The Cotswolds are an area in south central England containing as many quaint country villages and towns as you could cram into a small area. The government has officially designated the Cotswolds as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). There are 49 of AONBs labeled with that incredibly British sounding designation, perhaps only to be out done by the outstanding names of the towns we visited in the Cotswolds: Bourton-on-the-Water, Lower Slaughter, Upper Slaughter, Stow-on-the-Wold, Chipping Campden, Stratford-upon-Avon and the lowly two syllabic Burford.
How about this scenic spot in Bourton-on-the-Water as an area of outstanding natural beauty?
Our first stops were at the sleepiest little towns of Bourton-on-the-Water, Lower Slaughterhouse, and Upper Slaughterhouse. The Slaughterhouses are not named after buildings for killing animals, but after an old English word for mud. There is supposed to be an amazing short walk through fields between the two towns, but KLS and I decided to skip it because of how muddy it had been the day before and the fact these towns were named after mud. After a week of slopping through mud and rain, we were happy to take it easy and just enjoy a car tour.
Stow-on-the-Wold library and Market SquareOur next stop was the bustling town (stores on more than 4 blocks!) of Stow-on-the-Wold. Even though there were more places to leave your money, the theme stayed the same - stone buildings with usually no space between them, a few thatched roofs, and easy to access farm fields just outside of town. Whenever I picture England, this is what I envision. One small part of that vision that I had not partaken in yet was tea time. KLS and I tried unsuccessfully to go to two different tea shops that were both closed for four weeks surrounding the new year.
High tea time!When we finally got up to the market square, we found an incredibly packed tea shop, likely because it was the only one open. We ordered high tea, which is really a meal. Of course, the natural starting point is tea. KLS got a traditional cream tea. I got some funky smokey peat flavored tea from Russia. Then, we had a tower of three plates brought out to us. The bottom place was 3 different types of sandwiches - maybe ham, salmon, and egg. The top plate was 2 scones with rich butter and jam to smother the scones in. Finally, the most important piece, the middle plate filled with a variety of yummy tea time cakes (seen at the bottom of the photo above). Yes, I am gaining weight in England.
Stow-on-the-Wold street - don't park on the double yellow line. Generally, don't park anywhere in these towns except the out of town parking.
Stow-on-the-Wold back yards.
The Porch House dates back to 947 A.D.
Stow-on-the-Wold house on the outskirts of the town center.
Our next stop was Chipping Campden, essentially one long main quaint street. In my memory, I enjoyed it, but at the time didn't think it was one of the better towns. However, if I am choosing my best photos, Chipping Campden shows up the best. That might be because the drizzle finally stopped and we got some sunshine or that might be because I was filling a bit inundated by the quaintness of so many English villages and wasn't fully appreciating it.
Your guess is as good as mine.
KLS admires the door to the Green Dragons cottage. It can be yours for the small price of $1,200,000.
Lower High Street, Chipping Campden.
The war memorial in Chipping Campden. I do not think we visited a single town that did not have one.
The inside of the 400 year old Market Hall
The outside of the 400 year old Market Hall
People were shorter when these houses and doorways were originally built.
Cute side street.
At this point when KLS and I were both starting to tire out, so we made the ill advised decision to continue on to Stratford-upon-Avon. Americans reading this might think that I have the town name wrong. However, at an American run trivia night in Antarctica, some of my British teammates put down Stratford-upon-Avon as the answer to where Shakespeare was born and were not given credit for the answer. They loudly informed the organizers and everyone else in the room that they lived in England and darn well knew what the town was called - Stratford-upon-Avon, not Stratford-on-Avon. While we are at it, why do all these towns have so many hyphens in the name?
Because we pushed on to Stratford-upon-Avon and got there late, everything was closing up. It was definitely the biggest town that we had visited, it might have even been a city. We ended up just eating, peeking in the window of things we might have visited like the Shakespeare museum, narrowly avoiding mobs of people exiting a play along the Avon from the Royal Shakespeare Company, and heading home for the night. We used Airbnb again and stayed with a lovely woman who had once tutored the royal children. I know Airbnb makes some people uncomfortable because they want their own space, but the hosts are usually very welcoming and you get a firsthand look at modern English living that you otherwise might miss it.
The next morning, we were up early and out the door. KLS and I had a big day planned that started out in our final Cotswold town - Burford. This town had a single major commerce street and then cute residential areas near off to the side. We surprised one restaurant by stopping in so early for breakfast even though they were technically open.