I don’t remember what movie I first saw that was set in the English countryside. But since then I’ve wanted to visit so much. I knew for this trip to England we’d be in the south, so the Cotswolds made perfect sense. The only downside for foreigners wanting to visit the Cotswolds is that you NEED a car to properly tour these towns. Public transportation is practically non-existent here. My husband braved the very narrow country roads (sometimes there was only one lane for both directions or traffic…very stressful) in a rental van because the compact car we requested was taken.
The first thing you need (aside from a rental car) for touring the Cotswolds? A hearty, full-English breakfast.
This was my first full-English. Yum. Not something I could eat everyday, and I did have indigestion afterwards, but it tasted great!
Our first port-o-call was Bibury. This, more than the other towns in the Cotswolds we visited, is to me the quintessential Cotswolds village. The architecture, the flowers, the quiet (well, except for all the tourists!).
All the buildings in Bibury look like this. I suspect modern looking buildings are prohibited to preserve the 19th century look of the village.
Most homes here had their little garden in front, or a hedgerow of flowers. I got the feeling that the people who live here take pride in the natural beauty of Bibury. As picturesque are these buildings are though, having lived in apartments for many years, I can’t help but wonder what the noise bleed-through is like?
In most of the Cotswolds towns we visited there were streams, or rivers running through the town. I wonder, is this a natural feature? Or a man-made one to make the villages look lovelier? As if they needed any help!
There is far more of a commercial feel to this Cotswold town. Every other shop (of which there are many) sold ice cream, or had an ice cream kiosk in front, and there were lots of kick-knack shops, and tea rooms. If amenities (restaurants, shops, other services) are your thing this would make a better base for a Cotswold stay than Bibury.
There were three other spots we visited in the Cotswolds:
Sudeley is a medieval castle with a long history, but is best known for being the home of Katherine Parr after Henry VIII died. Sadly Katherine died shortly after giving birth to her daughter here. There are large portions of the castle, like the picture above, that are in ruins. The main part of the castle is still lived in by the family that currently owns it. The gardens are so beautiful here. From manicured shrubberies like the one pictured above to the more traditional English style, apart from seeing the castle, Sudeley is the perfect spot for relaxing and picnicking.
Sudeley is also the final resting place of Katherine Parr.
Tewkesbury Abbey/Bloody Meadow
I have to say, Tewkesbury is one of the most beautiful cathedrals. Sure Westminster is great, and the National Cathedral in D.C. is impressive, but Tewkesbury’s ceiling! It rivals Hampton Court Palace’s chapel ceiling. The smaller chapels inside the abbey have amazing stained glass windows that look especially enchanting around 5pm. Tewkesbury was also a sanctuary for Lancastrian nobles after the Battle of Tewkesbury. After two days of claiming sanctuary in the abbey they were dragged out and murdered by the Yorkists.
Me in the blood meadow, site of a major battle during the Wars of the Roses. Named the bloody meadow because of the massive slaughter that left the meadow, well, covered in blood. And this was before modern weapons.
I’ll be honest, after the beauty of the Cotswolds, and the history of Sudeley and Tewkesbury, Broadway falls a bit flat. Its basically a tower in the middle of nowhere, on a hill. There’s some history of the tower that you learn about inside, but in my opinion, not that interesting. The view from the top is nice, but if you’re from an area with actual mountains (i.e. not England) you might roll your eyes when they call this a mountainous area. It also costs 5 pounds to enter the tower.
All in all I really enjoyed our time in the Cotswolds. It was a slower pace, which was much appreciated at this point in our trip. Check back next week to see about our day in Stratford-Upon-Avon!
Have you read about our trip to Stonehenge?