Did you know the Cotswolds is considered the walking capital of England? With over 3,000 miles of trails, you can walk further than from Los Angeles to New York. The past five months have taught us to value this ancient network of footpaths even more as we looked to the great outdoors for solace in a time of uncertainty.
Walking in the quintessentially English Cotswolds countryside proved to be the perfect antidote to the uncertainty most of us have been experiencing. Sadly, many of our overseas visitors have not been able to make their way to England this year. To help you dream of your next adventure from the comfort of your armchair, we would like to take you on a virtual tour instead, and introduce our beautiful corner of the world to you, following the itinerary of the first two days of our Scenic Guided Tour.
You arrive in Chipping Campden, one of the loveliest small towns in the Cotswolds, with its picture-perfect honey-coloured cottages bathed in the mellow September sunshine. After settling into your accommodation, you are greeted by your expert local guides, Andrew Guppy and Robert Talbot, who will give you an introduction to the Cotswolds on a short walk in this lovely market town. Andrew and Robert live and work in the Cotswolds, and play integral roles in their local communities, so they are in the perfect position to tell you about the hidden secrets of the Cotswolds and what it means to live here.
We set out along the majestic high street of Chipping Campden, adorned with the fine houses of former wool merchants whose enormous wealth created the foundations of the village we see today. We see the 15th-century wool church of St James, the 17th-century almshouses, the 400-year-old market hall and the remains of Campden House, which was destroyed in the English Civil War. You will probably notice several interesting independent stores and quirky shop fronts along the way. It is worth taking mental notes of the ones you wish to visit, as you will have plenty of time to explore them at your leisure on Day 3.
Having enjoyed your tour of Chipping Campden, you return to the comfort of your accommodation before we get together again for our first group dinner. You will probably find that another joy of the tour is just how good English cuisine has become. We do not only mean the fine dining experience of world-class seven course tasting menus in restaurants, but also our local pubs, working with locally sourced ingredients and keen to showcase traditional delights. These convivial meals, a ploughman’s lunch or bangers and mash washed down with a pint of local ale become a highlight of the day, where we all recount what we have seen and experienced together.
After a hearty English breakfast, we set off on a walk of 6 miles to visit the iconic Broadway Tower, the idyllic village of Stanton and the magnificent Stanway House.
When you embark on your walking holiday in the Cotswolds, the first thing you will notice is the sense of freedom, of invigoration to be able to meander through wide open fields of grass and crops, ancient woodlands, and quintessential English villages abundant in colour and period charm. The legacy of our network of footpaths used to mark the necessary journey to one’s place of work, the nearest school or church when walking was the only form of transport for the poor. The right to walk on recognized footpaths is shown as green dotted lines on a map but may only manifest themselves by the footprints of fellow walkers as you cross open fields. The paths were like a spider’s web joining together the communities they served. Today, they afford the visitor a leisurely pursuit, a much-needed chance to relax and unwind.
As we make our way to Broadway Tower, you can begin to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of the landscape. Some believe Broadway Tower was created as a link between the two estates of the Earl of Coventry and others a token of love for his homesick wife. The Tower offers spectacular views over the emerald green countryside dotted with honey-coloured buildings, and on a clear day, views extend into Wales.
Eager to see what might be round the next corner, we make our way across open sheep pastures to the perfectly preserved village of Stanton which appears frozen in time. The main street of the village might look familiar as it is often used in TV and film sets due to its unspoilt nature. The history of this small village can be traced back over a thousand years. With the Grade-I listed 12th century church where John Wesley is said to have preached, and the honey-coloured cottages as backdrop, your guides bring the history to life.
Our final stop of the day is Stanway House, a Jacobean manor house that has been lived in by the same family since the 16th century. Here we enjoy a leisurely picnic lunch on the lawn. We fully embrace the farm to fork ethos, and endeavour to showcase the best of locally sourced, organic produce.
Our picnic on the lawn is followed by a private guided tour of the manor house and grounds, with newly renovated and fully working watermill, magnificent gatehouse and medieval tithe barn. The magnificent fountain at Stanway House rises to over 300 feet, which makes it the tallest fountain in Britain, and the tallest gravity fountain in the world.
We return to Chipping Campden and your accommodation. Before our group dinner, we are treated to a slide show by a Cotswold Warden. The organisation of the Cotswold Voluntary Wardens was established in 1968 and today it counts 300 members, including your guide Robert. The Wardens are a group of individuals with a passion for the Cotswolds and a commitment to help keep it special, including offering their skills to maintain the footpaths for us all to enjoy. After the slide show, we enjoy yet another fabulous dinner and we while away the evening with lively discussions about the Cotswolds and the important things in life.
We hope you enjoyed your virtual tour with us. There is so much to see and do that one visit is never enough. Take one taste of the Cotswolds, in every sense, and you will be hooked and hungry for more. We hope to see you again soon, perhaps on one of our “real-life” tours!
|Husband and wife team Andrew and Elizabeth Guppy lead Cotswold Walks, specialising in customised self-guided and guided walking holidays in the Cotswolds. Living and working in the Cotswolds is an essential part of what makes their company special. As avid walkers, they can often be found walking the routes with their dog Indie. |
Andrew and Elizabeth are passionate about what they do. They strive to take you on a tour that showcases the best of the Cotswolds, from iconic gardens and fabulous local food, to sweeping vistas over the emerald green countryside dotted with honey-coloured cottages. Through careful planning and attention to detail, the mission of Cotswold Walks is to ensure you have complete peace of mind, so you can immerse yourself in the beauty of the Cotswolds and create lasting memories.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France, England and other European countries.