory that were used to clamp wrongdoers in the public square to humiliate and punish them.
Bigger than Chipping Campden, Bourton-on-the-Water is known for the River Windrush that meanders through it and the picturesque arched bridges that cross it.
About 10 minutes’ drive from Stow-on-the-Wold, the boys had fun walking through the village and playing along the banks of the shallow river. So much fun, I think, that one of them couldn’t resist joining the ducks in the cool river!
The “Jewel of the Cotswolds”, known for its magnificent rolling hills, honey-coloured limestone cottages, and broad way now known as High Street, the boys had a fine time running around the Village Green and got the chance to read the names of the community’s fallen soldiers poignantly etched on the war memorial.
Nestled at the base of the Worcestershire hills, Broadway is a 25-minute drive from Bourton-on-the-Water and only 10 minutes away from Chipping Campden.
It’s worth mentioning that the Cotswolds is a declared Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), which is defined as “an area of countryside in England, Wales or Northern Ireland which has been designated for conservation due to its significant landscape value”.
With Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon a mere 26 minutes away and Oxford an hour’s drive from our base, keep checking back for updates on our journey through the English countryside.
Main Photo Credit: cntraveller.com