As a Brit, I am well aware of the need to prepare for all eventualities weather-wise when going on holiday in my own country; hence I packed both my umbrella and rain jacket when my family and I went for a week’s stay in the Cotswolds. It was the beginning of July, the first week of Wimbledon; it was bound to rain at some point, wasn’t it? Actually, no, it wasn’t. In actual fact, it was really quite warm, with temperatures getting up to 29 degrees most afternoons. It was the kind of weather that many go abroad for and here it was in my own country, and did I moan? You bet! Just like a true British person, I moaned it was too hot; typical eh? Luckily, I had also packed a hat and plenty of sun protection, so still went prepared for anything, and as we were doing a fair amount of walking and I was wearing trousers and walking shoes most of the time, that didn’t help with the heat factor. Yet the clear blue skies were immense and the views were beautiful, and with no rain our days were spent outdoors without any interruption, so I was grateful for the weather, in the end.
We stayed in Cirencester, which is a convenient base for any visit to the Cotswolds; it’s a pretty little town, but with plenty of places to eat in the evenings, such as the usual chains of Pizza Express and Cote Brasserie, both of which were good but to give a shout to a local independent, I highly recommend Malt and Anchor – quite simply the best fish and chips I’ve ever had!
Blenheim Palace was first on our list of must-sees and we arrived just as the gates opened, which was a good thing as it became quite busy, although we were there during the week in term time, so it wasn’t as busy as it can be. We chose not to do the palace itself, primarily due to the difference in price; it was about £10 less to just walk round the grounds and gardens, and as we enjoy that, we went for the cheaper option. However, I’m not quite sure how anyone does all of it in a day anyway, as we didn’t leave until late in the afternoon and we had looked round most of the grounds, although not all. I think if you really wanted to get the full experience you would need two days. A word of advice, take some food with you unless you’re happy to pay out quite a lot throughout the day to keep you going as you look round. Like many of these places, they have you trapped, and although the food was fine and there was a reasonable range on offer, it was pricey.
The highlight for us was the butterfly house, which was wonderful, and I suggest you visit there first before the crowds. It’s near the pleasure gardens; you can take a little steam train to it but there’s really no need as it’s only about 10 minutes from the main house, and the train charges both ways.
Day three of our holiday was one of the hottest ones; 29 degrees and not a cloud in the sky, which was lovely for our photographs (if not for us) as we wandered through the trees at Westonbirt Arboretum. This (to use a well-worn phrase) is an absolute must if you are ever in the area. Unsurprisingly, arriving early is the best option, hence our being pretty much alone for the first hour or so as we strolled the first of two guided walks.
Upon arrival you can pick up a map which details the routes and also where the restaurant is, which is reasonably priced and serves tasty cakes and lunches; good-sized portions too! You’ll certainly be fuelled and ready for more walking. If you’re OK with heights then you must walk along the raised walkway, which gradually ascends into the canopy, providing fabulous views across the grounds and the opportunity to observe craftspeople at work in the wood shop below.
On our fourth day we once again arrived early at another highlight of the trip; Broadway Tower, the highest point in the Cotswolds. The drive up to it is a little tricky; rather narrow roads in places so beware, but once there, you can park and have a cup of tea and cake before walking to the tower. Early is definitely important with this attraction as you won’t be able to truly appreciate the view with dozens of other tourists in your way. It only costs £5, and there are exhibitions on each floor as you walk up to the top, concerning the tower’s history and place within the landscape. With luck, you will have a clear day and far reaching views across several counties.
We were fairly lucky (as you can see from the photo) but I think on an even clearer day, we would have seen more. As I mentioned, getting there for when it opens is key to having the opportunity to photograph and admire the scenery around you. We were there around half an hour, and as we were leaving many more visitors were arriving, including a coach full of people!
The afternoon was spent sheltering from the sun in the past inside the Cotswolds Motoring Museum, which is in Bourton-on-the-Water. The village itself is an essential stop on the tourist route through the area but we went principally for the museum and were not disappointed; it was wonderful! There’s a reason you enter the museum through a door which looks like the Tardis, as it has so much in such a small space. Not just classic cars but motorbikes, caravans, cameras (I was ecstatic at that point), boxes, tins, old signs, toys and other memorabilia; so much in fact we had trouble deciding what to photograph and I’m sure if we go back, there will be things we missed that first time. Each room is themed around the cars and artefacts from a particular period and as you walk through the music changes accordingly. It was lovely and put big smiles on our faces. The village itself was very busy as we arrived later in the day, so we couldn’t really appreciate it and at lunchtime it was quite a task to find somewhere that wasn’t already full. Fortunately we walked away from the river and found a good restaurant called L’anatra Italian Kitchen, which is part of a hotel; the service was friendly and the food was tasty. It was a good find as it was off the main route through the village, and therefore was a little quieter.
We visited Gloucester and Cheltenham, both briefly, as I’m afraid neither appealed to us, so we didn’t stay long. Cirencester is much nicer and as I said before, a good base with plenty of local amenities. Despite the heat, it was an enjoyable break, and we hope to return to Westonbirt later in the year to see the trees in all their autumnal splendour, and to visit the Motoring Museum again.
For more information on the places I have mentioned, click on the links below:
All photographs ©VCUZZELL2017