Thanks to Shakespeare, Jane Austin and all those period British movies, an image of English countryside is imprinted in your head which for me was brought to life with my visit to the villages of Cotswold. And boy, was it magnificent! If you are visiting London then you MUST take a weekend trip to Cotswold, it sure was the highlight of my England trip mainly because of the effortless beauty of these villages. My friend and I picked five beautiful villages, Chipping Camden, Snowshill, Stanton, Broadway and Upper Slaughter & Lower Slaughter of Cotswold in southern England which I highly recommend (read along and you will know why). Cotswold is 2:30 hrs away from London, so it’s an easy getaway if you will. We also stopped at the historic town of Stratford Upon Avon enroute since it was only about 30 mins away from Cotswold, so why not! TIP: Driving is not only the best mode of transportation between the many Cotswold villages but also definitely the most scenic too. For all you adventure freaks, if you are not used to driving on the right hand side then you are in for a trip, the narrow roads through these villages add to the challenge, but hey, did I tell you that it’s the best way to see these villages. I visited just at the onset of summer so it was great to have the company of nice and crisp weather. Below is a map of Cotswold villages with respect to London to an idea on their location.
STRATFORD UPON AVON
I grew up studying Shakespeare in school and like many of you I admire, no, I adore his wits, his flair for drama and his penchant for tragedies. Are you wondering why I bring him up here? Well here’s a fun fact, Stratford Upon Avon is the birthplace of the legend. Its approximately half hour away from Cotswold and about 2 hours drive from London. TIP: Whether or not you a Shakespeare admirer you will not regret a visit to this lovely & historic Tudor town. It’s as if time has stopped somewhere here within the galore of Tudor buildings and the landscape that surrounds this small town. I suggest buying the Birthplace Plus pass which will cover all of the four attractions I mention below.
WHAT TO SEE
1. Shakespeare Birthplace: Henley Street leads into the Bard’s birthplace house giving a glimpse of what it was like for him to grow up in 16th century. Fun Fact: Did you know, Shakespeare’s father was a leather glove maker?
2. Anne Hathaway’s Cottage & Gardens: This not so little cottage with its lush gardens all around is a true historic beauty happens to be Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathway’s home. While you are there, have a cup of tea at The Cottage Restaurant & Tea Gardens. Fun Fact: Anne Hathaway, the actress, is not related to Shakespeare’s wife in any way if you are wondering.
3. Hall’s Croft: An admirable house of Shakespeare’s daughter comes on the way to Holy Trinity church.
4. Holy Trinity Church: This is the final resting place of Shakespeare and his family. Church records indicates that he was also baptized here on April 26, 1564 soon after his birth.
Cotswold villages often known for their famous lavender fields and beauty of English countryside are a treat to the eyes. If you don’t want to miss these purple fields than be sure to plan your travel around the seasonal lavender field’s opening timings which usually is around summer i.e. mid June – August.
Don’t stop yourself from making abrupt stops when driving around here, take a moment to pause and soak it all in rather than hurrying into reaching your destination. This drive is a classic example of enjoying the journey. Although I was a season too early for lavender fields I did get to experience one of the many bright yellow Rapeseed fields (also called Canola fields) in one of my abrupt stops. TIP: Bring home some of Cotswold’s famous lavender goodies, there are plenty of boutique shops selling variety of lavender products.
There are many quaint villages in this part of England and I visited five villages (Chipping Camden, Snowshill, Stanton, Broadway and Upper Slaughter & Lower Slaughter )that I can personally recommend. TIP: Don’t shy away from befriending fellow travelers on the way; some of the tips people give can be invaluable. One such travel tip made us skip Bourton on the Water village and head to Upper & Lower Slaughter instead which turned out to be the best part of Cotswold for me.
WHERE TO STAY
Holly House Bed & Breakfast in Ebrington, Chipping Campden. It’s a beautiful cottage owned by a lovely family just a few miles away from many popular Cotswold villages.
WHAT TO SEE
1. Chipping Camden: St. James church and quaint shops in the market street here is sure to keep you busy. Let me add that the best toffee pudding I had in UK was in this village of Chipping Camden.
2. Snowshill: A quaint and scenic walk through this village is very relaxing but the main attraction is the Snowshill Manor. Snowshill Manor is a fascinating mansion with magnificent views owned by Charles Wade who chose to store his huge collection of craftsmanship on display (which he spent his lifetime collecting) in this Manor. He chose not to live here and rather resided in a modest priest’s house in the courtyard of his estate. The only pub we saw in this town was Snowshill Arms, but unfortunately didn’t peek in.
3. Stanton: Probably one of the prettiest of the villages in Cotswold especially because of the individual houses which could easily date back to 15th or 16th We had a great supper at The Mount Inn pub, probably the only pub in Stanton.
4. Broadway: Broadway Tower in this village is the second highest point in Cotswold and should be on your stop list when passing through Broadway. Since Broadway is more commercialized than other villages in Cotswold, it offers more accommodation and food options.
5. Upper Slaughter & Lower Slaughter: This was easily my favorite part of Cotswold especially because it came as a pleasant surprise. On a recommendation from fellow bed & breakfast we decided to do the walking trail between Upper and Lower Slaughter villages. This walk actually fulfilled my dreams of living in a Jane Austin English era and actually walking through the meadows from one village to another, see for yourself.
Just like the beauty of English countryside, the warmth and hospitality of Cotswold’s wonderful people exceeded my expectation. Definitely a must go and experience yourself kind of place.