We wrapped up four wonderful days in York and headed for the Cotswolds. The three-hour journey was the furthest distance between destinations of our entire trip, but as always, we made plenty of stops en route.
We spent the morning at Kenilworth Castle and Elizabethan Garden. This medieval fortress was built in the 1120’s and was a royal castle for much of its history. It became a Palace in the 14th century when a Great Hall and lavish apartments were added. In 1563, Queen Elizabeth I granted Kenilworth to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, who spent much of his fortune re-building it in the Renaissance style to impress her. The Queen stayed at the Palace for 19 days in 1575 at which time Dudley entertained her with extravagant pageants, banquets, and fireworks. It was his final attempt to convince Queen Elizabeth to marry him, but she said “no”!
Stratford-upon-Avon, the town synonymous with William Shakespeare, was the perfect stopping place between Kenilworth and Chipping Campden, our home base in the Cotswolds. It was a Sunday, and Stratford was having a festival in celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee. Every village, town and city in the country was decorated in honor of The Queen. In Stratford, the “Fun Fair” included carnival rides, street food and entertainment. We walked by the half-timbered house on Henley Street where William Shakespeare was born, and by a group of buildings known as the Shakespeare Center down by the river. And there were swans… I’ve never seen so many!
We arrived in Chipping Campden in time for an early evening walk in this delightful 14th century market town. Walking is especially enjoyable here as it is the beginning/end point of the Cotswold Way, a 102-mile foot path between the Cotswolds and Bath. Our accommodations were at the Cotswold House Hotel, perfectly located in the heart of town. From our room on the top floor, we had a beautiful view of the back gardens, and just steps from the hotel’s front door was the town’s most famous building – the ancient covered market. After a good night’s sleep, we spent the entire next day exploring the picturesque Cotswold countryside.
The Cotswold region is primarily a rural landscape with charming little villages scattered throughout low, rolling limestone hills. These historic villages were established during the Middle Ages with money from the wool trade. They all share common attributes such as honey-colored stone buildings, thatched roof cottages, medieval churches, ancient pubs, and the prettiest English gardens to be found. What you will not find are fast-food restaurants or big box stores… just quiet, delightful charm.
Our Cotswold itinerary included Broadway, Stanton, Hailes, Winchcombe, Bibury, Bourton-on-the-Water, Lower Slaughter and Stow-on-the Wold.
My favorite Cotswold village was Lower Slaughter. Here’s why:
Between Winchcombe and Bibury, we took a slight (and challenging) detour to Chedworth Roman Villa. If you are interested at all in archaeology, you would find this place fascinating! It is one of the most complete and elaborate Roman villas in England. Excavation here is ongoing as digs continue to uncover treasures which have lain undisturbed for 1600 years.
When we left the Cotswolds for London, I’m not sure we realized just how stressful driving had been, but as we returned the rental car – in perfect condition, I might add – there was an immediate sense of relief. Although my husband had done a marvelous job of driving us safely around unfamiliar territory for 17 days, we were happy to use public transportation the rest of the way.
When we booked this trip back in February, we had no idea it would put us in London during the Platinum Jubilee celebration for Queen Elizabeth, the nation’s longest reigning monarch. This coinciding of events was the best of times and the worst of times for us as tourists. While it was a joy to witness the admiration and respect the people have for their Queen and to be enveloped in the party-like atmosphere that had taken over the city, the crowds were a bit overwhelming. It was difficult just to walk down the street, to see popular attractions, and to find a table at a restaurant or pub. If I hadn’t already been to London, I’d have been disappointed by the number of things I couldn’t do.
It didn’t take long for us to decide that a day trip outside of London might be a good idea. We looked online for a day tour to Leeds Castle, Canterbury Cathedral and the White Cliffs of Dover, but everything appeared to be sold out. We contacted our friend Luke at Adeo Travel one more time, and within hours he had us booked on a tour that included all three, plus Greenwich and a Thames River boat ride for 8am the following morning. Thanks again, Luke! We really enjoyed Leeds. One of my favorite photos of the trip was taken there. It is so dramatic!
On the day when hordes of people lined the streets to see the Trooping of Colour (a military-style parade with soldiers, horses and music), we were touring Kensington Palace. At the time of the flyover by a special group of aircraft, we were just outside the Victoria and Albert Museum. And while the royal family made their appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, we were walking through Hyde Park on our way back to the hotel. That evening, we watched the day’s events on TV in the comfort of our room. It was like being part of it all, but with a better view! Turns out, it was a pleasure to be in London for this historic occasion.
The worst part of traveling was having to arrange for Covid testing in order to get back into the United States. We spent the morning of our last day in a questionable part of London getting the test, and the afternoon at the Imperial War Museum constantly checking our email for the results. And wouldn’t you know – the requirement for a negative Covid test ended the week after we returned home!
This final photo was taken by a kind stranger, so I can’t take credit for this one. After laughing at our attempt to take a selfie, a nice man asked if he could take the picture for us. Thank you, sir!
Our three-week tour of Great Britain was so many things: beautiful, stressful, ambitious, inspiring, amazing and frustrating at times, but most of all it was rewarding! Very rewarding!
You can find the first three posts in this travel series here:
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