British Isles

For Jonah & Sue

April 2016.

Long weekend in the Cotswolds

Dear Jonah,

A lovely trip awaits. I recommend you read up on the British Isles before going. With so much to see, it will be a benefit—particularly to someone with an inquiring mind like yours—to get a good historical sense of the region, the importance of the geology and geography to its economic rise, and the reasons for its sudden eclipse.

Each Cotswold village is more picturesque than the last, and the rolling countryside that links them, lined with thick hedgerows and limestone walls and carpeted in spring with daffodils and cowslip, is postcard perfect. In April, the flowers are beyond belief and then, as the months wear on, the thick hedgerows patchwork the farmland and meadows and the ancient trees offer shade to sheep flocks. Just 1.5 hours from London, the Cotswolds will provide a richly rewarding experience over your long weekend.

Day 1: Arrival

You will arrive in Birmingham, and then, keeping to the back roads to avoid tourist traffic and to guarantee marvelous discoveries, drive on your way to the Cotswolds’ famous villages. Wander, Jonah. Wander by car or on foot or, since you are a lover of horses, you can ride by day and stay overnight in different country houses. The celebrated villages – Broadway, Burford, Chipping Camden among them – are frustratingly busy in summer and virtually impossible to park in. Fortunately, there are so many other enticing villages that you can avoid this frenzy by moseying along idyllic back roads.

Among my favorites are Adelstrop, Swinbrook (home of the Mitford sisters) and Snowshill, pretty and surrounded by lavender fields. Visit Northleach which has one of the finest wool churches and a museum of musical instruments and clocks, as well as Cirencester, at one time the largest Roman town outside of London. Here, you will find the historically significant church that houses Anne Boleyn’s chalice.

Tonight, we recommend dining at the Horse and Groom in Bourton-on-the-Hill. Pub dining, though often portrayed as simple, can surprisingly sophisticated, and often focuses on farm-to-table menus. Cozy with roaring fires, happy diners and live Irish music can follow at the Ebrington Arms in Chipping Campden.

Rest tonight at the Wild Rabbit, located in the very beautiful village of Kingham. The rooms are tiny but precious. Alternatively, you can stay at a private house, which my friend, Andrew, can find for you. Manor houses tend to be larger than a cozy nest for two, but this is my top pick accommodation option if you do decide to find a private accommodation. If you choose to stay at one of Andrew’s properties, you will get the bonus of insider information that only Andrew can provide.

Day 2: Churches

Rise early today to take advantage of England’s footpaths that crisscross the countryside, and visit the many interesting wool churches (so called because they were built with money from the wool trade). An afternoon wander is a truly authentic way to experience this region. The Cotswolds is a walker’s delight and, frankly, the very best way to savor this region of golden stone villages, woodlands, meadows and valleys, brooks and tight fields. The region is protected as an area of outstanding natural beauty—the largest in the country—and walking along its footpaths will ensure you are far from the tourists.

Dine tonight at the Wild Duck (Michelin’s 2015 Pub of the Year). Belonging to Carole Bamford of Daylesford fame, the indoor and outdoor dining is rich, earthy and seriously constructed, and always delicious.

Day 3: Gardens

The Cotswolds is famous for its gardens, castles, and stately homes. Heavily trafficked, you can feel utterly local bypassing Hidcote Manor Garden and stopping in at Kiftsgate just down the road. Intimate and riotous with color, Kiftsgate Court Garden was planted after World War I and has been tended by three generations of women. You will also visit Sezincote, considered by some a “folly.” I have no doubt, though, that you will appreciate the contrast provided by this 200-year-old Mogul Indian palace, set in a romantic landscape of temples, grottoes, waterfalls and venerable centuries old trees.

Spend some time in the afternoon shopping. Poke around in the antique shops, many of the best to be found in Stow-on-the-Wold, Chipping Campden and Chipping Norton. Immerse yourself in the Bamford brand, shopping for organic farm produce, home products, housewares and wonderful cashmere and cotton clothing at Daylesford near Kingham. If a long weekend without a pilates session or a soothing massage dampens your spirits, the Bamford Haybarn Spa will give you these and more.

Remember that Oxford is not that far away either. If you choose to venture to this classic university town, visit the Ashmolean or Pitt Rivers Museum, or another gem, the oldest botanic garden in England. On a lovely afternoon, rent a boat at the Boathouse and punt down the Cherwell River. End your day at Christ Church Cathedral for choral Evensong at 6PM.

Jonah, it has been a pleasure to plan your long weekend in the Cotswolds. Please feel free to reach out to me at any time in the future, should the need arise.