The Cotswolds area of England is dotted with villages full of stunning sandstone coloured cottages. The greenery has often spent decades crawling its way around the warm coloured stone. The residents nurture flowers of all origins (or perhaps their gardeners do it) and it’s this combination of stone, nature and colour that makes this area so quaint. Now if only I had millions of pound sterling.
Here’s my best and worst of the Cotswolds in southern England. There were a lot of places we didn’t see too, but for a two day journey I think we saw as much as we needed to.
I found a way to beat the British train system’s rip off ticket pricing system and got a cheap fare from Derby to Birmingham Airport. There I met Hélène and we picked up our pre-booked car from Budget. Some how we got a VW Polo for 4 days on a one-way journey for just £105. Normally they charge you £50 just for the one way fee!?
The attendant offered us every up-sell possible and must have been out of small cars because we ended up with a Polo from Avis which was much better than the Peugeot 208 we were expecting.
I wouldn’t recommend anything other than driving yourself through the Cotswolds. There are just too many places to see and being a posh area with tiny roads, I doubt the bus system is great. Plus, it’s much nicer to just drive it all at your own pace.
We left the YHA in Stratford (£19 for dorms, £16 for members) around 9am to explore Shakespeare’s hometown.
We parked by the river near the Swan Theatre and started walking about town. It’s a relatively new building so we continued on along the river to the church where Shakespeare’s remains are kept. We couldn’t find them! But apparently the church is very welcoming to Pokémon Trainers – trying to connect with the younger crowd perhaps?
Down the road we found Hall’s Croft, the first of many ancient looking houses in Stratford. I just hoped that it wasn’t still made of wattle and daub after what one of my English friends said about it (the secret ingredient is poo).
We walked back to the main streets and stumbled across Shakespeare’s family home along with a lot of other nice buildings. His wife’s family home seemed to be the most interesting of those that you could go inside though so we saved our money for that.
And it really was worth the £11.50. The house really gives you an interesting sense of how people lived in Shakespearean times and you’re able to walk right up close to the exhibits. It’s very trusting and nice as opposed to being 4ft away behind a rope. The ladies inside also have a lot of knowledge of the house and the times and are happy to share and explain things.
Just down the road we stopped in Mickleton for morning tea and a bit of a walk around. Another nice Cotswold village that’s worth a stop.
Stow would have to be the biggest tourist trap of the lot. Super posh, everything looks meticulously well preened and has price tags to match. I guess this is where all the rich English come to holiday. You’d be lucky to find some where to stay that’s not in the ’00s of pounds.
I can’t say I took many photos because everything was covered in signage and nothing looked all that authentic. We did pick a lower key tea house though for some tea, scones and cake. Lucy’s Tea Room came up with the goods! Delicious, and I didnt ruin my tea this time.
Slaughter was a place that really surprised me. The houses along the canal were nicest leading around to the old mill. Unfortunately the weather as we passed through the Cotswolds didn’t really do it justice, but another nice place to walk about. Mind the luxury SUVs though.
In and around Slaughter, we tried really hard to find a good spot to free camp, but English countryside just seems to be so starved of space. No road really has a shoulder or nature strip and all walking paths cross private land. So we stayed at Folly Farm on the A436. A pretty basic campsite, but for £13 for two who really minds?
Bourton was another great choice along the way. Kind of like a more respectable Stow, but with a duck filled canal down the middle and noses a little less upturned.
We found a bakery with some good coffee and settled in for a little while to work out what to next.
The Brits love taming their hedges and this one at the Motoring Museum was fairly stereotypically British. There are loads of these cars on the road, and it’s no wonder, they’re super cheap. I hear they are pretty unreliable sadly, but minis look pretty cool nonetheless.
If you’re looking up what to do in The Cotswolds, you will no doubt find Bibury at the top of your hit list. The tour buses really struggle here, but they persevere.
If you time it right between the droves of package tourists you can get some nice shots of Arlington Row. A simple and toned down terrace, but the tired old houses still make cute cottages (and holiday rentals if you’re interested).
Now this was the dark horse of the Cotswolds! Totally unexpected as you drive through some sort of Robin Hood forest and emerge from the trees into this tiny village.
We came here to see Water Lane, but it was all pretty good if you ask me. Go see for yourself.
Doors of the Cotswolds
My gallery of doors is getting a bit ridiculous now, but I’m going to bring this one to a close with them because they show so much of the Cotswolds’ character.