2019 was a very hectic year for me at work, somehow I lost track of time, days and even months, time simply flew. We have a shutdown end of December every year and I was probably the most desperate employee waiting for it.
It was too late to make any elaborate travel plans. I was longing to take few days to some new place where I am alone by myself and do not talk to any familiar people. Yeah sounds very unsocial, but that is my stress release mechanism.
I have always wanted to go to Cotswold. All the blogs say you need a car to go see the villages as they do not have any public transport. Hence so far I never attempted. I did some research and found that we do have bus connections, however I couldn’t find one single website like TFL where you could find it all. So I got some confidence that I would manage to get around and built a short three day itinerary which I am sharing here with all of you
Cotswolds is quite a large area in terms of accessing it by public transport. If you have enough time, its best to break it down and explore it by dividing it into larger areas. In hindsight I feel, all towns and villages start looking similar after a day, but the itch of ticking them off your list is always there. I would recommend to go to few and spend more time than to visit them in hurry, only to click pictures.
So my itinerary was built keeping in mind, that I have to use public transport only. I decided to explore a bunch of villages in North Cotswolds and started by trip from Stratford upon Avon which is well connected to London by train. Here is how my itinerary looked like:
Day 1 : London to Startford upon Avon
This was pretty straightforward. Take a train from London, mine was from Marylebone Overground station. It takes a little over 2 hours to reach Stratford upon Avon. Word of caution, there is a Stratford in East London. However You need to go to Stratford upon Avon, please don’t get confused and take a wrong route.
I reached about 12 pm and spent the rest of the day walking the sights of Shakespeare’s birthplace. You can find more on my blog about this day. I also stayed overnight at the lovely Shakespeare Mercure hotel.
Sights visited on this day : Shakespeare’s story exhibition, birthplace, New house, Shakespeare’s Theater, Anne Hathway’s Cottage, streets of Stratford upon avon
Day 2 : Stratford upon Avon to Chipping Camden to Moreten-in-Marsh to Stow on Wolds
After a hearty breakfast at Bella Italia (a frittata which was full of potatoes), I hopped onto Johnsons Bus Route 1. I took a Cotswold Explorer ticket of 10 GBP which lets you board any bus for the entire day in the Cotswold area. My first stop was Chipping Camden. The bus has a very scenic route via Mickelton, Blockley and there are several stops in the country lanes.
I strolled around Chipping Camden for few hours, enjoyed its out-of-the world cottages. The entire town is in pastel colored stone. It looks absolutely timeless, exactly like we watch in an old British movie. I had an afternoon tea at Bantham Tea Rooms which is very popular and historic.
Around 2pm I boarded another bus to Morten-in-Marsh. This was a quick 15 minutes stop and the town looked quite busy compared to Chipping Camden. The road was a very busy one. I strolled around its market square and few streets in time to catch a bus which took me to my stop over for the night, Stow On Wolds.
Stow is a small village but absolutely stuck in a time warp. Since this was December and days are short, I reached about 4pm and it was almost dark. The bus stopped at Stow on Wold Market Square which looked like a parking lot full of cars. All around were old stone buildings which were pubs, cafes and boutiques. I spent the night at Bell Pub’s Stuart house.
Day 3 : Stow on Wolds- Bourton on Water- Lower Slaughter-Cheltenham – London
After a breakfast of home brewed coffee and eggs benedict at the amazing Bells Pub, I took lots of pictures of Stow as it was a sunny day to start with. The bus Pulhams Coach No 801 at 10am took me to Bourton on Water which was just a 15-20 min ride.
Bourton on Water is again another small village with a narrow river right in the middle of the town. Even in end of December this place was very touristy full of Chinese tourists mostly with their selfie guns. I walked around the place for 25-30 minutes. I knew staying long will not find me my peace, so I took a bus to Lower Slaughter, another village part of The Slaughters!
The bus does not really go to Lower Slaughter. You have to get down on the main road at a petrol bunk with a large sign board to a road indicating ‘Slaughters’. I walked this road which was muddy on the sides, there was no pedestrian path so I was walking carefully. After a 7-10 min walk I reached Lower Slaughter. So far in three days, this was the most picturesque village. Coming from London, it was hard to believe such a small quaint village exists where one could hear their own footsteps. I walked around entire village and clicked few pictures. It started raining. I had enough time to walk back to Bourton on Water and grab some lunch and take a bus to Cheltenham.
I retraced back to the same petrol bunk. This time I decided to walk to Bourton on Water. It was an easy 30 min walk to reach town center. The rain was heavy but I was enjoying. I was the only human being walking on a quiet road all by herself. Felt a little eerie too.
At Bourton on Water I grabbed a pizza and finally took a bus to Cheltenham. The entire evening it was raining and I couldn’t click any more pictures. At Cheltenham, I picked some groceries for next day (Christmas) and a boarded a train back to London. You can also take a bus (National Express)
For last 5 years I have never taken even a small vacation in December, it has always been confined to home and London. But these three days were remarkable. I loved the tranquility of these tiny villages, the slow bus journeys, the pub food, walking by myself in very cold weather on quiet roads, watching the barren trees, completely being away from work and its madness and being my best companion as always.
Address : Various locations. Best is to explore based on direction like North, South or Central Cotswold
Nearest station : Best is to drive. Or take train to destinations like Oxford, Morten-in-Marsh, Stratford upon Avon and take bus from there
Entry : Free
Thumbs up : Amazing scenery of small postcard villages, slow-life, old British pubs and inns
Thumbs down: Very touristy in summers; expensive food; limited public transport links
What’s next? : Depending on which part of Cotswold you are exploring. If North Cotswold,the next would be to explore the Central and South Cotswold villages.