Cotswolds Region, England: Sep 3-5 2019

Updated: Apr 13


Surprisingly, our drive from Snowdon on the previous day went very well and we reached Charlton Kings in time for dinner. The Airbnb 'Carriage House' was just what we needed too; lots of space, well furnished and in a convenient neighborhood.


Activities/locations included in this blog:

  • Bourton-on-the-Water

  • Upper and Lower Slaughter

  • Naunton

  • Burford

  • Bibury

  • Cirensester

  • Oxford

The 3-day itinerary involved lots of destinations but no long drives between stops.


Day 28

It was a slow start to the day after yesterday's hike and drive. Time for food shopping, laundry chores, and planning our time in the Cotswolds. Despite the late start, we planed to visit the following villages and sites today:

  • Bourton-On-The-Water

  • Birdland Park and Gardens

  • Upper Slaughter

  • St Peter's Church

  • Walk from Upper to Lower Slaughter

  • St Mary's Church

  • Naunton

  • Black Horse Inn and Pub

Cotswolds

The Cotswolds are an area in south central and south west England comprising the Cotswold Hills. The area is characterized by small towns and villages built using the golden-colored Cotswold limestone. The area has more protected or 'listed' buildings than any other region in the country. Of the nearly 800 square miles of the Cotswolds, roughly 80% is farmland.


During the Middle Ages, thanks to the breed of sheep known as the Cotswold Lion, the Cotswolds became prosperous from the wool trade with the continent, with much of the money made from wool directed towards the building of churches. The most successful era for the wool trade was 1250–1350; much of the wool at that time was sold to Italian merchants. The area still preserves numerous large, handsome Cotswold Stone 'wool churches'.


Burton-on-the-Water

Probably the most popular village in the Cotswolds, and often referred to as the 'Venice of the Cotswolds' because the River Windrush runs right through the center. Bourton-on-the-Water is known for its five low bridges and traditional stone houses.

Burton-on-the-Water bridge over the River Windrush in Cotswolds
River Windrush in Burton-on-the-Water in Cotswolds
Main street in Burton-on-the-Water in Cotswolds. Shops constructed of Cotswold yellow limestone
Burton-on-the-Water bridges over the River Windrush in Cotswolds
Burton-on-the-Water bridge over the River Windrush in Cotswolds
Main street in Burton-on-the-Water in Cotswolds. Shops constructed of Cotswold yellow limestone
River Windrush in Burton-on-the-Water in Cotswolds

Birdland

Although it's not what you'd expect to do when visiting the Cotswolds, we toured the Birdland Park and Gardens. The park located in the main historic section of Burton-on-the-Water contains around 6 acres of woodland, ponds, and gardens and is home to over 500 birds. After lots of hiking it was a good and relaxing change of pace.

The Slaughters

Just over a mile from Bourton-on-the-Water were the twin villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter. The name comes from old English 'Slohtre', which has nothing to do with killing; it refers to a muddy place. Straddling the banks of the River Eye, also known as Slaughter Brook, the two villages have remained utterly unchanged for more than a century with no constructions taking place since 1906. Of the roughly 300,000 people who visit Bourton each year only a fraction get the chance to see the Slaughters.


Upper Slaughter

Unlike Bourton-on-the-Water there is little 'obvious' tourism Upper Slaughter. Of the two Slaughters, Upper Slaughter is the less visited. In a positive way, there is nothing to do in Slaughter except soak up the village feeling and experience 'the Cotswolds' without the crowds. The buses that frequent Burton-on-the-Water couldn't fit down most streets in the Slaughters. Hell, we had difficulties driving the SUV here.

Home in Upper Slaughter made of Cotswold yellow limestone.

Most of the stone built villages in the area were constructed using Cotswold Stone. Cotswold stone is a yellow limestone that is rich in fossils, particularly of fossilized sea urchins. When weathered, the color of buildings made or faced with this stone is often described as honey or golden.


The ford in Upper Slaughter runs right through the middle of the village. A ford is basically a road crossing which run through a shallow stream.

Home along the ford in Upper Slaughter made of Cotswold yellow limestone.

St Peter's Church

In the center of the village stands the early medieval Church of St Peter’s. There has been a church on this spot since at least the 12th century and possibly as early as the 11th century. The building we see is mainly 12th century but with extensive restoration in 1877. Thankfully, the restoration re-used most of the original medieval stonework.

Church of St Peter’s in Upper Slaughter of the Cotswolds
Church of St Peter’s in Upper Slaughter of the Cotswolds
Interior and high altar of Church of St Peter’s in Upper Slaughter of the Cotswolds
Cemetery at Church of St Peter’s in Upper Slaughter of the Cotswolds

One of the most impressive buildings in Upper Slaughter is the 'Lords of the Manor' estate. Surrounded by trees and rolling hills, Lords of the Manor was previously owned by the Slaughter family who bought it from King Henry VIII. Portions of the estate date from 1649; it's been a hotel since 1960s.

Lords of the Manor estate in Upper Slaughter of the Cotswolds
Rolling green hills in Upper Slaughter of the Cotswolds
Flower garden at Lord of the Manor estate in Upper Slaughter of the Cotswolds
Flower garden at Lord of the Manor estate in Upper Slaughter of the Cotswolds

The was a short mile-long path from Upper to Lower Slaughter. It followed along a shallow river and across open fields.

Walking the path from Upper to Lower Slaughter of the Cotswolds
Walking along the River Eye along path the from Upper to Lower Slaughter of the Cotswolds
Walking the path from Upper to Lower Slaughter of the Cotswolds
Walking the path from Upper to Lower Slaughter of the Cotswolds

Lower Slaughter

Lower Slaughter has been inhabited for over 1,000 years. The Domesday Book entry has the village name as 'Sclostre'. The Doomsday Book was commissioned in 1085 by William The Conqueror. William needed to raise taxes to pay for his army, so a survey was set in motion to assess the wealth and and assets of his subjects throughout the land and tax them accordingly.


Lower Slaughter was built on the banks of the River Eye, a slow-moving stream crossed by two footbridges, in the village. The River Eye also flows through Upper Slaughter.

Homes made of Cotswold yellow limestone along River Eye in Lower Slaughter. Cotswolds.

Homes and buildings were constructed using Cotswold limestone.

Homes made of Cotswold yellow limestone in Lower Slaughter. Cotswolds.
Homes made of Cotswold yellow limestone along River Eye in Lower Slaughter. Cotswolds.

One of the main attractions is a restored 19th century flour mill located along the River Eye. The mill was last used commercially in 1958. The chimney is made of red brick, in sharp contrast to the other buildings in both villages, which are made from the traditional Cotswold stone. We stopped at the cafe located in the mill for dessert and a coffee.

19th century flour mill located along the River Eye in Lower Slaughter of the Cotswolds
Waterwheel at the 19th century flour mill located along the River Eye in Lower Slaughter of the Cotswolds

The village is home to the Church of St. Mary. The church and its impressive spire were re-built in 1867 by the lord of the manor, Charles Shapland Whitmore. Some portions of the church date back to the 13th century.

Church of St. Mary in Lower Slaughter of the Cotswolds
Interior of Church of St. Mary in Lower Slaughter of the Cotswolds
Cemetery on the ground of Church of St. Mary in Lower Slaughter of the Cotswolds

Naunton

Our last stop for the day was in Naunton which is referred to in the Domesday Book as 'Niwetone'. There has probably been a settlement here for at least 2000 years.

The River Windrush flows through the village. How small is the village? The 2011 census lists 352 residents.

River Windrush flowing through Village of Naunton of the Cotswolds
River Windrush flowing through Village of Naunton of the Cotswolds

Luckily, after walking all day, we found the Black Horse Inn and Pub. The Inn has been serving beers and home cooked meals for more than 100 years. It was the perfect end to the day.

Black Horse pub in the Village of Naunton of the Cotswolds
Drinking beer at the Black Horse pub in the Village of Naunton of the Cotswolds

Fortunately, we got back to Charlton Kings in time to watch Emmerdale. The British soap opera is set in the fictional village of Emmerdale in the Yorkshire Dales. The premise of 'Emmerdale Farm', as it was originally called, focuses on a family, a farm, and characters in a nearby village. The series was first broadcast in 1972.


These episodes were broadcast before the show ended the Aaron Dingle and Robert Sugden story line.

Day 29

We decided to go for a morning run and check out the Airbnb neighborhood. Our apartment was located in the red brick building toward the back of the property.

As usual, Dave ran 4.3 miles compared to my 3.4 miles; some things never change. It was a casual morning, we were enjoying the comfort of the Airbnb and slow pace.

Today's stops included:

  • Burford

  • St. John the Baptist Church

  • Snacks at Huffkins

  • Antique shopping

  • Bibury - Arlington Row

  • Cirensester


Burford

The first stop of the day was the village of Burford, famous for antique shops and Huffkins Bakery. It is often referred to as the 'gateway' to the Cotswolds.


Burford is a small medieval town on the River Windrush. The town began in the Anglo-Saxon times (410 to 1066) with the founding of a fortified village. After the Norman conquest of England (11th century), Burford continued to grow in size and wealth. Ultimately, Burford became an important trading crossroads and a very wealthy 'wool town'.


In the Middle Ages, the Cotswolds was well known throughout Europe as the source of some of the best wool. The area was ideal for sheep so the abbeys and monasteries raised huge flocks of the 'Cotswold Lion'. These native sheep were large animals with golden long fleeces. Merchants became rich and spent much money on the 'wool churches' as well as building fine houses. At that time 50% of England's economy was due to wool.


Burford Church, or St. John the Baptist Church, welcomes 100,000 visitors through its doors every year, which means its one of the top ten visited churches in the UK.


Burford Church or St. John the Baptist Church in Burford of the Cotswolds

The present church was built in the late 12th century and grew in size as the wool trade grew. Wealthy wool merchants funded large scale expansion of the church especially throughout the 13th and 15th century. Now St. John the Baptist Church is one of the largest churches in Oxfordshire.

Cemetery on the ground of Burford Church or St. John the Baptist Church in Burford of the Cotswolds

Standing in the middle of the nave looking at the arches of the Norman tower. The tower is one of the oldest part of the church and date back to 1170.

Nave of Burford Church dates back to 1170.  Burford of the Cotswolds

The high altar.

The high altar in Burford Church in Burford of the Cotswolds

The brightly colored pulpit was assembled in 1878 from fragments of a 15th century wooden tracery.

Colorful pulpit in Burford Church in Burford of the Cotswolds

The nave was built in the 12th century and along with the font are the oldest portions of the church. The Norman doorway at the far end may be an original dating back to 1175.

Norman doorway at the far end in Burford Church dates back to 1175. Burford of the Cotswolds

In a small chapel north of the chancel is the magnificent early 17th century canopied tomb where Sir Lawrence, Chancellor of the Exchequer to James I who died in 1628, lies in state with his wife. He was reviled locally for his high-handed interference in local affairs, and had a reputation for greed and corrupt practices in office. For two centuries after his death, Burford residents gleefully burned an effigy of Lord Tanfield each year.

Tomb of Sir Lawrence, Chancellor of the Exchequer to James I in Burford Church.  Burford of the Cotswolds

Beautiful stained glass windows from the Victorian Era.

A Norman baptismal font dates to the 12th century; the carvings were added in the 14th century.

A Norman baptismal font in Burford Church dates to 12th century. Burford of the Cotswolds

Most tombs surrounding the church date to the 17th and 18th century.

Tombs on the grounds of Burford Church in Burford of the Cotswolds

Huffkins is an award winning British bakery and tea rooms established 1890 in Burford. The founder, Mr. Titcomb, baked in a tiny Cotswold stone cottage and delivered freshly baked goods from a wood fired oven by donkey and cart. Huffkins now has 5 locations in the Cotswolds.

Huffkins pastry logo in Burford of the Cotswolds
Huffkins chocolate cake in Burford of the Cotswolds
Huffkins pastry display in Burford of the Cotswolds

After the snack we shopped Main Street and picked up a few antique collectibles for our CA and MA homes. There were lots of stores to browse around.

Main street shops in Burford of the Cotswolds

Bibury

Next up was Bibury. Bibury is a small village built along the banks of the River Coln. It's one of the most famous Cotswold village, often referred to as the most beautiful villages in England.

Small village of Bibury in the Cotswolds

The River Coln flows through Bibury sandwiched between the main village street and an expanse of boggy water meadow.

The River Coln flows through Bibury in the Cotswolds

The main Bibury attraction is 'Arlington Row'. Arlington Row is one of England’s most iconic and photographed sites – it appears on the inside cover of UK passports! Originally built in the 1380 as a monastic wool store, it was converted in the 17th century into a row of weavers’ cottages. The cottages are now lived in by National Trust tenants, with no public access to the cottages or gardens,

In 2017 the BBC reported that an 'ugly' car parked by an elderly motorist had been vandalized, possibly by visitors who had repeatedly complained that it spoiled their photographs.

Arlington Row homes in Bibury of the Cotswolds. 17th century row of weavers’ cottages in Bibury of the Cotswolds

I guess everyone who lived here was short.

Short doorways in Arlington Row home in Bibury of the Cotswolds
Arlington Row homes in Bibury of the Cotswolds. 17th century row of weavers’ cottages in Bibury of the Cotswolds

After visiting Arlington Row we left Bibury and headed to the nearby town of Cirencester.


Cirencester

Cirencester is the largest town in the Cotswolds; its historical significance dates back to around 49 AD when the Romans built a fort to defend this provincial frontier. During Roman times, the town flourished under the name Corinium and became a regional capital and the second largest town in Britain. Even during Roman times, there was a thriving wool trade and industry. Cirencester’s Market Square is lined with multicolored Cotswold stone buildings.

Main street and shops in  Cirencester the largest town in the Cotswolds

In the square is the timber framed Fleece Hotel, a former coaching inn. At the end of the English Civil War, King Charles II spent the night of September 11, 1651 here on his way to exile in France.

Main street and shops in  Cirencester the largest town in the Cotswolds

The square is dominated by the cathedral-like Church of St. John Baptist. Often called the 'Cathedral of the Cotswolds', St. John the Baptist, is one of the largest and most elegant medieval churches in England. The original church structures date back to 1115 but was subsequently enlarged in 1180 and 1240 with significant and more opulent alterations in the early 14th and 15th centuries.

Cathedral of the Cotswolds, St. John the Baptist dates back to 1115.  Cirencester of the Cotswolds

The West Tower was built between 1400-1420 with funds donated by King Henry IV as thanks to the citizens of Cirencester for their support during the 1399 rebellion of the Earls. The immense weight of the tower is supported by flying buttresses on both sides. The original tower plans included a spire but the tower walls were thought to be too weak to support the additional weight. The tower still soars to a height of 162 ft.

The West Tower of Cathedral of the Cotswolds, St. John the Baptist in Cirencester of the Cotswolds

The nave built in the early 12th century was completely rebuilt between 1515 and 1530. The new construction included adding the tall, slender pillars with pointed arches that separate the nave from the side aisles.

The nave of Cathedral of the Cotswolds, St. John the Baptist in Cirencester of the Cotswolds

Standing in the nave looking toward the main altar and the chancel. The wine glass shaped pulpit in the lower left dates from 1440. Many similar pulpits were defaced or destroyed completely during the Reformation period, but not so here. It is probably the lack of religious symbolism on the pulpit that allowed it to be spared from the Reformer's zealous destruction of icons.

Colorful pulpit and high altar in Cathedral of the Cotswolds, St. John the Baptist in Cirencester of the Cotswolds

The chancel is the space around the altar that was used by the clergy and choir during worship. The congregations remained in the nave during services. The chancel, built around 1115, is the oldest part of the church. It was significantly altered in 1180. The east window behind the main altar dates to 1300. The original stained glass has long since been removed and replaced with 15th century glass from other parts of the church.

The East Window and chencel in Cathedral of the Cotswolds, St. John the Baptist in Cirencester of the Cotswolds

To the north of the chancel is St. Catherine's Chapel which dates to around 1150. The fan vaulted ceiling was added in 1508. On either side of the altar are effigies of merchant in wall recesses. Another symbol of the support from the wealthy wool merchants and benefactors.

St. Catherine's Chapel which dates to around 1150 in Cathedral of the Cotswolds, St. John the Baptist in Cirencester of the Cotswolds

Adjacent to St Catherine's Chapel in the Lady Chapel constructed in 1240 and rebuilt in the mid 15th century.

Lady Chapel which dates to around 1240 in Cathedral of the Cotswolds, St. John the Baptist in Cirencester of the Cotswolds

In the chapel is the early 17th century tomb commemorating a wealthy lawyer Humfry Bridges (d. 1598), and Elizabeth, his wife (d. 1620). Their two sons kneel at a prayer desk at the head and feet of Bridges. Along the base of the tomb are their nine daughters.

17th century tomb of Humfry Bridges in Cathedral of the Cotswolds, St. John the Baptist in Cirencester of the Cotswolds

In the west end of the church is a 14th century font (center). Behind the font is the Monox Tomb with effigies of George Monox and his wife holding hands while kneeling at prayer desks.

14th century baptismal font and tomb of George Monox in Cathedral of the Cotswolds, St. John the Baptist in Cirencester of the Cotswolds

On the way home, we stopped in Bibury at a great little pub called 'The Catherine's Wheel' for a pint and dinner.

The Catherine's Wheel restaurant and pub in Bibury in the Cotswolds

Day 30

Oxford

For our last day, we drove to Oxford even though we only had the late morning and early afternoon to walk around. We didn't have enough time to really visit the city but we thought it would be crazy to pass up the opportunity to walk around. To maximize our time and quickly learn about the city, we joined the 'Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour'.


The city is home to the University of Oxford. There is evidence of teaching as early as 1096 at Oxford, making the University of Oxford the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world's second-oldest university in continuous operation. Only University of Bologna established in 1088 is older. The university is made up of 39 semi-autonomous constituent colleges.

Christ Church College

Christ Church is a constituent college of the University of Oxford. Formally titled 'The Dean, Chapter and Students of the Cathedral Church of Christ in Oxford of the Foundation of King Henry the Eighth', it is the only academic institution in the world which is also a cathedral, the seat of the Bishop of Oxford. Seen below is the Meadows Building.

Christ Church College Meadows Building in Oxford England
Christ Church College Meadows Building in Oxford England

Bodleian Library

Founded in 1598, this magnificent library is the main research library of the University of Oxford, and is one of the oldest libraries in Europe. With over 12 million items [1], it is the second-largest library in Britain after the British Library. The Quadrangle (sometimes referred to as the 'Old Schools Quadrangle', or the 'Old Library') was built between 1613 and 1619 by adding three wings to the Proscholium and Arts End. Its tower forms the main entrance to the library, and is known as the Tower of the Five Orders.

Bodleian Library founded in 1598 is the main research library of the University of Oxford in England

Radcliffe Camera

The circular dome and drum of the Radcliffe Camera provides one of Oxford's most iconic sights. The camera (the word means simply 'room') was built in 1737-1749 with money bequeathed by Dr. John Radcliffe to build and support a library in Oxford.

Radcliff Camera an iconic sight in Oxford, England

A view of Radcliffe Camera from All Souls College.

View of Radcliffe Camera from All Souls College in Oxford, England

All Souls College

All Souls College is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England. The college was founded by Henry VI of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1438 to commemorate the victims of the Hundred Years' War.


The four-story twin gate towers of Hawksmoor's Quadrangle and the two-story buildings on either side remain essentially as built in the 1440s.

The four-story twin gate towers of Hawksmoor's Quadrangle at All Souls College in Oxford, England

The All Souls Library (formally known as the Codrington Library) was founded through a 1710 bequest from Christopher Codrington (1668–1710), a fellow of the college and a wealthy slave and sugar plantation owner. The sundial above the main entrance was built by Christopher Wren in 1658.

The All Souls Library founded in 1710 at the All Souls College in Oxford, England

A life size statue of Henry VI in the Chapel at All Souls College.

A life size statue of Henry VI in the Chapel at All Souls College in Oxford, England

In niches, surrounding the high altar in the Chapel at All Souls, are statues of saints, bishops, and monarchs arranged in rows on either side of a Crucifixion scene. The original statues, destroyed in the sixteenth century Reformation, were not replaced with the present Gothic imitations until the nineteenth century. Unfortunately, we couldn't get any closer to the altar.

The high altar in the Chapel at All Souls surrounded by statues of saints, bishops and monarchs in All Souls College in Oxford, England

In addition to the touring the college grounds, we also shopped at a few antique stores and bought some great mid-century collectibles. Despite the world-wind pace, we were glad to have spent the day in Oxford.


After leaving Oxford we had a 2 hour drive to our next Airbnb in Saint Briavels in South Wales. Along the way we stopped for dinner at the Cock Inn, a 16th century pub and inn situated on the edge of the picturesque Forest of Dean in Blakeney. It definitely had a 'local' vibe, everyone in the place knew each other.

We arrived in total darkness to the Airbnb which was a converted barn space. It took a while to unload the SUV but we finally settled in for a well-deserved night sleep; unfortunately, that's not what we got.


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