Where: Cotswolds, UK
When: October 2017
Hotel: Court House Manor
Why The Cotswolds: The first time around in Germany I worked long hours on a 24/7 watch, and the conversations normally centered around travel. One of my good friends on the watch was similarly in love with traveling and wanted to see as much as he and his wife could, so I always listened when he recommended places to go. He raved about the Cotswolds, an 800 square mile area about two hours west of London that was home to what could be considered the quintessential English countryside. When FlyBe, a discount airline started flying between Stuttgart and Birmingham, I couldn’t pass up the chance to finally see this area.
The Trip: There are so many quaint towns to pick from in The Cotswolds, it was really hard to narrow down which ones to see. It was also hard to pick where to stay – but I knew I wanted to stay in a manor, and I wanted it to be in a central location. The best way to see The Cotswolds is to drive it, so being near a train or bus stop wasn’t a requirement. After hours (literally, I’ve become a stickler for picking a good hotel…so it takes me awhile to decide), I finally found the Court House Manor in Painswick, UK as the perfect place to stay. And the first day I knew had to start with a bang – so the first stop had to be Bibury, home to the most photographed cottages in the area.
I had considered having us fly into London, but didn’t want to deal with the traffic. Birmingham was an easier option, and it proved to pay off. The drive was very, very easy (even on the left side of the road!) We made our way to the Court House Manor, and it was every bit of wonderful as I expected it to be. Painswick is a quiet Cotswolds town, off the tourist path but every bit idyllic with the stone cottages and tiny streets. The Manor was on beautiful grounds with peaceful views, and I just knew it was going to be a great weekend.
After checking in, I had us drive in the direction of Cirencester, which is known as the capital of The Cotswolds. There was a market going on in the middle of the town, and while it looked super cute, I was just so antsy to get to Bibury, I asked John to keep driving. Bibury is home to the famed Arlington Row, and it is one of those places that looks as good in person as it does in pictures, which is always a wonderful surprise. Arlington Row dates back to the 16th century and is impossibly picturesque. We timed it perfectly as the crowds had moved on, so we were able to enjoy the quaint town and walk along the little brook that ran through it without the people to interrupt the peacefulness of it all.
The town of Bibury is not huge, but it’s important to not only walk Arlington Row, but also walk along the brook to the Swan Hotel (complete with swans swimming in the water out front), and head to the trout farm in town. The Bibury Trout Farm opened in 1902 and it one of the oldest in England. You can actually pay to go in and catch your own trout (we passed), but there is also a cute cafe where you can sit and rest and enjoy the surroundings.
We continued on, heading back to Painswick in the opposite direction from where we came, and we were treated to rolling hills and the inevitable sheep sightings. The towns are all stone buildings, and just seem to be stuck in time – with adorable villages and rivers running through them. It’s a laidback setting (with the exception of the narrow roads – being a passenger is terrifying, but worth it!)
Painswick, the town we stayed in, is known as the “The Queen of the Cotswolds.” We made our way to the Oak, a pub in the middle of town before having dinner at the Falcon, one of the main restaurants in town. As we walked along, it really was like the town was stuck in the 15th century – it is that well-preserved. Right behind our hotel, and across from the Falcon, is the St. Mary’s Church and courtyard, with ancient yew trees (99 of them) – and it was like nothing I had ever seen. We had the place to ourself, and it was absolutely wonderful.
Final Impressions: Day one in The Cotswolds lived up to every expectation that I had of having a relaxing, laid-back weekend in the English countryside. It is absolutely beautiful. We had a wonderful first day, and rested up for a busy day two of driving to more of the famed Cotswolds villages.