Day around the Cotswolds

Bibury Travel Blog

 › entry 2 of 18 › view all entries
with Prashanth and Adam in front of the Burford Church

I didn't get very good sleep that night - partly due to the jetlag and partly due to the snoring. But then again, the arrival nights are always like this. More than myself, I felt for Prashanth who couldn't sleep either. This was his first time in a hostel, thanks to my persistence that he'll have a "lovely time meeting like minded travellers from all over the world", and all he got was a stinky room in the basement with no bedlights, heavy snoring and had to drag his duffelbag to the corridor to pull out and rearrange his stuff! Plus either the walls are thin or we talk too loudly, but someone would bang the wall from the inside if we spoke up a bit in the corridor!

Meanwhile, I woke up around 5am and went to the 24hour newsagent to buy my usual UK breakfast fare: eggs, bread, Swiss cheese and Onken's Mango flavour biopot (or as I call it, Ambrosia).

Burford Churchyard
Apparently, the previous night, Madonna had announced her divorce and it was ALL over the morning papers. I was stunned, I walked into the store and I saw more Madonna than groceries. The UK press! Anyway got back to the hostel, had a shower and went to the kitchen to prepare b'fast for myself. I just dove into the Onken, the flavour and the texture, molto bene!  

We finished b'fast around 730a, and we went for a walk around Earl's Court. I'd never seen much of the area other than the road that leads from the Tube station to Bolton Gardens (where the YHA is located), so it was kinda nice to walk around. It didn't strike me until I started walking in London, that autumn is here! I never thought of the UK, or any part of the world barring New England for that matter as a "autumn foliage" kind of place, and was pleasantly surprised to see the white posh Londoney buildings and streets draped with trees and their wide range of colours.

Random shot of Burford
Very impressive.

We caught the train from Old Brompton Station to Watford to meet a good friend of mine, Adam. I met Adam through other travel websites about 3 years ago, and he's not only a dear friend but also a very good UK travel resource. Not just in terms of telling you which bus or route to take, but also to explain the history behind things. He took me and Prashanth in his car around the Cotswolds.

The Cotswolds - I had no clue about this place all these years, and couldn't care less even when we drove through the Cotswolds on our visit to Stratford Upon Avon in 2005.

Another random shot of Burford, love this picture!
The tour guide was pointing us to the rolling hills and thatched cottages, and all I could think of is "Oxford and Warwick Castle have been so bloody boring, just take us back to London and stop pointing out some stupid cottage". I didn't get the significance or beauty of this place then. Or I was just euphoric that I was in England and didn't care about the nitty gritty. Then rolls 2006, when I bought Frommer's England guide, and the 2 pictures that struck me were the one of Whitby, and this row of cottages, neatly lined and a lady sweeping outside. It was wet, it was serene, it was profound, in a nutshell, it was England. Not the England in London Eye, not the England in Oxford Street, not the England in cream teas and pasties, but this was rural England, a picture of beauty and simplicity.
Fairford Church - largest stainglass paintings in England
This was a classic case of less is more, I couldn't think of changing anything in that picture, except perhaps have myself in it! And from that moment onwards, began my quest to conquer the Wolds.

The problem with the Cotswolds is also its greatest strength. Some of the villages, most of which feature in the "most picturesque villages of England" are not easily accessible by bus, let alone tourist coaches. And then there ARE tourist coaches that take you on a day's trip to the Cotswolds, but those are to the generic big market towns which don't look that appealing. The other thing about the Cotswolds that all travel books tell you is to avoid going during the summer due to the crowds. May or October are supposed to be the best times for visiting. Lucky for me, I was visiting England in May and booked with a tour company for their "Cotswolds + Blenheim Palace" tour for a day, and was all excited.

Fairford Church - largest stainglass paintings in England
And well, as luck would have it, that trip got cancelled last minute leaving me to visit only Blenheim Palace a few months ago, on my own. I missed Cotswolds again!

So here I was - around August when I started planning for this UK trip and I knew that I had to visit the Cotswolds. Adam suggested that we guys go together, sounded like a great idea. Great company, and a car to take us to the most inaccessible (and the most beautiful) of places. Couldn't have asked for a sweeter deal. I just kept counting days, looking at that Frommer's picture thinking I'll be there, soon enough!

All this history came sweeping past me as we drove out of Watford, through Oxford and the rolling green hills came to view. I noticed that autumn had well and truly set in. Really, I did choose a perfect time to come to England, didn't I?! I have to say though, the colours didn't seem that striking as I saw on my trip to New England last year, but it's apples and oranges comparison, and I'm not complaining about it either.

Arlington Row in Bibury - the most photographed street in the UK

Our first stop was Burford - perfect entry into Cotswolds. You could see houses built of the classic Cotswolds stone. We parked by the river and walked to a nearby church. This is where the beauty started to hit me. It was autumn leaves scattered on the ground, a mild chilly breeze blowing and your standard Church, leaves lined up on the greens leading up to the tombs in the churchyard. We went inside for a little peek before heading up the main street of the town for a brisk walk. It's a very nice little town, and it was a good taster of what's to come.

From here, we went to Fairford as Adam said the church here boasted of the largest medieval stain glass paintings found in English Parish churches. The church was the same in terms of design to the Burford one, and the paintings inside were killers.

with Adam on Arlington Row
Very well done, exquisite and each stain glass had a story to tell. We also spoke to one of the people in the Church who gave us an erudite description of the paintings.

The crowning jewel, my Frommer's moment was soon to arrive as Adam announced our next stop was Bibury, voted one of England's most beautiful villages. We parked outside what looked like a cheaper version of the picture in the Frommer's book, and I was slightly disappointed. We nearly thought of going back but we thought we'd go for a quick walk by the river before we leave Bibury and my disappointment. And as we were approaching the river, we could see THE STREET! The whole setup is so non-touristy - no signs pointing us to it, it just sits there, quietly like an old dog lying down on the floor after a heavy afternoon lunch - peaceful, still, brimming with inner confidence and beauty.

The other end of Arlington Row
.. just there. This road is called Arlington Row, and weavers of the past built their houses on this road. It is Britain's most photographed road. This road is still inhabited by people, and this isn't some kind of "exhibition street" but a properly residential one. The street by itself is very small, but I did take quite a good amount of photos as the 3 of us walked the distance. From here, we walked by the river and headed back. The town by itself is quiet. Quiet can be good in that its peaceful, I found it a bit moribund however.

We were all hungry, as in, starving. So we headed to Bourton on the Water. Adam warned us that this place is a bit touristy but I found it delightful. It was full of life, wasn't too crowded and for me, it was all about the water, the buildings with the Cotswolds stone and the autumn leaves on the trees and the grass.

Random shot of Bibury
Very picture perfect. Lunch was at a tea room, very tasty. My friend had a veg lasagna and he said it was pretty good as well. We left this place late noon for our final stop of the day...

Upper and Lower Slaughters - Again, not much to be said, but this was one of the BEST places I've seen. Very tranquil, every house has a little stream running through it, the autumn leaves, everything was how you'd read it in a picture book. Think of a poem you read when you were young - think of the trees, the houses, the road, the pavement, the stream, the weather, the leaves... it's all here! 

It was nearing 4pm so we headed back, driving through Stow on the Wold and onto London. We saw Prince Charles en route! (at least his bald patch), and Adam dropped the 2 of us in Ruislip Park to catch the Central Line to Oxford Street.

Bourton-on-the-Water

I really enjoyed my day in the Cotswolds. I'll have to be honest, unlike other parts of the UK I've visited, I didn't for a minute think "oh I should've been here longer", but it 's enough to fill a day of wonderful scenery, simplistic and yet very strong. I'm still amazed at how, such a beautiful location which can promote the shit out of itself has instead decided to go low key, and attracting people through word of mouth. Personally, I felt thrilled. After years of wanting to go there, I finally made it, and in the best possible way - our own car and wonderful company. And the photo of me in Arlington Row, park that next to my kissing the Blarney, pointing to the Pyramids or standing in front of Buckingham Palace in terms of "Been there done that" Kodak moments.

Bourton-on-the-Water

Anyway back to London - headed to Oxford Street and spent some time in Topman, they had a 1/2 Off sale, not that I bought anything. From here, I went to the Euston station to pick up my train tickets to the Lake District but unfortunately, due to a mixup with my old and new credit cards, they weren't available. I had to call up 3 to 4 support lines (Virgin Trains - National Express web support - National Express East Coast) and all for nought - it turns out my tickets were available when the lady at the counter swiped my credit card for verification.

With that confusion sorted out, we then headed to the Holborn Tube station to meet at Princess Louise pub. turns out they don't serve dinner after 9pm (it was about 915pm). I ended up missing meeting a dear friend of mine from New Jersey who had also flown into the UK as the same time as me, but I did meet MB, another very dear friend of mine from Vancouver whom I met on a travel forum and who's been of immense help to me through the years in planning my travels.

Bourton-on-the-Water
She hadn't eaten too, and she suggested a trip right across to the road to "My Old Dutch Pancake House". I must say, the lady has taste! Prashanth and I ordered pancakes, she ordered soup and the pancakes were out of the world. Very neatly done, shame I was a bit tired and jetlagged and didn't complete my course. But it was wonderful meeting MB, we've been Internet buddies for years on end now, and this lady's a laugh-riot in person as well: very charming and very talented, does great impressions of people and accents.

We left around 10pm after saying bye to MB, came back to the hostel and started packing as we had a 545am cab to Euston station headed to the Lake District.  I actually felt very proud as well of the friends I've met and kept through the years. The Internet is such a blessing, we meet like minded individuals from around the world, and I was finally glad that I started meeting the people I've become so pally with over the Net.

Upper and Lower Slaughters
And meanwhile, as for this trip, if Day 1 could be THIS exciting, and THIS full, I could only imagine what the Lake District has in store. After all, if Wordsworth could live and die there, it must be GRAND!

travelman727 says:
Great blog! I stumbled into the Cotswolds by accident and fell in love with the area :-D
Posted on: Jul 12, 2009
tomassgringo says:
"The whole setup is so non-touristy - no signs pointing us to it, it just sits there, quietly like an old dog lying down on the floor after a heavy afternoon lunch - peaceful, still, brimming with inner confidence and beauty."

Descriptive, visual, inspiringly beautiful!!
Posted on: Nov 09, 2008
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
with Prashanth and Adam in front o…
with Prashanth and Adam in front …
Burford Churchyard
Burford Churchyard
Random shot of Burford
Random shot of Burford
Another random shot of Burford, lo…
Another random shot of Burford, l…
Fairford Church - largest staingla…
Fairford Church - largest staingl…
Fairford Church - largest staingla…
Fairford Church - largest staingl…
Arlington Row in Bibury - the most…
Arlington Row in Bibury - the mos…
with Adam on Arlington Row
with Adam on Arlington Row
The other end of Arlington Row
The other end of Arlington Row
Random shot of Bibury
Random shot of Bibury
Bourton-on-the-Water
Bourton-on-the-Water
Bourton-on-the-Water
Bourton-on-the-Water
Bourton-on-the-Water
Bourton-on-the-Water
Upper and Lower Slaughters
Upper and Lower Slaughters
Upper and Lower Slaughters
Upper and Lower Slaughters
Upper and Lower Slaughters - peak …
Upper and Lower Slaughters - peak…
Upper and Lower Slaughters
Upper and Lower Slaughters
Upper and Lower Slaughters
Upper and Lower Slaughters
with my good friend MB (from Canad…
with my good friend MB (from Cana…
Bibury
photo by: Vikram