The Cotswolds, UK

Colorful leaves in Castle Combe, Cotswolds, UK

Ahhh, the jolly Cotswolds. If you’re wandering narrow streets and find yourself surrounded by stone cottages with roofs of slate, old bridges over streams babbling with story-book swans, an odd mill with working waterwheel, AND random tour buses, you must be in the Cotswolds! As google explains, the Cotswolds are “a famous area of picturesque hills & meadows dotted with villages, grand residences & castles.” I would describe them as a place where you can step back in time and get a glimpse of life from hundreds of years ago. When you’re here, do as the British do, and enjoy a spot of tea and nosh on a scone in one of the many old-timey villages that make up this historic region of Great Britain. We took a little side trip to explore as much of the Cotswolds as we could on one of the hubby’s work trips to the UK, as it coincided perfectly with the kids’ school break. Behold, the Cotswolds in autumn!

Castle Combe

We began our journey through this 90-mile long “Area of National Beauty” in a quaint little town called Castle Combe. It was a perfectly dreary day – which led to the ambiance of the place. It wasn’t busy – a perfect time to visit – so we had the whole parking lot to ourselves. We wandered around the streets and stumbled into The Old Stables coffee shop for a bite. The leaves were in peak foliage on the vines clinging to the walls of homes and fences.

Even though it was fall, the cottages had beautiful landscaping and even the old graveyard was kept up well. The graves were so old, some of the stones couldn’t be read! It was a sleepy little town with the sweetest winding streets and a little river running through it. Charming indeed!

Picturesque Castle Combe

A bit further down the road we found an impressive mansion that had been turned into a hotel, The Manor House. The house was covered, again, with colorful foliage. Outside the manor was a giant chess board the kids played on, and a huge Jenga set that made Derek feel like a kid again! The trees here were massive…it was hard to be near them without wondering how much they have seen in their long lives! We stayed as long as we could, until the clouds began to spit, then made our way north towards Cheltenham.

Looking at the Manor House from the tiered gardens
The marvelous Manor House
One HUGE tree!

Cheltenham

Cheltenham was a great place to stay for a couple of days as a “homebase” as we went out exploring the rolling hills and tiny towns of the Cotswolds. One day the weather was rubbish, so we spent our time pub hopping, Christmas shopping in all the cute shops, and going to the movies (in English!) to watch Abominable (cute – but overall sort of meh). We discovered the cutest coffee shop called The Find that had an amazing pastry called “cruffin” – a croissant muffin! They had many different, delicious varieties of this clever concoction, and we tried several. And of course I couldn’t leave without Eggs Benedict! The kids loved all the bookstores and we had a great time practicing our British accents.

Beautiful graffiti art around Cheltenham…

Yummy treats at The Find cafe…look at those cruffins!

Walking through the town and enjoying our hotel in their cozy Harry Potter pj’s!

A theme of this trip was definitely bookstores. Every bookstore we saw, the kids begged to go in and they gobbled up the amazingness inside. We hadn’t been to an English-language bookstore in quite some time, and even back in the states they’re sometimes hard to come by! Each of the stores we saw was eye candy for the kids; decorated perfectly, and each with a kids section they went gaga over. It was lots of fun!

Another theme of the trip was journaling. Each of the kiddos had a notebook and even though Willow’s was just a series of intricate scribbles, they took every opportunity to jot down thoughts and things they learned about the places we went.

Burton on the Water

We drove through Upper and Lower Slaughter on our way to Burton on the Water, where we had a scrumptious breakfast of hot drinks, pastries and quiche at the Bakery on the Water. Then, with chilly toes, we walked along the river, across several brides and along the streets of the quaint little town. We decided right then that we needed to get proper footwear (“wellies” as they call them in the UK) so the cold wouldn’t hinder our exploring. So, after a nice – but toe chilling – walk, we made our way to Mountain Warehouse, where we all found proper footwear (and a few other goodies) at terrific discount prices. Score!

Beautiful colors and lovely bridges over the waters in Burton on the Water
Almost pulled off this “tricky” panorama shot! (Willow’s face is distorted…stand still! haha)

Gloucestershire

Next we headed to Gloucestershire where we had heard of a beautiful farm stay with huge organic and natural food and goods store we really wanted to check out. Daylesford is a unique place – with impossibly pristine shelves of all natural and organic goods, gorgeous butcher and bakery items, endless options for household items and gifts, and even a posh restaurant. This place could be described as a wet dream for the earth-minded privileged. It felt amazing to wander the rooms on this compound – but with just the few things we selected to buy it felt like we were checking out at Whole Foods on steroids!

Beyond Gloucestershire there were endless rolling hills with little towers poking up over the horizon of churches and fancy estates.

Chipping Norton

The next stop of the day was in a town on the east side of the Cotswolds called Chipping Norton. It was probably our least favorite spot on the tour around the area, but we did enjoy a delicious Indian meal and found another great bookstore!

A huge smorgasbord of Indian food – yum!

Broadway Tower

Our final stop of this long day of touring the Cotswolds we landed at Broadway Tower back on the northwest side of the region. It was an absolutely perfect night to catch the sunset. We saw a huge pack of red deer, Willow introduced herself to every single dog, and we enjoyed the changing skies with the looming tower before us. What a day!

Sunset shots at the hilltop tower…

Bibury

On our final day in the Cotswolds we stopped at two places heading back towards London. The first stop was Bibury, perhaps the most picturesque and photographed location in the region. We arrived just before a bus full of tourists, so we hit it right. The river ran in front of a beautiful ivy-covered inn called “Swan Hotel,” complete with a giant white swan showing off in the waters, straight out of a story book. We wandered along the river and stumbled upon Awkward Hill road, otherwise known as “Arlington Row,” where a row of cottages looks like something from a Thomas Kinkade painting. I had to wait for just the right moment to snag a photo without people wandering down the lane, but it was worth it! I’m sure this town changes with the seasons, but I think we hit it at an extra magical time with all the colors!

Arlington Row in all its glory! Bibury, Cotswolds
The swan, showing off for us!
Willow loved the Willows!
Girlies in galoshies
Willow running in the Willows
Proud polka-dotted pitou

Burford

Our next stop was Burford. This bustling Cotswolds town on the northeastern tip is a must-visit for anyone visiting the region. We were taken by the main drag – High Street – with its countless shops, smoke stacks and cafes. The streets are positively picturesque and if it weren’t for all the modern cars, it would feel as though we were transported back in time. All of the food we had was so delicious – we could’ve stayed here all day! Alas, we needed to get to our next destination, but Burford remains among our favorites in the Cotswolds!

We agreed that our top stops in this region are Castle Combe, Broadway Tower, Burford, Bibury and Daylesford in Gloucestershire!

Guildford

We had to move closer to London for the hubby’s work, so our next “homebase” was a hopping and hip college town called Guildford. We enjoyed the character in the steep, crowded streets and had the best time at cozy pubs playing games and eating delicious pub fare. I’m still trying to perfect the pumpkin sage soup recipe I had at the White House restaurant!

Lovely streets of Guildford
The White House restaurant in Guildford

Loughton

Our final stop on this UK vacation was with friends in Loughton. It was great to see Rachelle and Jane again with their growing little man Gabe. We loved walking around their lovely little town just outside of London and the kids even got to hand out Halloween candy!

It was another fun Rodgerfamily adventure – the kids did awesome, we did a lot of laughing and problem solving, and it was just enough time away to make us appreciate going back “home” to Pápa. Thanks for the delicious food, good company, and beautiful scenery as always, England!

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