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Report 2023: Two Weeks in the Cotswolds and London

By Deva from USA, Fall 2012

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Page 3 of 15: Day Three: Stow and the Slaughters

I had been stalking weather websites for weeks before our trip, having heard horror stories about the wretchedly wet summer Great Britain had been experiencing earlier in the year. As the trip got closer and closer, and the long-term forecast got sunnier and sunnier, I was sure it could not last. But Monday morning was gorgeous!

I spent the early morning reading and writing my travel journal, then went out at 8:30 to ramble along the main street toward St James church. I visited the Grevel house (the one where a merchant lived who was supposedly the inspiration for the merchant in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales) and then the church and graveyard, then walked back along Calf Lane to our apartment.

We started this day “early” (Bob loves to sleep late) in order to catch the 9:45 bus. While we waited at the bus stop, I had a second breakfast of almond croissant from the Coop (actually tastier than the more expensive one from Ottolenghi in my opinion!). The bus came right on time. This time we were on the 21 bus, which takes longer as it goes through Broadway along the way to Morton-in-Marsh (the 22 line does not stop in Broadway). So it was a leisurely morning, as we also had to switch buses in Moreton-in-Marsh (MIM), and hung out there for about 45 minutes, exploring the town. MIM is larger and busier than Chipping Campden (CC), and not nearly so charming in our opinion, though certainly more convenient to the bus lines and train!

By the time we reached our destination, Stow-in-the-Wold, it was around 11:30. We walked around the town center (square and picturesque, though CC was still our favorite!), then found the Church of St Edward. This was of interest to us primarily because we are big Tolkien fans and had heard that there were two large yew trees growing up against the back door that may have been inspirational for the image of the gates of Moria in The Lord of the Rings.

The trees were indeed striking, and we proceeded to take many photos! After that, it was time for lunch. We considered a number of fine looking pubs, but decided in the end that the weather was so nice, we should just get sandwiches to eat outside. We found an excellent shop at the corner of Digbeth St where we each got made-to-order baguette sandwiches for £3 each. I got cheddar and tomato chutney with “salad” (aka lettuce). Bob had chicken with honey mustard. Both were delicious -- some of the best food we had on our trip, though simple. We got beverages from the Coop and ate them on a bench, people-watching. I would not have wanted to park in the square! We observed several people squeezing tiny cars into tinier spots, holding our breaths for fear of a crunch!

After lunch (I saved part of mine for later - it was too big!) we found the public restrooms near the square. I think they were 20 pence or perhaps 30?

Thus fortified and prepared, we headed off on our day’s main adventure: a hike from Stow to Bourton-on-the-Water, via Upper and Lower Slaughter!

I had a bit of confusion finding the way to the footpath, even with Google maps on my tablet, an Ordnance Survey map for hikers, and printed out directions from other hikers. We ended up walking along the main road a bit (not so nice) but eventually did find the footpath. Once we were on the way, the walk was lovely though. It’s mostly a long slow downhill slope at first, so it was very easy going. We saw plenty of green fields, sheep, horses, goats. Passing through fields of cows was a little more disconcerting, though we thankfully never saw the dreaded “Bull in field” sign!

We only encountered one other person on the trail between Stow and the Slaughters -- a young fellow who looked like he must be local. We had been planning to take a trail that would go to Upper Slaughter first, then go from there to Lower Slaughter and on to Bourton. But we missed the turn, and ended up going straight to Lower Slaughter. Near the village the trail was less lovely, but the town itself was almost too picturesque, with the adorable cottages along the lovely river, and the old mill house.

It still didn’t win my heart as Chipping Campden had, as it felt somehow empty -- too full of tourists, and too empty of real life. It did provide the best ice cream of our trip, however! There is a little shop inside the mill that sells woolens and shirts and souvenirs, as well as drinks and ice cream. I had the honeycomb/buttercrunch flavor again, and it was even more delicious!

We watched kids and dogs playing in the water as we snacked, then headed up the trail along the river to Upper Slaughter. The views of the Lords of the Manor hotel were stunning -- I kind of wished we were doing one of those walking tours from town to town and staying there for the night!

Upper Slaughter had fewer shops, but much more charm than Lower Slaughter, in my opinion. We dawdled around for a bit, watching frogs in the stream, resting, eating our leftovers, and then headed back through Lower Slaughter, then to Bourton-on-the-Water.

This last part of the hike was less pleasant, crossing the busy road again, then passing through a bunch of generic suburban streets (perhaps we missed a nicer route?). When we reached downtown Bourton-on-the-Water it was colorful and busy and full of tourists. But we decided to stay only long enough to use the public toilet and get a drink, before taking the next bus back to Moreton-in-Marsh. It was just a bit too overwhelming after our afternoon in the fields.

Back in MIM, we realized that we had over an hour before the next bus home, so we decided to get supper. Fortunately the ASK Pizza was open (though not yet serving pizza) so we had a delicious meal of pasta. We were home to CC by 7pm.

Even though the bus limited us, we were still very glad not to have a car. After a tiring day, we enjoyed having someone else driving us home. And we still both felt the narrow roads would have stressed us out far too much to make up for the convenience of a car. Perhaps if we return we will reconsider, since we’ll be more familiar and perhaps more interested in getting to out-of-the-way spots. But for this trip, no car was perfect for us!

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