Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 2023: Two Weeks in the Cotswolds and London
By Deva from USA, Fall 2012
Page 2 of 15: Day Two: Hidcote and Kiftsgate
The next morning I woke relatively early. It was gray and drizzly out, so I spent a few hours updating my travel journal and reading. By the time we were ready to head out, the sky had cleared considerably -- and in fact that morning was to be the only time during our entire trip that we saw any substantial rain. I don't know what we did to get such great weather-karma!
I went out to explore the town a bit at 10, and found the conveniently located ATM not far from the Noel Arms. I had had my own breakfast of muesli at the apartment, but I stopped in the Bantam Tea Shop (so adorable!) for a cheese scone I brought home for Bob. He said that was his favorite scone of the entire trip!
As it was a Sunday, the buses weren't running. I had, however, contacted a lovely local taxi service the night before, to set up transportation to the nearby Hidcote and Kiftsgate gardens. The driver, Jill, was wonderful, very warm and helpful. Her husband Jim is a sheep farmer, but he also helps drive when needed. They are both extremely knowledgeable about the area. It was Jill who picked us up Sunday morning, just around the corner from our apartment. I had thought I might need to arrange a specific pickup time for our return, but Jill said we could just call her when we were ready, as long as we didn't mind waiting 20 minutes or so if she was out on another job. We really appreciated her flexibility! She also showed us where Kiftsgate was (it's a short walk down the road from Hidcote) and recommended that we take a stroll past the entrance to Hidcote before entering, to see a cute little collection of thatched cottages and meadows. The sun had actually come out around that time, turning the cottages and fields into something out of a fairytale, impossible to capture on film (though we did try!).
The Hidcote gardens themselves were stunning, even with many of the beds past their prime for the season. I particularly enjoyed the green vista of the Long Walk and the peaceful loftiness of the Beech Allee. The many different "rooms" were also fun to explore. It was crowded, but everyone was good natured. It was still damp from the overnight rain, and the stones were slick in places, especially where there was a slight incline.
We had lunch at the restaurant inside the garden. I think I had soup -- it wasn't especially memorable -- but Bob was the winner with his plate of macaroni and cheese with leeks. We found that pretty much anything involving cheese in the Cotswolds was delicious!
After more exploring, we exited the garden and stopped at the cafe outside for a restorative treat and beverage (all that walking and photo-taking wears one out!). I noticed a freezer full of single-serving ice-creams in a variety of interesting flavors, including Honeycomb, which I'd been wanting to try. Yum! Vanilla ice cream with bits of crunchy-chewy honey toffee bits.
Next up was Kiftsgate. We made our way along the narrow road, leaping up onto the brushy border as necessary to avoid oncoming cars. At the mouth of the drive, we noticed a man with two kids and a dog resting beside a trail marker that pointed down from the road and into the wooded valley. I was seized by the sudden desire to traipse off down the trail myself, but we still had the garden to explore.
Kiftsgate was smaller (and cheaper) than Hidcote, but lovely in its own way. I am glad we saw both, though I think if I were with anyone who was less mobile, I would skip Kiftsgate as it involves a number of steep stone staircases. One of my favorite parts of Kiftsgate was the grassy lawn and half-circle pool at the base of the terraced hillside garden below the house. The land drops away on the far side, offering a beautiful view of fields and hills.
Once we'd finished exploring the gardens, I convinced Bob to take a stroll back out to the trail I'd seen earlier. We headed down the hill from the road, through some muddy woods, and ended up out in the fields below the gardens. I would have loved to keep walking, but we were running low on energy by then, so we turned back and once more sought out the restorative elixir of tea.
One of my favorite things about England in general and the Cotswolds in particular was how every site seemed to offer, at a minimum, pots of tea (Real pots and cups! Not paper!), scones, and an assortment of other sweet treats. I especially enjoyed these scones as the jam provided was raspberry, which I think goes best with the clotted cream.
After tea, we phoned Jill and arranged our pickup. Unfortunately, it was at this time that the natural world turned viciously against me. While we were wandering along the overgrown path to the bluebell wood (not in bloom at that time of course) I brushed against an innocent-looking plant and felt a sharp pain. I thought I'd been stung by a bee at first, but soon realized it was a stinging nettle. I had not realized they were so deserving of that name! Ouch!
A very kind fellow visitor quickly offered a dose of anti-sting balm she had in her purse in case of bee stings. I was also informed that crushed dock leaves would do the trick, but did not want to risk further injury seeking them out to see if it was true!
Not long after that Jill arrived, to take us back to our apartment. The total fee was around £15, which we paid happily (plus a tip), as it was far less than a car rental would have been, and much less stress.
Back home we freshened up. While Bob rested, I went out to explore the trails behind the town, following the trail markers that run past our apartment toward Broad Campden. The sun had come out again, turning the meadows emerald green, and setting diamonds in the trees still wet with the earlier rain. It was so beautiful I came back and dragged Bob back out with me to see it! We also saw a number of folks walking dogs out along the trails. And plenty of sheep!
We celebrated our first full day in the Cotswolds with delicious Indian food at the Maharaja restaurant in Chipping Campden. We even dared sample the cheesy naan, which was not something we'd ever seen in the US. But how can you go wrong with hot bread and melted cheese?
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