Our second stop in our our U.K. tour is the beautiful area of the country known as the Cotswolds. We touched briefly on the edge of this area with our tour from Bath, but this next couple of days was spent directly in the heart of this area. Our home base for the next couple of days is the town of Moreton-in-Marsh. I had a bit of a hard time finding a place in some of the other Cotswolds towns to stay, and ended up booking two nights in the White Hart Royal Hotel.
Our trip up to the Cotswolds was uneventful. The drive out of Bath was a bit slow, lots of traffic and it was raining pretty good, but once we were a few miles out of Bath, the traffic eased up and the weather cleared. In a couple of short hours we arrived in Moreton-in-Marsh. Being Saturday, the town was quite busy and to add excitement to the mix, there was a small fair being held in the town square. Amusement rides, games, cotton candy the whole works. It was small, but looked like the kids were enjoying themselves. This fair was right across the street from the hotel so that’s *interesting* but it’s only for one night so not a big deal.
The hotel is decent. It’s full of charm and character. The stairs up to our room are uneven and the floor is sloped as well. That’s part of the charm of staying in a building that is hundreds of years old. I think it’s great. After dropping our bags off, we headed out to find a bite to eat and ended up having a couple of fresh sandwiches and some very tasty squares at Tilly’s Teahouse. We then wandered about the town for a couple of hours looking at some shops and generally exploring our home base for the next couple of days.
The plan today was to explore a couple of the towns close to Moreton-in-Marsh and then head up to Stratford-upon-Avon to check out Shakespeare’s birthplace.
Our first stop was the town of Stow-on-the-Wold. We pulled into town and scored a prime parking spot right in the town center. We passed the better part of an hour wandering about. There was a craft fair that we popped into see as well. Some nice things, but nothing any different than we would see back home. Knitting, jewelry, photos that sort of thing. Nice but we didn’t buy anything. We did pick up some breakfast at Huffkins bakery, which we ended up seeing a couple of times throughout the day.
Our next stop was Chipping Campdon which was a short distance away. It had a different feel than Stow did. I can’t quite put my finger on why but it did. And, of the two, I preferred Chipping-Campdon. It’s a beautiful little town full of charm and character. We passed another hour or so, just wandering about. Deanna found some cabinet pulls with chickens on them which I’m sure she’ll use in some interesting art/craft project when we get home.
Back on the road, we headed towards Stratford-upon-Avon, which is technically not in the Cotswolds but still very close. Perhaps, 30-40 minutes away from Chipping-Campdon. We did have to navigate the old fashioned way using road signs and some rough maps that I had in a guidebook on my iPad as we couldn’t get the GPS apps on our phones to connect to the cell network. We had good signals, but no internet/data connectivity. Not sure what was up with that, but regardless, we made it to Stratford without any problems.
We left the car in a pay parking lot a few minutes walk from the town center. Our timing was good as we found a guided walk that left at 2:00. We joined a group of perhaps 20 others as the guide took us through some of the sights of Stratford-upon-Avon. It’s a busy place. We spent the better part of two hours seeing the sites and looking at some fantastic 18th century buildings that typify the kind of houses/shops that one thinks of when they think of Shakespeare (well at least I do). After the tour was over, Deanna and I opted to buy an additional ticket to visit the house where Shakespeare was born and lived for part of his life. It’s quite well preserved and is staffed by docents who help bring the small(ish) dwelling to life. Apparently the house was almost torn down and moved to America by P.T. Barnum but after a fund raising effort by Charles Dickens and others, the princely sum of 3,000 was raised and the house was purchased and then transferred into Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
We headed back to Moreton-in-Marsh for a nice dinner at Ask Italian, which was just a few minutes walk from our hotel. It was good, the best meal that we’ve had on our trip so far.
We’ll be packing up in the morning and heading north again into the Lake District. About a four hour drive (according to the Google), that we’ll probably break up with some lunch along the way.