A Day In The Cotswolds
Costwolds is the epitome of the English countryside in England. Here are the three most beautiful villages for a day trip in the Cotswolds, including Castle Combe.
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Have you ever been to a place and felt that you are on a movie set? Or that you have stepped into some fairy tale? Or that you are just dreaming? I felt all of those when I first saw this surreal place full of utterly beautiful chocolate box cottages and village squares. My heart literally skipped a beat and at the same moment, left me wondering if this was for real. We spent a day in the Cotswolds and visited three quaint and very well-maintained villages (Castle Combe, Painswick, Lower Slaughter) among other towns of this area.
Whenever someone plans a trip to the UK, the first places they think of are the vibrant modern cities like London, oblivious to the beauty of the English countryside. England is famous for its rich history and many places in this part of the world are still deeply rooted in its culture. But apart from history, there is another aspect to this country that gets dwarfed occasionally - its amazing rural escapes, patchwork hills, winding country roads, and ancient woodlands.
What is Cotswolds
Cotswolds is an area in south-central and south-west England that comprise many quaint, traditional and charming villages. It covers a huge area of 800 square miles and five counties - Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire (famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare), Wiltshire, Worcestershire. It is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and is the second-largest protected landscape in England after Lake District.
Cotswolds is a combination of two words - cot and wold, which means ‘sheep enclosure in rolling hillsides’. Historically, during the middle ages, 15th and 16th centuries, Cotswolds became prosperous from the wool trade because of the breed of sheep known as Cotswold Lion, and eventually got its name Cotswolds.
These days, it is especially known for its most beautiful villages in England - adorned with honey-coloured stone cottages, cosy pubs, tiny tea rooms and narrow streets. Though each village here is packed with beauty and has its own identity, yet all have the features that truly defines Cotswolds: golden stones and rolling hills (the wolds).
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Castle Combe - nestled in Wiltshire in the southern Cotswolds - is famous as the prettiest village in England. If you have the time to visit only one village in a day, then this is your village in Cotswolds. If you are a real fan of English movies, then you would have seen this place on the screen in movies like War Horse, The Wolfman, Stardust and Dr Dolittle. It is also often used as a location for several British TV programs.
After parking our car in the area reserved for car parking outside the village we started walking towards the village on a downhill road. There were huge trees on both the sides of the road and the foliage was so dense, even the sky was not visible from the road. When we arrived in the village after about 10 minutes, it literally felt like we have stepped out of the woods and into a fairyland.
I actually thought that these might just be facades like the ones done for the movie sets. The village reminded me of Magical Kingdom in Disney World. It did not take me long to realize that these were actual houses with people living in them. And outside some of these houses, there were some homemade cake, candy, and flowers for sale. While strolling around the village we couldn?t take our eyes off of those tiny houses built with honey-coloured stones and adorned with colourful flower plants. And when reached the bridge over the By Brook river at the end of the village we couldn?t help ourselves but to sit and enjoy the view.
Painswick is known as the Queen of the Cotswolds. It is one of the best-preserved Cotswolds settlements. Located in Gloucestershire, this town is best known for its parish church yew trees and the local Rococo garden. The famous parish church of St. Mary sitting amongst 99 yew trees - is one of the most memorable churchyards in the country. Many Painswick inhabitants who lost their lives in the first and second world war are named on the memorial on the north side of the churchyard.
When we entered Painswick, it was nothing like castle Combe. Streets were narrow and the houses were made of golden stones like Castle Combe. But this village has its own unique identity. The parish church of St. Mary that we visited was something to appreciate and look around. While strolling around the town we saw beautiful buildings line the narrow streets along with some craft and antique shops, adding a distinct flavour to the charm of this town.
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Lower Slaughter was the last village for the day in Cotswolds. This village is located in the Cotswolds district in Gloucestershire. It is built on both banks of the River Eye - a slow-moving stream crossed by two footbridges. Don’t be alarmed by the gory name - the name of the village is derived from the old English term ‘slough’, which means ‘wetland’.
This village took us back to the old times as soon as we saw the 19th-century watermill with an undershot water wheel and a chimney for additional steam power. While walking around the village, we saw postcard-perfect streets and cottages made with limestones in the traditional Cotswolds style. The main attraction of this village is the old mill museum.
Unfortunately, we missed it because, by the time we arrived, it was already past its visiting time. We strolled around the river cafe, riverside tea room, St. Mary Church from outside and enjoyed some quiet time sitting by the river Eye. We also caught a glimpse of a few people riding horses by the river. I literally felt that I was at the set of some old English movie after visiting Lower Slaughter. I also felt that time has just stopped for the people living here. This is the place where I would wish to retire someday.
After our day trip to Cotswolds, we realized that there is nothing quite like exploring the English countryside. Merely words can’t describe the beauty of this place. It is indeed one of the stunning and beautiful parts of England.
If you planning your UK trip, make sure to add this place in your list. One day trip is not enough to catch the beauty of the Cotswolds. All three villages that we visited were unique in its own way. But I must say it is a perfect place for keen walkers, cyclists, nature lovers, wanderers and shutterbugs.
For more information visit the Cotswolds official site.
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Have you visited any place yet that stole your heart right away? Is there a place where you want to go back again?
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