The Cotswolds (which means “King Cod’s lands”), famous for picturesque villages, spread across six English counties in central England – Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Somerset, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire. It’s a perfect place for staycation in place for foreign travel still fraught with pandemic restrictions
To fully appreciate the beauty of the area it’s a good idea to do short trips rather than to visit all the famous villages in one long trip. There are many similarities in these scenic places. The initial open-mouthed admiration could easily give way to a sense of déjà vu and they become more of the same.
After an enforced hiatus due to the pandemic, my usual travel buddy and I met up for the first time since March 2020 to spend 3 days in the Cotswolds, based in Gloucester (see separate blog)
Bourton-on-the-Water – a beauty to avoid
When people google “Cotswolds villages”, the first name that pops up on the list is Bourton-on-the-Water. It’s perhaps first in alphabetical order. It’s also first on a lot of people’s list probably because it boasts attractions like Cotswold Motoring Museum, Birdland and The Model Village in the vicinity.
It sounds like an idyllic place with quaint low stone bridges straddling the River Windrush that runs through it. However I found that reality offered a totally different prospective. The place was teeming with people sitting on the low bridges, along the river, on the grass, queuing outside shops, eateries etc. Need I go on! It’s one of the rare occasions that I went to a photo-worthy place and didn’t bother to take a single shot. In short, for peace and tranquillity, avoid Bourton-on-the-Water, which has become a victim of its own fame!
Lower Slaughter – a diamond in the Cotswolds crown
Despite its brutal sounding name, Lower Slaughter (“slaughter” is the old English name for a wet land) is an enchanting village, a picture-perfect place.
There’s no parking facilities for visitors, so we parked at Bourton-on-the-Water to walk 1.3 miles through open fields to get there. The walk was not strenuous and was totally worth the effort!
Unlike over-crowded Bourton-on-the-Water, Lower Slaughter was a haven of calm. With its honey-coloured stone buildings, it’s the epitome of a Cotswolds village. There’s a delightful postcard view at every turn and I snapped away with impunity as can be seen! Thanks goodness it was still charmingly unspoilt as I remembered it from my visit many years ago.
The only pity is that we couldn’t enjoy our afternoon tea at Lower Slaughter Manor which was fully booked and The Slaughter Country Inn which was closed for a private function
Tetbury – “Heart of England in Bloom”
The sky was rather overcast the next morning when we visited Tetbury. However Tetbury’s credential as a past “Heart of England in Bloom” winner was still much in evidence.
The town centre is dominated by the Grade 1 listed Market House and other period buildings
The Cat & Custard Pot Pub
Just three miles out of Tetbury on the way to Malmesbury (in the village of Shipton Moyne) there’s The Cat & Custard Pot Pub. It could be just another pretty pub but for its quirky name and cute signs!
Malmesbury – where history and nature exist in harmony
Situated on the southern entrance to the Cotswolds, Malmesbury has all the advantages for a short break or as a base for exploring the southern part of the Cotswolds.
Although a large part of this 12th Century Abbey lies in scenic ruins, it is still used as the local parish church
The Old Bell Hotel
Right next to the Abbey in the heart of Malmesbury is the inviting Old Bell Hotel. It’s reputed to be the oldest purpose built hotel in England (circa 1220). The exteriors exude all the country house charms, while the interiors are both elegant and quirky, traditional and whimsical. It was a great place to have our mid morning refreshment.
Around Malmesbury Abbey
Walk along the River Avon
Due to time pressure we were able to do only part of the walk. Another time it would be nice to do a circular walk!
Finally, the scenery in the Cotswolds was so charming it would have been churlish not to put myself properly in the pictures!! 😀