If you’re in search of quaint and charming, look no further than the Cotswolds area of Great Britain. Snow White must have lived here with her dwarves, right?
When I first started researching the Cotswolds, I came across the Cotswolds Perfumery in Bourton-On-The-Water. They offer one-day courses in perfume making, which fascinates me. I’ve always had a really strong sense of smell and taste. It’s almost superhuman, and one might think that’s cool, but mostly it’s annoying. I can smell body odor at 50 paces, and I can even taste the imminent onset of mold in something that looks and tastes perfectly normal to everyone else. It’s not fun. This macrosmatic talent has contributed to a lifelong fascination with pleasant odors. Unfortunately, timing didn’t work out to visit Cotswolds Perfumery this trip, but it’s on my bucket list.
Easier to see by car, it’s not impossible for those traveling by train to spend a day in the Cotswolds. There are two bus companies that provide bus service. I used Johnson’s Excelbus because it has several stops per day and it’s pretty easy to hop on and off. (A word to the wise: if you buy a “return” ticket, make sure you check with the driver about how a return works for multiple stops. I had to buy two tickets. It wasn’t the end of the world, but it could have been avoided if only I’d thought to ask.)
The area is just as adorable as it looked in Four Weddings and a Funeral. Hugh Grant came to mind a few times during my visit, especially when I ran across Horse & Hound magazine. Apparently, not a fictitious magazine!
I started the day in Moreton-in-Marsh, about an hour from Stratford. It’s not a large town, more of a long row of shops and houses that can be seen pretty easily in an hour or two. I ate a sinfully fantastic caramel chocolate shortbread bar from a cute sweet shop on High Street. There are a few antique shops and stores. The White Hart Royal Hotel and Eatery is just as beautiful in person as it seems on its website.
The highlight of my time in Moreton-in-Marsh (aside from that caramel chocolate shortbread bar) was simply walking around and exploring the charming architecture of the buildings. A weathered clock tower perches like a chimney on a building in the middle of the town. An old stone wall at The Grange retirement community is picturesque, chalky white and covered in moss.
The Cotswolds were at the center of the wool industry during the middle ages. Wool was such an integral part of Britain’s wealth that King Charles II passed the Burying in Woollen Acts to increase wool consumption, stating that all bodies were to be buried in wool. (Thus the origin of the phrase “you can’t pull the wool over my eyes,” which actually meant “I’m not dead” and had nothing to do with fooling someone.)
The Market Hall was built in 1627 by Sir Baptist Hicks, the first Lord Campden, at a cost of £90. It was built primarily as a covered market place for the sale of local produce, not for the wool trade. Now part of the National Trust, it sits in the middle of town and has one of the most uneven floors I’ve ever come across.I was happy to find another solid tea choice at the Badgers Hall Tea Room, just across the street from the Market Hall. If there were one thing I could change about eating habits in the US, I would reduce portion sizes and add tea time. Seriously. How about it?
There are about 100 miles of walking path between Bath and Chipping Campden called the Cotswold Way. I’m not sure how long it would take to walk all the way to Bath, but with such beautiful countryside, it was tempting.
As I only spent one day seeing the Cotswolds, there is plenty left to see on my next trip. Bourton-on-the-Water, Stow-on-the-Wold, Stanton, The Slaughters, Broadway, Snowshill, Gloucester…I can’t wait.