Whenever Londoners are tired of their frenzy life, large buildings and tourist crowds, they all go looking for their inner balance in the same region. Cotswolds is the best-kept secret every citizen of the City share with each other! The land where to find the perfect English countryside landscape everybody craves for, with small towns nestled in a green sea, among hiking trails and traditional pubs.
The region is very well connected to the main cities, with the M4 and the M40 on its northern and southern side, and the M5 on its left. Several smaller roads allow comfortable travels between the different villages, with beautiful landscapes on both sides of the road.
Most of the walks are very well way-marked, especially the Cotswold Way, an eleven days itinerary crossing the whole area from Chipping Campden to Bath. Several other trails are available, and none of them are too difficult to do. Accommodation, as well as restaurants & pubs, are generally high quality.
Our first travel to Cotswolds has been blessed by good weather (hey, it’s not something you can give as granted around here!). We managed to have a good and soft hike on the northern side of the region, looking for the remains of the prehistoric population who lived in the area during Neolithic Age. And of course, looking for the best meals in the meantime!
Delicious tip: we do suggest renting a car to visit the region, the bus service is a bit scarce and driving along the hills is one of the best experience you can get in this part of the country!
On the road to our destination for the night, we stopped at our first stop, a gastropub called “Horse & Groom”. The place is very easy to find, on the side of the road between Chipping Norton and Chipping Campden.
The interior keeps the feeling of the countryside pub with a (welcoming) variation concerning more space and better luminosity.
It’s where you want to bring your parents to eat where they are coming to visit you, or where you want to organize the next party for young parents with kids.
Everything has that rustique vibe most people in London are thriving for, the old fireplace, the wooden counter and the beamed ceiling.
The menu, changed daily, is displayed on the chalkboard behind the counter. The cuisine is modern British, characterized by the use of traditional ingredients mixed up with different degrees of fusion.
Hence we found 28 days-aged rump steak, loin of cod, Dover sole, rack of lamb, combined with couscous, fresh coriander, sweet ‘n’ sour sauces. The dishes were good enough, even if we didn’t find anything mind-blowing.
The local beer served on tap, is a nice easy-to-drink lager, perfect for lunch.
Our final destination for the day was Charingworth Manor, a sweet 4-stars hotel set in a 14th-century house just north of Chipping Campden. The hotel lived up to expectations regarding the room, the scenic views, and the spas, with a beautiful heated pool, a sauna, a steaming room and an extensive list of massages available.
The dinner at the hotel, unfortunately, was disappointing. You know when you see somebody trying really hard to achieve something, but failing miserably for gross incompetence? Well, that’s it!
From the mise-en-bouche, with a salmon over a cracker of cucumber, to the deconstructed peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake, flavors were entirely random, without any care for their juxtaposition nor their synergy. It was a slow and painful massacre of tastes.
It must be noted, the quality of the ingredients was very high, the problem was in the kitchen and the preparation, not in the raw materials.
The day after, we were greeted by a pleasant sun, and we drove to the starting point for our hike in the Cotswolds, in the city of Chipping Norton. After a quick lunch at The Chequers (decent soup, a better-than-average Sunday roast) we started our three hours walking in the countryside, heading to the Rollright Stones, a prehistoric religious site composed of a circle of stones.
The 12 kilometers walk brought us in the different landscapes the region offers, green crops, rolling hills and evocative woods. The small city of Salford is a beautiful example of a typical village in the Cotswolds, with the houses built in limestone.
After a couple of hours, our destination revealed itself on top of the hill. A megalithic monument composed of three different parts.
The most important one is a circle made of 77 stones arranged side by side, called King’s Men. It was probably used for religious and astronomical purpose. Next to it, another small group of rocks, called the Whispering Knights, was the entrance to a prehistoric burial chamber. Finally, on the other side of the road, sit a single erected stone, the King Stone. Time and weather acted as erosive agents on the rocks, shaping them in the way they are nowadays. It’s a beautiful place, with a beautiful landscape over the rolling hills.
All in all, this has been a great way to explore this region for the first time, joining several of the highlights of the Cotswolds. Of course, we’ve been very lucky in having two days blessed by a wonderful weather; a three hours walk in the rain would not have been that satisfying. The next time we will surely go to the two Michelin stars Le Champignon Sauvage and explore a little more the central part of the area, between Cheltenham and Cirencester.
Our hiking trail takes three to four hours to complete. It starts from the playground in Chipping Norton and terminates at Church of St.Mary. There are free parking spots in the city center.
The walk is very easy, mostly on a clear path.
Did you visit the region? Where did you stay? Have you been as lucky as we have been with regards to the weather ☀?