Friday, 26 May 2017


It was so lovely to get the chance to catch up with an old friend and spend a few days in the beautiful North Cotswolds exploring some of the most picturesque villages in England. I haven't visited this part of the world for over forty years but was pleased to see that it has changed little from the Cotswolds of my memory.

BLOCKLEY near Moreton-in-Marsh

My friend Lynne and I have known each other since we were at school and it is one of those wonderful friendships where you can pick up as though you just saw each other yesterday.  We stayed in the lovely Alice Cottage, a quaint two bedroom cottage that we rented through Character Cottages. It was the perfect base for two looking to explore the area while staying in a village with its own amenities including a local shop/cafe and a couple of pubs. 

Picture courtesy of Character-Cottages. 

Blockley is a really enchanting village with plenty to explore and some lovely walks right on the doorstep. The colours of the houses in this part of the world are just so pretty - a soft golden hue that seems to glow in the sunlight. We ate at one of the local pubs, the Great Western Arms, twice during our stay and enjoyed pub fare while being served by some incredibly friendly staff.  We also sampled a fabulous breakfast at the local cafe which is attached to the village shop and is an amazing community venture which forms the true heart of the village. 

Blockley Village near Moreton-in-Marsh


On our first day we took a trip to the twin villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter walking between the two, and then onto Bourton-on-the-Water.  

Pretty Lower Slaughter 
We started our journey in the larger of the two villages, Lower Slaughter, which is set on the banks of the tiny River Eye and abounds with wisteria-clad cottages and paid a visit to the Lower Slaughter Mill and Cafe for a browse around.  We had parked across the road from the Slaughters Manor Hotel which although we did not have time to visit looked really lovely.  

The pretty wisteria clad houses in Lower Slaughter 
On our return to the village from Upper Slaughter we stopped for a drink at the Slaughters Country Inn and if time had allowed we were going to go back there for a late afternoon sandwich as the food looked amazing.  Sadly we had underestimated the amount of time it would take and it had closed by the time we returned, but it is definitely on our list to visit again when back in the area.  

Lower Slaughter 

The walk between Lower and Upper Slaughter takes you across fields and is a really pleasant stroll, particularly this time of year when the fields are full of lambs.  There was not as much to see in Upper Slaughter but we did note the rather lovely looking Lords of the Manor Hotel which it turned out my daughter had stayed in on her visit the month before. 

Upper Slaughter 
On our return to Lower Slaughter we then embarked on the walk to Bourton-on-the-Water which a local had told us would take around 20 minutes.  Not so - although an easy walk and very pleasant as much of it is along the river it took nearly twice that time.  Bourton-on-the-Water is much larger with plenty of shops and eateries.  It is known as the 'Little Venice' of the Cotswolds as it straddles the River Windrush and is really picturesque but also frequented by a lot more tourists.  I prefer the quieter villages where you can explore and take pictures in relative tranquility so we didn't linger that long before heading back to Lower Slaughter.
Spring Lambs seen on the walk between Lower and Upper Slaughter 

HIDCOTE MANOR GARDEN near Chipping Campden

Entrance to Hidcote Manor 
Next on our list of must sees was Hidcote, an Arts and Crafts garden created by the American Major Lawrence Johnston in the early 1900s from over 10 acres of what was largely fields.  We visited on our second day and started our exploration entering the house through its wisteria and clematis-clad entrance and walking through Johnston's office with desk overlooking the garden .  
The view from the house. 
Hidcote consists of gardens within a garden as Lawrence Johnston created garden 'rooms" linked by narrow pathways and separated by hedges and walls. 

Renowned for rare species of shrubs and plants it is a horticulturalists dream and sure to give inspiration of any gardener, created so that different plants are in bloom at different times of the year so there is so much to see and take in. 

There are no fewer than thirty areas of the garden to view including the White Garden, The Maple Garden, The Alpine Terrace and Rose Walk, plus the plant house and, of course, a cafe - and a very good cafe it was too.

Some of the vistas he created are amazing and none more so than the Beech Alley shown below. 

CHASTLETON HOUSE near Moreton-in-Marsh

I particularly remembered this house from my visit over 40 years ago when we stumbled upon it and found that it was open to visitors so went to the door to be greeted by the then owner, the artist Alan Clutton-Brock, who personally showed us around.  It was an amazing experience to have such an intimate view of this beautiful house, which although shabby had retained so many of the original Jacobean features, which made it such a rare find.
The view of Chastleton as you walk from the car park

I was really keen to go back and see what had happened to the house in the intervening years, wanting to know if it had passed out of private hands and had it been renovated to such a point that its charm and historic importance had been compromised?  

It is now with the National Trust, having passed to them on the death of Barbara Clutton-Brock whose wry comment that 'poverty is a great preserver' explains why the house had remained unchanged for the best part of 400 years.  It would appear that none of the descendants of the original owner Walter Jones, who had the house built in the 1600s, could afford its upkeep so although much ravaged by time, it was not tampered with.  The National Trust has taken a deliberate decision to preserve this state of affairs and not embark on an extensive renovation, instead ensuring the fabric of the house is conserved while maintaining the interiors pretty much as I had seen it in the 1970s, peeling plasterwork and all. I can't recommend visiting this beautiful house enough - seeing the long gallery and its barrel vaulted ceiling alone makes the trip worthwhile.  No other gallery of similar length or date survives, and this is just one of its many treasures.  It will particularly resonate with lovers of Wolf Hall as it was one of the locations used for the TV adaptation.  


Of the towns we visited I think Chipping Campden was my favourite, it was so pretty, with beautiful medieval houses dotted amongst the shops and cafes and the ancient market hall built in the 1600s standing at its heart.  The long, broad high street consists on each side of what is essentially an unbroken terrace with buildings of various ages and styles, but all blending perfectly to make a picture perfect view. 

We stopped for tea at The Bantam Tea Rooms and sat out in their courtyard garden.  Highly recommended and we noted that they did accommodation as well. 

It was a really lovely, but all too short, break and although we were there for three nights we could have seen so much more as we only toured the Gloucestershire portion of the 800 square miles of the Cotswolds which spreads into Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire.  But then that is the perfect excuse to visit again!



  1. How lovely to be reminded of perhaps my favorite area of England - where we recently spent a significant birthday, right in Lords of the Manor- unforgettable! You make me eager to return!

    1. How lovely to have stayed in Upper Slaughter. It's is a really lovely part of England and like you I am keen to return.


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