I love road trips! So while spending my summer in the UK, I decided to rent a car and head on a road trip of the English countryside with my family. I wanted to pass by rolling fields, green meadows and farm fields– so I suggested that we travel to the heart of England, across the Cotswolds.
The Cotswolds is an area in the south of England, dominated by the Cotswold Hill. It runs through 6 counties, mainly through Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire; with most of its villages and towns built with the local Cotswold stone, a type of yellow limestone. This unique feature, as well as the rare grasslands of Cotswold is why it has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty since 1966.
The 4-day itinerary was to drive along the Cotwolds, passing and stopping by the pretty villages along the way. We were to spend a night each in Oxford, Gloucester, and Stratford-Upon-Avon.
Coming from London, our first stop on the road trip was at the university city of Oxford. We spent the day exploring the beautiful buildings in and around High Street, and continued our journey the next day after staying for the night.
Read more: A Day in Oxford
The road trip continued on the second day with the first stop at Blenheim Palace, built in the early 18th century. It is said to be one of England’s largest ‘houses’, but looking at the sheer size of the place, it is hard to refer to it as just a house. The word ‘palace’ in its name is aptly put. Blenheim Palace is home to the 11th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, and is known as the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill.
Walking around the palace, I could imagine living in a place like this with a grand and luxurious lifestyle. Though it would be fun, I’m sure I will get lost sometimes, or lose something and never find it again.
What I loved most about the palace though, is its beautiful landscape. 2100 acres of beautiful parkland surround the palace– sweeping lawns, formal gardens and even a lake. It’s just gorgeous greenery that goes on for miles and miles, as far as the eye as can see. It would be wonderful to wake up to such beauty and run around in the fields all day singing “The Sound of Music”!
Leaving Blenheim Palace, we continued our journey along the rolling hills of the Cotswold. About a 20-minute drive brought us to the lovely market town of Chipping Norton.
It is here that I first got to admire the houses made of the Cotswold stone. It gives all the quaint houses a distinctive look, making them all so pretty. I couldn’t help stopping by every time I saw a house I wanted to take a photo of!
Carrying on our journey, the next town we came across was Stow-on-the-Wold. The road leading up to it is slightly uphill, as this market town is located on top of Stow Hill at almost 250m. It is also filled with lovely Cotswold houses.
On the Road
All along the journey across the Cotswolds, we were greeted with the most gorgeous views. It was summer and the grass was a mixture of green and brown– with the occasional farmhouse visible in the distance. I just couldn’t take my eyes off from the view for even a second; every passing landscape was just as beautiful as the one before and I didn’t want to miss a thing.
The sun was shining, the sky was blue, the scenery was breathtaking. We were in the heart of England.
Cheltenham is situated at the edge of the Cotswolds and is a huge town, famous for its spas. We didn’t stop here (just a quick drive through), as the day was ending and we still had one more place to go.
The last destination of the day was the port city of Gloucester. It is also situated at the edge of the Cotswolds and is steeped with history– it was once owned by the Romans; was partially destroyed in a massive fire; was the place for the execution of a bishop; and was even a battle ground during the English Civil War.
After a day of driving through the Cotswolds and spending lots of time taking pictures, visiting the towns and villages, and marveling at the surrounding beauty… we were tired. It was dark by the time we arrived in Gloucester; so after a simple dinner, we called it a night.
We spend some time in the morning exploring Gloucester. The center of town is lined with gorgeous buildings dating back to the medieval and Tudor period; and it provided the atmosphere for a lovely stroll along the streets. It has been retained and kept so well that I half expected a knight on a horse to come charging down the street!
We also made a quick stop at the Gloucester Cathedral– it is a must-see because the cathedral was an actual shoot location for the famous Harry Potter movies.
Driving out from Gloucester and back into the Cotswold, the next town we visited was about 45 minutes away. It was the town of Winchcombe, population 4000. Surprisingly though, I didn’t see a single person while exploring Hailes Street, its main road. The quietness was refreshing, but it was pretty freaky!
Of course, the cottages here are also made of Cotswold stone– and many are decorated with lots of colorful flowers. I couldn’t help peeking into a few courtyards just to have a look-see. They seem to have been frozen in time, oblivious to the world evolving around them. So precious.
The few other notable buildings we visited in Winchcombe are the St Peters Church and the Sudeley Castle. There is also the town’s old railway station, built in 1906.
Our next stop for the day was at the second highest point in the Cotswold– it was time to view the beautiful rolling meadows and farmland from above. The Broadway Tower stands alone on Broadway Hill, and was built more than 200 years ago as a decorative piece. It has no specific purpose, but over the years has been used as home to a printing press, a country retreat and now, a popular tourist attraction.
Getting to the top of the tower involves climbing a narrow spiral stairway; however, you will be rewarded with the most gorgeous panorama of the Cotswolds.
Heading further north, our next town and final stop of the day was at Stratford-Upon-Avon. We spent two days exploring this town; visiting Anne Hathaway’s Farm and Shakespeare’s Birthplace, as well as boating in the Stratford canals on the first day.
Read more: The Home of Shakespeare
After spending the night in Stratford-Upon-Avon, we headed 10-minutes north of town towards Mary Arden’s Farm. It belonged to William Shakespeare’s mother, and before that, his grandfather. Visiting the farm was an educational experience of the life and times in the 16th century.
Read More: The Home of Shakespeare
Our last and final stop of the entire road trip was in the old town of Warwick. It is such an old and historical town that there has been human activity here as early as the Neolithic period, and people have been living here since the 6th century. Though we didn’t linger for long, we managed to drive through the town to get a glimpse of some of its famous landmarks; the Warwick Castle, the Collegiate Church of St. Mary and the Lord Leycester Hospital.
After Warwick, we did a non-stop drive along the motorway, all the way to Manchester.
The Road Trip
It was a fantastic road trip– I absolutely love the English countryside. During the four days traveling across the Cotswolds, I had my fair share of bright blue skies, meadows of brown and green, pretty little villages and towns built with the sweetest yellow-colored Cotswold stones; and met friendly locals along the way.
I enjoyed the serenity and the peacefulness of the surroundings. I think I wouldn’t mind getting a pretty cottage, decorate it with colorful flowers and live in one of the small towns for a few weeks in a year.
Now, if only I could garden, or paint, or write poems.