5 reasons to call on the Cotswolds
The fast pace of city life can get us all in a whirl sometimes. Luckily, living in the south west of England means world-class countryside and old English towns of yore right on my doorstep. When a close friend asked me to bunny-sit their fat, little house rabbits in Bradford-on-Avon, I flung urban life to the crisp, countryside wind and hopped on the train to experience one of the outposts of the famous Cotswolds. Here, in a nutshell are my top five reasons why a break in this idyllic part of England will give anyone a welcome breather from the day-to-day grind.
1) It’s so darn pretty!
The Cotswolds, a range of hills some 25 miles across and 90 miles long, were designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1966. Even the short journey out of Bath is a visual banquet of deliciously lush, green hills and chocolate-box pretty villages. My visions of ivy covered bricks, fairy-tale wonky roofs and honey-suckle garlands round the door are not disappointed. I half expect Bilbo Baggins and Frodo to saunter past the front gate, tipping their hats on the way to market. Apparently, Kate Moss has a house in the nearby village of Southrop where she has been known to don her Hunter wellies and join in a good old fashioned knees up at the local pub. Well, if it’s good enough for the supermodel set…
2) History, history everywhere.
These quaint, postcard perfect streets beckon you to crook your arm at the nearest passer-by and invite them to take a turn about the town. Architectural examples from the Saxon, Medieval, Tudor, Georgian and industrial revolution periods abound alongside agricultural curiosities such as the Bradford-on-Avon tithe barn, a setting for several TV dramas due to its awesome, timber roof spanning 33 feet. The focal point of the town itself is its beautiful stone bridge with arches dating back to the 13th century – a glorious place to feed the ducks and hold hands with your beloved.
3) Afternoon tea for two.
If all that history has worked up an appetite, never fear! Bradford-on-Avon is home to the Bridge Inn, a double winner of the UK’s Top Tea Place as judged by the UK Tea Guild, an organization that takes its tea very seriously indeed. A celebration of Great British Cuisine, try out this gem for breakfasts, luncheons and three tiered afternoon teas served with beautiful bone China. Also, the waitresses wear period costumes so you can pretend you’ve gone back in time. Jane Austen eat your heart out.
4) Trinket retail therapy.
One of the main charms of this Cotswold town is the abundance of quirky, independent bookshops, boutiques and bakeries. The Shambles, a winding walkway that used to be Bradford-on-Avon’s meat market back in the day, now offers an interesting browsing experience and the monthly BOA antiques and flea market (see their new Facebook group) in St. Margaret’s hall is well worth a visit for the array of exhibitors displaying their kooky wares.
5) Ye olde pub grub.
Anyone for a pint yet? Some of the most time-honoured English country pubs are to be found in these here towns. These beauties are considered the epicentre of village social life and as a result, the food and drink they offer becomes a source of local pride. The perfect antidote to the bad reputation of English food, these pubs offer gourmet versions of traditional fare. Sweet potato and goat’s cheese pie tickle your fancy? Or perhaps the meatier pork and apple bangers with mash? And if the weather is good, try swinging by the notoriously tasty Station Place takeaway where you can pick up a neat and affordable little parcel of classic fish and chips to eat at one of the smattering of viewing benches beside the river.