Weirdly, considering I’m obsessed with the quaint, olde-worlde English countryside (York and Cornwall, to name some of my favs) I’d never been to the Cotswolds before – ignoring a very fleeting visit when we went to visit friends in Oxford, and anything that happened when I was five that I can’t remember (I can hear my mum saying ‘we’ve been to the Cotswolds FIVE TIMES!’ but I’m sorry, if you don’t remember it, it doesn’t count!) My husband got a new job and so, with a little bit of holiday to use up, we decided a weekend away was in order. Just us, a little cottage in Chipping Campden, a pile of books and a list of calorific things to eat as long as my arm.
Our cottage was perfectly placed within Chipping Campden, a tiny little village near Stratford-upon-Avon. We spent our afternoon exploring the village, drinking tea in a tiny tea room with a malfunctioning chimney that resulted in all our clothes smelling like a bonfire, and locating a Tesco, where we purchased dinner supplies.
A night in, reading our books in quiet companionship, with fajitas and wine. Perfection. Although when I realised we were both reading books about the financial crisis, I did have to pause and comment on what losers we both are!
On Saturday, I made a gigantic breakfast. How much do you want one these in your own house?
After eating, we visited the nearby village of Bourton-on-the-Water. One of the most picturesque villages in the Cotswolds, it was relatively busy with tourists and cute dogs and kids. We went on a walk using a guidebook from 2003, promptly got immediately lost, accidentally adopted a greyhound, and got suitably covered in mud.
Before retiring gratefully to another tea room, where I continued my eating with a huge scone, clotted cream, and jam. The question is – which do you apply first?
I’m a cream first kinda girl. Messier, but it’s who I am.
We had planned to go and visit the model village, but on the way, we came across a maze. Two hours later, laughing hysterically but freezing cold, we managed to get out! There wasn’t time for the maze – we picked up some presents and headed back to our cottage.
Where we showered off the mud and made ourselves slightly more presentable for dinner at a local pub, the Eight Bells. This is one of those properly traditional English pubs that you just don’t see around much anymore. Not a gastro pub, not cheap and horrible either – just good, decently priced pub food. We enjoyed everything, although especially this sticky toffee pudding, drowning in caramel sauce.
On Sunday Ian, who is marathon training, went for a long run along the river. I went for a MUCH shorter run around the block, then had a long shower and sat out in the sun reading my book – The Big Short, which incidentally is brilliant and properly explains the credit crunch (although I have to keep stopping and getting Ian to explain bits to me!) I managed to get up for long enough to make a decent spread for lunch…
Smoked cheese from the local deli, sausages and eggs and chorizo, tiger loaf bread, bagels, cream cheese, and crisps. Lunch of kings.
We ate and then went to Stratford-upon-Avon and saw Shakespeare’s house, which was a bit underwhelming actually, before returning to visit several pubs, all which were terrible – like the pubs that time forgot – but we had enough wine, there were open fires and I won a game of Scrabble and ate mozzarella sticks, so I was pretty contented.
On Monday we woke up to perfect sunshine. Ate one last breakfast (finishing the bagels in bed) before packing to head home, via the spa.
We visited the MacDonald Alverston Spa in Stratford-upon-Avon, and – well – as a day spa I can’t recommend it. There isn’t a Jacuzzi, the swimming pool reminded me of a local leisure centre, and the staff, in all honesty, were absolutely hopeless. But my deep tissue massage was incredible, lunch was lovely, and I was left feeling extremely relaxed as we headed home!
I fully recommend a little weekend away in the great British countryside. Have you been to the Cotswolds? What did you think?