When you say to anyone, “I’m off to The Cotswolds for a short break”, the usual response is “How lovely, you are lucky, it’s so wonderful there”. It is also a quintessential place for visitors from abroad to visit. Not only is it a beautiful area of our green and pleasant land, it is home to a number of the prettiest villages in England. During the 13th to 15th Centuries Cotswold sheep and their thick fleeces provided high quality wool, which generated a great deal of wealth. The wool traders built fine houses and churches and to this day many large mansions can be seen when driving through the area.
I have just returned from a very happy break where we based ourselves just outside Cirencester. We talked about visiting gardens, and there are many to be seen – Hidcote, Kiftsgate, Sudeley Castle and Painswick to name but a few. Being a garden lover and blog writer you would assume that these would be a big draw. On this occasion you couldn’t be more wrong! Instead we visited some of the most beautiful villages you could imagine.
Set below the very steep escapement of the Cotswolds lies the village of Broadway. It dates back to Roman Times and was in the 1600′s a staging post. These days it is full of interesting independent shops and tea rooms. We actually spent all day in Broadway, just wandering around, stopping occasionally for coffee and cake. It was hard to take photos of the houses because of other people (mainly Japanese/Chinese) doing the same thing. It rained on an off most of the day and was relatively quiet, I hate to think how crowded Broadway can get in the height of the Summer! Cars also spoilt the views, but this we found to be a problem no matter which village we went to.
We parked in the visitors car park, which we then discovered was at the top of another steep hill and as we walked down we were conscious that we would have to walk back up again! It was well worth the walk, what a very pretty village. Castle Combe is now a conservation area, with properties built in stone with natural stone tiles. Many are hundreds of years old. As we reached the village square with its 14th century Market Cross, we were met by a large group of cyclists. They were on a cycling holiday around the Cotswolds – they were welcome to cycle up that hill!
This is one of the many villages that is used for film locations, including Poirot and War Horse.
The village of Lacock is owned by the National Trust. This pretty village is the backdrop to many films and TV period dramas, such as Pride and Prejudice, The Mayor of Casterbridge and Larkrise to Candleford. The cloisters of the Abbey remains were used for some of the Hogwarts scenes in a few of the Harry Potter films. The streets, which again were full of parked cars, were interesting because they lacked any road markings. We assumed this is because it makes filming something set in the 18th or 19th century much easier when it comes to turning the road into dusty roadways. For such a small village, it was a surprise to find a Work House, now the pottery. Again, because of the visitors to Lacock, it was difficult to get a photo without people. I had just lined up a photo of the bakery when someone walked out of the door!
As with every visit there is always time to stop to eat. We found King Johns Hunting Lodge, in the middle of Lacock, tucked down a little alley with a secluded garden. The weather warmed up and we were able to sit outside. The proprietor, Margaret Vaughan, cooks all the food that is served. I had the most delicious homemade pork pie with a healthy salad – well recommended.
As for not visiting any of the gardens, I now have another excuse (as if I would need one) to revisit the Cotswolds.
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