This was the second time I’ve been to the Cotswold region. First being quite some time ago, in Cirencester and Coln St Aldwyns, where I also posted a review of a charming Cotswold hotel.
This December day, exploring the traditional villages of the Cotswolds was filled with lots of sightseeing, photo taking, taking in all the beauty around us, and quite a bit of rain! We didn’t mind the rain much, as we were promised a place with a lardy cake in Burford by our driver/tour guide. We do like to eat our way through new cities, towns, and villages.
The day started in London, where we got to Greenline Coach Terminal which is right opposite the Victoria Coach Station and the train station too. Here we were met by a Rabbie’s Tour guide called Stuart, who, throughout the day has been doing an excellent job providing lots of useful information on the cultural, historical and contemporary heritage of the Cotswold villages, and, of course, London and Oxford. He proved himself a great and careful driver too, which is extremely important on trips like that.
We hopped into our Mercedes mini-coach with around 7-8 other people. We fastened our seatbelts and readied ourselves for the adventure ahead.
Our first stop after we got out of London and away from all the motorways was a medieval town of Burford. Here we simply decided to walk around for a while. We popped into a few shops selling top range outdoors clothes and accessories, out of my personal price range, of course, but nevertheless quite comfy and nice.
After a bit of sightseeing in Burford, and having had no breakfast whatsoever, we headed into this cute little cafe. Our driver guide recommended it just thirty minutes before. The place was called Huffkins, which immediately reminded me of the Wizard of Oz. Munchkins, anyone?
Of course, we went for another suggestion, which was the lardy cake, and until this day I didn’t even hear about this dessert. So when I first saw it on my plate, I was happy. I ordered the version with the ice cream, which I guess, isn’t very British, but anyway, I did, and it tasted amazing.
I am usually quite indifferent to pastry, especially when I’m hungry, but this one was the next level of good. The sticky caramelized lardy cake, made of yeast-raised sweet bun dough, hand-rolled with sultanas & currants was absolutely delicious and it cost £3.45, plus another £1.95 for that ice cream. It was good, even though I did feel my lactose intolerance at the end of our meal. But don’t mind me.
They do have vegan treats on the menu too, by the way. After our sweet breakfast/lunch, we headed to the next destination.
Our second stop was in a tiny picturesque village of Bibury, of which I knew quite a lot already, as I love my research! This village of Bibury is actually not far from Cirencester, the heart of the Cotswolds, and is often referred to as the most photographed and beautiful village in England. Apparently, if you have a British passport, the picture of that village is on every page of your document. Let me know if it is.
Arlington Row, pictured above, was originally built as a monastic wool store, in the 1380s. Here you could get wool made by nuns and monks during those times. Medieval English wool trade was one of the most important trades in the medieval economy. And Scotland too, as I later found out, on another tour with The Rabbie’s. Wool as a raw material has been widely available since the domestication of sheep, as it says on the History and Heritage Accommodation Guide website. Back in the olden days, wool became a huge business. There was a great demand for it, mostly for the production of cloth. So almost everyone raised sheep!
In the 17th century they converted Arlington Row wool store into a row of weavers’ cottages. The weavers’ cottage is a house that weavers use for cloth production, and also for living on the lower floor, with the loom-shop on the top one. I can just imagine how the many sets of yarns were being interlaced to form a beautiful and, of course, practical cloth or fabric.
Stay At Arlington Row, 9
There are people living in these weavers’, so you can’t come in without an invitation, like some tourists do, apparently. Although you can actually book a holiday at Number 9, Arlington Row!
Here’s an excerpt from the booking page on the nationaltrust.co.uk page:
Stay in one of the most iconic addresses in the UK, Arlington Row. The quintessence of a pretty English street, you’ll be staying in its only holiday cottage, No.9. Close the front door away from photo-snapping tourists to a special two-bedroom nest with stacks of historic character. You can still see the Rack Isle, where the wool was put to dry, from the garden.
And apparently, right now it costs [only] £340 for three nights, with three nights being the minimum number of nights you can book. You will find all the modern amenities here, including a fridge, TV and the dishwasher, however, there will be no *gasp* wifi.
You can also stay in the Swan Hotel (pictured above), sometimes they do deals on booking.com, I just checked. A four-poster bedroom or even a separate cottage, anyone? *raises hand*
We only spent around 30 minutes there, however, there are some places to eat too, and if you decide to stay in Bibury, there are cities and places of interest nearby. It is places like Cirencester, Coln St Aldwyns, where I stayed several years ago, the aforementioned Burford, of course, Gloucester, and other famous Cotswold villages like Bourton-on-the-Water and Stow-on-the-Wold.
Bampton, also called Bampton-in-the-Bush, is a settlement and civil parish (a civil parish can range in size from a large town with a population of about 75,000 to a single village with fewer than a hundred inhabitants. In eight cases a parish comprises a city, where the monarch has confirmed city status due to a cathedral). Bampton is located in the Thames Valley in Oxfordshire.
The tour went there mainly because this is where they filmed Downton Abbey, more specifically, the village of Downton. And we were ecstatic, really. To see where the Crawleys lived, was one of the highlights of this trip.
Weirdly, I didn’t take many photos, I was just walking around, breathing in the fictional lives of the characters.
There is also a beautiful church and a churchyard, which they also used in the series, and where you can go in and explore. Do close the gate after yourself, be nice.
Then off we went to the last destination point on our itinerary, and that was Oxford.
There are numerous reasons, why people should visit Oxford: the architecture, above all, the literary history (C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and others), the University of Oxford, the Bodleian Library, the museums and galleries, the pubs, the Blackwell’s Bookshop, Harry Potter sightings (I mean filming locations), and many others.
I have previously visited Oxford, so this time there was not much running around, trying to see everything in one day. You can get here by bus from London like I did the first time. We did, however, have only 3 hours here, so we walked a bit under the rain, saw the market, went into University Church of St Mary the Virgin. At the church, we climbed the tower and these are the photos I took from the top.
If this is your first time in Oxford, then do take time here, 10 hours is good for a general visit. The tour with the Rabbie’s for me was mostly about the Cotswolds. This is what I was looking for from the start. I wanted to see Bibury, before anything else.
As for the tour company we went with. It’s very convenient, especially in our case, when you don’t have your own car. You can enjoy the scenery, learn lots of interesting information during the drive. Plus, I think it’s cheaper than their competitors. Let me know if I’m wrong.
Thank you for reading 🙂
Here’s the info on the tour we took, and you can also book it online.
The Rabbie’s: Oxford & Traditional Cotswold Villages
They do tours across the UK , suit many tastes and they’re worth checking out 🙂