Burford & Bourton in the Wolds

If you are in Bibury, you have to find your way to the delightful duo of Burford and Bourton-on-the-Water. I had written a post already on the town and village respectively but here’s a quick one on the knowhow of these two. The shots are of Burford from a year ago when I sported a short hairdo and went through life-without-long-mane-shedding-all-over-the-place moments. At one point, we dreamt of old age in Burford, of a future when we could buy a little cottage and go for long walks in the country followed by coffee and pottering around in the antique stores. It was actually quite wonderful to visualise it in our mind’s eye as my husband and I sat down at The Cotswolds Arms pub in Burford for lunch on a glorious and sunny summer’s day.

2017-03-17 03.41.51 1.jpg
You have to climb to the top of the hill in Burford and look down upon the row of limestone houses that descend in a straggly row.

2017-03-17 03.41.57 1.jpg

2017-03-17 03.42.00 1.jpg

2017-03-17 03.41.55 1.jpg

2017-03-17 04.15.03 1.jpg

2017-03-17 03.41.54 1.jpg

2017-03-17 03.41.58 1.jpg

How to Get There: 

If you are not driving in the Cotswolds, wise up. Hired the car already? Then what are we waiting for. Burford is 20 miles west of Oxford and it sits on the crossroads of the A40 and A361. From London, it takes you about 1.5 hours to get to Burford. Parking is free in Burford, both in the riverside car park (OX18 4SE) and on the streets (though this kinda parking comes with time limitations). For coach and stagecoach services browse www.swanbrook.co.uk and www.stagecoachbus.com/oxfordshire/ for the timetables. Trains (www.nationalrail.co.ukwill bring you only till Oxford or Charlbury from where you have to figure out a coach or a cab to get to Burford. 

Where to Stay:

Traditional coaching inns pair well with the atmosphere of old English towns such as Burford. In the heart of town is Bull at Burford (www.bullatburford.co.uk), a coaching inn and brasserie where a small double room on bed & breakfast basis starts at £79.

If your pockets allow it, you can opt for a boutique country inn experience at The Lamb Inn (book through www.cotswold-inns-hotels.co.uk). A ‘Good Double Room’ ranges between £150-£210. If you book early you can catch a ‘Very Good Double Room’ too for roughly £150. You are also paying here for the experience of staying within the walls of a 15th-century, former weaver’s cottage.

Where to Eat:

The Cotswolds Arms (www.cotswoldarms.co.uk) is one of our comfort lunch spots in Burford. It is a traditional 18th century pub with a good selection of ales and food – they even offer gluten free dining – and rates that will not rip your heart off.

Bull at Burford, the coaching inn from above, does some mean dishes. The rates are a bit more pricey than The Cotswolds Arms, but that said, they won’t leave you gasping either.

Mrs Bumbles (www.mrsbumbles.co.uk) deli for wonderful full-fat ice creams, cheese, chutneys and local Cacklebean eggs.

What to Do:

  • In Burford, look out for a Tudor building held up on stone pillars town’s museum. Medieval wool merchants used to meet up for trade at this spot called The Tolsey. Today it serves as the town museum.
  • The 15th century Parish Church of St John the Baptist is one of the churches built using money from the wool trade. I found a cute anecdote associated with its renovation when William Morris criticised the process and had the vicar responding with the words, “The church Sir is mine, and if I choose to I shall stand on my head in it‘.

  • You are within a half-hour driving distance of charming little villages and towns in the Cotswolds such as Bibury, Bourton-on-the-WaterUpper and Lower Slaughter, Stow-on-the-WoldOxford, Cheltenham and Broadway.

Bourton-on-the-Water

If you are staying at Burford and driving down to Bourton-on-the-Water, I would suggest pottering around the shops and the river Windrush. When you are done with that do not bother with the tourist to-do such as the perfumery or the museums, just head out for walks.

Where to Eat:

The Croft (www.chesterhousehotel.comis a restaurant with a view of the Windrush. You can have a spot of lunch here or just sit back for a relaxing tea-and-cake kinda evening.

Kingsbridge Pub (www.kingsbridgepub.co.uk) on the village green is a reasonable watering hole in the village where you do get a nice range of beers and ales. We always love a seat in its beautiful beer garden with a view of children and dogs splashing about in the shallow beds of the Windrush.

What to do:

  • Walk for 1.5  miles from Bourton-on-the-Water to Lower Slaughter (takes about 40 min). You can walk further up to Upper Slaughter through Lower Slaughter.
  • There’s a 3.5-mile circular walk from Bourton-on-the-Water that takes you through a landscape dotted with river and lakes for roughly 2 hours.

For how to go about them, take a quick peek into www.escapetothecotswolds.org.uk/userfiles/file/walks/jubilee/bourton-on-the-water-and-wyck-rissington.pdf.

 

Higgledy-Piggledy Bibury

From the pages of Victorian England came the declaration that Bibury is the most beautiful village in England. It was the observation of artist and craftsman William Morris who lived in a manor nearby and loved his saunters through the village. Walk into Bibury and you know why.

Most probably you will be walking along the River Coln with hordes of Asian tourists, especially the Japanese, because they have tenuous links with Bibury. Some say that a Japanese artist was inspired by the village during the ’70s and others maintain that Emperor Hirohito, the leader of their country during WWII who had led them into the Sino-Japanese War, had fallen in love with the idyllic environs of Bibury. Maybe he had, because in the year 1921 as crown prince he had left Japan in a battleship for Britain on a state visit (thus also creating ripples as the first person from the imperial family  to step off Japanese soil). I can well imagine that a man who had as turbulent a life as he had – dealing with military coups and trying not to get assassinated require significant work and then getting around charges of being tried as a war criminal even more so – would have looked upon this time of travel through Britain surreal. His legacy is strong. There is such a steady influx of Japanese tourists that the village store owners have picked up tidbits of the language. It certainly makes you smile. The power of travel, eh?

20170320_110452.jpg

2017-03-17 04.15.01 1.jpg

2017-03-17 04.15.00 1.jpg

We reached this picture-perfect village in the Cotswolds one summer with my husband’s sister and her kids. It was out of the books. Stone bridges and ivy-slathered country manor inns gave way to a sedate scene of drowsy willow trees by the banks of the Coln. The lush meadows along the tributary of the Thames were dotted with Holstein cows who looked suspiciously like they had been airdropped to charm the traveller with their black and white patched indolence while right opposite stood a straggle of limestone cottages trussed up in a row. The picturesque Arlington Row houses date back to the mid-1300s when they served as a monastic wool store but in the 17th century were converted to house weavers.

There is a tale of a Grey Lady too. Nothing like a bit of ’em wandering ladies to spice up your English travels. She, it is said, was a young girl who had married a miller older to her and then unfortunately fallen in love with his son. On a horridly cold night, the miller left his wife outside to die. Which she did and now is said to wander the paths around the river. If you see her, you know what to do. Take her home with you?

How to Get There:

Bibury is a stone’s throw away from Cirencester. The best way to get there is by car. If you are driving, take the B4425. Buses start from Market Place in Cirencester for Bibury. By train, you will be working a fair bit by reaching Kemble, the same station for Cirencester, and then taking a cab worth 20-25 odd quid for Bibury because Kemble is about 14 miles away from it. Drive drive baby…but arrive at off-peak hours because parking can be a bit of a bummer. The easiest parking spot is on the river bridge barring which there is extra parking along the river on the B4425.

Where to Stay: 

Bibury is a convenient day trip from Cirencester. But if you want to stay in the village, there are options such as The Catherine Wheel (www.catherinewheel-bibury.co.uk), a 15th-century stone building. Standard double rooms are priced at roughly £90 per night.

Bed & breakfast double rooms at Cotteswold House (www.cotteswoldhouse.org.uk) are pegged at £90 per night.

Where to Eat:

Make Bibury your clotted-cream-and-jam-with-scone stop because it is an English holiday after all and also because the village has some twee tea rooms –William Morris Tea Room (www.thewilliammorris.com) and Catherine Wheel (www.catherinewheel-bibury.co.uk) – that will not leave your eyes bulging with the bill.

What to do:

After you have seen the Arlington Mill, the Bibury Trout Farm, Arlington Row, you can opt for an 18-mile Bibury-Aldsworth-Bibury fairly easy walking trail. The views during the walk are of the wolds, the lower Coln and the Leach valley.

Or, you can go on a shorter 4-mile circular walking route that lasts about two hours. It takes you past the row of cottages and the church into the Bibury Court Estate and onwards ho into pastures where the sheep roam and wait for a little natter with you.