back to travelogs


Thurs., July 15: Arrive Heathrow,
rent car.
Visit Avebury,
Lower Home Farm B&B, near Lacock.

Friday, July 16:
Visit Bath and surrounding area.
Lower Home Farm B&B, near Lacock

Sat., July 17:
Visit Wells, drive to Cotswolds, walk from Upper Slaughter to Lower Slaughter to Bourton-on-the-Water and back to Upper Slaughter.
The Laurels B&B, Woodstock.

Sunday, July 18: Begin 5-day independent walk through the Cotswolds,
arranged through the Alternative Travel Group of Oxford. Return rental car, tour Oxford, walk 9.5 miles to Woodstock.
The Laurels B&B, Woodstock.

Monday, July 19: Visit Blenheim. Walk 7.5 miles from Woodstock to Charlbury.
Bell Hotel, Charlbury.

Tuesday, July 20: Walk 15.5 miles from Charlbury to Stow-on-the-Wold.
Royalist Hotel, Stow-on-the-Wold.

Wed., July 21:
Walk 14 miles from Stow to Chipping Campden.
Seymour House, Chipping Campden.

Thurs., July 22: Walk 14 miles from Chipping Campden to Stratford.
Stratheden Inn, Stratford-upon-Avon.

Friday, July 23: Spend day in Stratford.
Stratheden Inn, Stratford-upon-Avon.

Sat., July 24: Lynne & John depart for London to meet Andrea.
David & Lorraine rent car and drive into Wales.
Wye Barn across from Tintern Abbey.

Sunday, July 25: Drive to the Pembrokeshire coastline.
Awel-Mor Guest House, Trevine.

Monday, July 26: Walk coastline, then drive back into England.
Marshgate Cottage B&B in Hungerford.

Tuesday, July 27: Return car at Heathrow and fly home.



      David's 50th birthday trip, July 1999: Walking inn-to-inn from Oxford to Stratford-upon-Avon

For David's 50th birthday wife Lorraine, sister Lynne and brother-in-law John took an unescorted five-day walking trip through the Cotswolds in England, preceded by a few days of touring by car.

On July 15 we rented the car at Heathrow Airport and drove west toward Avebury, our first destination. The car, a Vauxhall, was the perfect size for four people and luggage, and very comfortable. However, John had the difficult task of shifting with his left hand as well as driving on the left side of the road. David navigated and helped make sense of the many roundabouts. Highway driving, while much faster than in the US, was easier than motoring through the back roads, which are narrow and winding. We enjoyed such cultural differences as seeing a truck of homing pigeons, a sign that warned "Adverse Camber" and the ubiquitous camera sign, which we thought meant scenic viewpoint but turned out to mean speed monitored. Several hours into the drive, we figured out how to get the car into reverse, significantly easing parking.

Avebury, site of a prehistoric circle of 100 stones covering a large area, was made more enjoyable by first visiting the museum. We then wandered out among the stones (and sheep--the first of thousands we would encounter). Wonderful organic lunch at the Stones next to the stones. We then took a short drive and half-mile walk to the West Kennet Long Barrow, a large burial chamber.

Next stop: Stonehenge, which has larger stones than Avebury but is very compact and, surprisingly, right next to the highway. They don't let you walk among the stones any longer, which we thought would be a negative, but it actually lends more impact by keeping the site clear of people and having you consider it from all around the perimeter while listening to an excellent audio tour.

We had to stop at the George Hotel in Lacock to get directions to our first B&B, Lower Home Farm, described as "homely" in their literature. The large, attractive house is surrounded by pasture, which we found unattractive to walk in, and their pond was inaccessible. Exhausted, we created dinner from whatever snacks we had on us, plus biscuits and tea. D&L had a lovely room with bathtub, but L&J's shower was practically worthless.

The next morning we got our first taste of what would be offered to us daily for two weeks: the Full English Breakfast, consisting of eggs, bacon, sausage (yes, both), tomatoes and mushrooms--all fried--plus toast, cereal, juice and tea. We spent the day in Bath, where we had a wonderful, free city tour by a volunteer historian—a very enjoyable two hours. After sandwiches in the park, D&L met with VOA fan Ray Quick of Bristol for an all-too-short hour over ice cream. The four of us met up later to see the Roman baths with an audio tour.

The following day we went to Wells, a lovely medieval town with a cathedral. It was market day, and we bought cheddar cheese from Cheddar plus bread and lots of Italian delicacies for a picnic later in the day. The cathedral has notable clocks both inside and out and bathrooms that feature an "all-in-one" sink--you place your hands into the opening of a stainless steel box in the wall, then press three successive buttons for water, soap and hot air. We walked around the moat visited Vicars Close, an ancient street of houses still in use.

We then drove north into the Cotswolds, taking the M-5 to Stroud, where we hoped to see a Brick and Rolling Pin Throwing Competition. We did not find the event, but we picnicked outside the recreation center. Despite very cool, breezy weather, kids were in the swimming pool. On the way to our destination we got lost because one highway's route designation had been changed. We stumbled into a berry market, where we heard about JFK Jr.'s lost plane. After asking three people for directions we finally made it to Bourton-on-the-Water, but decided it was too busy to park there and continued on to Upper Slaughter, a cute village. We were directed to park in a sheep pasture because of a church festival, which was just ending. L&J called Deborah, then we started out on a seven-mile circular walk through Lower Slaughter and Bourton-on-the-Water.

Lower Slaughter, a tiny village with a mill selling crafts and ice cream, was fairly close. Bourton-on-the-Water, a much larger village, was filled with visitors and the shops that serve them. It calls itself the Venice of the Cotswolds because of the lovely canal that runs through town. We shopped and lounged around for over an hour before starting out for Upper Slaughter via a different route that took us through peaceful fields. This was our first exposure to the gorgeous rolling fields and pastures we would walk through for the next five days, and our introduction to the challenges: avoiding sheep poop and cow pies, climbing over stiles and finding and then staying on the permitted walking path (Britain has an enormous network of walking paths, and much of it goes through private farmland, where the owner is obligated to provide access. Unfortunately, access often consists of making your way around the perimeter of large fields. Happily, it's been a dry summer so it wasn't muddy.)

At our lovely B&B in Woodstock, the Laurels, we had a pick-up dinner in L&J's room of berries and the rest of our lunch.

Sunday, July 18 was David's 50th birthday and the start of the five-day walk through the Cotswolds from Oxford to Stratford-upon-Avon, a distance of over 60 miles. (Alternative Travel Group of Oxford supplied us with maps and detailed instructions of our walking route, booked inns along the way and transported our luggage from inn to inn, a program they called Footloose. Other than that, we were on our own.) After breakfast at the Laurels--the best we would have, since it included granola, nuts, fruits and yogurt--we met our ATG route manager, Breifne MacDonagh, who answered our questions and told us that he'd be picking up our bags every morning by 9:30.

We drove to Oxford and found the rental car return without difficulty. (We just left the car, as the office was closed on Sunday.) We took a two-hour walking tour of the university, which we found a bit long and repetitive, then went up the tower of University Church, which was not worth the effort for the view--although the resulting photos are nice. After shopping at Blackwell's, the famous bookstore, we set out for the canal to start the Footloose trip. Our first delight came from the narrow boats lining the canal in which people live. Many were ornately painted and decorated with flower planters. The distance along the canal was longer than we thought (at that point, we hadn't quite figured out how the notes on the map designated distance). We felt our way to a pub Breifne recommended. The day was unusually hot and sunny, so we were grateful to finally reach the Trout Inn, a delightful spot next to water with both indoor and outdoor seating. Many other people were celebrating the sunny Sunday there, so it was bustling. We had to piece together how a pub works: you find your own table, then go inside to stand in one line for drinks and another to order and pay for food, which is later brought to your table. The Trout Inn was filled with Inspector Morse memorabilia, as it has been used in several episodes.

Continuing our walk, we had our first problem interpreting the map and wound up taking a "long cut." L&D developed blisters from being in hiking boots all day, as we wound up taking a much longer walk than anticipated. We barely made it to the Laurels in Woodstock in time to wash up for David's special birthday dinner, which L&J had arranged at the Feathers. David opened some presents and we had a gourmet meal with beautiful presentation. The food on each dish was arranged vertically--in almost a parody of the trend. They threw in a demitasse of soup and a "pre-dessert" for free. Of course, David's dessert had candles but we spared him the singing. John had arranged with the server to slip David a Three of Clubs (John managed to surprise David with a Three of Clubs every day of the trip--an inside joke from Penn and Teller).

Monday morning L&J went to Blenheim to walk the grounds and D&L followed a bit later, having bought blister plasters at the chemist's. We were the only ones in the Marlborough Maze, a classic British hedge maze, and it was quite difficult to find our way to the center. D&L then set off on the Footloose route to compensate for our impeded walking while L&J toured the palace and more of the grounds. After several hours D&L reached Black's Head Pub in tiny Stonesfield at 2:30, where we were to meet L&J. We got drinks and played the juke box, but had to leave at 3 because the owner closed then until dinnertime. We left a note for L&J that we'd be at the bus stop, but before the bus came, L&J arrived. Lynne was thrilled to find an "8 to 8" shop there and after buying lunch of sorts we all continued walking to Charlbury, eight miles away.

The small hotel at Charlbury, The Bell, was our worst accommodation and ironically perhaps the most expensive. It had a young, inexperienced staff and while L&J's room was decent, D&L's room was in disrepair and provided access to the fire escape. Happily, there was no fire that night. We tried to eat dinner elsewhere but the few options were closed, so we were forced to dine there. L asked the young server what the soup of the day was and she returned from the kitchen to announce that it was white onion. L asked if it had pepper in it. "I don't know." "Please ask." She returned to announce that the soup of the day had been changed to cream of mushroom. John received beef burgundy and rice instead of lamb and couscous. The dessert menu featured spotted dick, but we didn't order it.

Tuesday morning we got good bread and cheese at the butcher shop next to the hotel, then started for Stow-on-the-Wold, an agonizing and hilly 15 miles away. Early on we noticed a TV relay tower on a hill in the distance; it took nearly all day to reach it. We got rained on--our only time--as we approached Chilson and sought refuge in the church there, but it was locked. We did find an open church in Ascott, then made it to the Shaved Crown Inn in Shipton-under-Wychwood, where we dried out and had lunch. (We should have stayed there instead of at the Bell in was lovely).

The afternoon walk seemed to go on forever, up and down steep hills, through beautiful linseed and wheat fields and of course sheep pastures. We met only two people along the way--a local in an ascot walking his dog, and an Aussie backpacker going the other direction. (This was typical--we saw very few people along the paths.) It was well into the evening when we reach Stow-on-the-Wold, a picturesque town, and our wonderful inn, the Royalist. We were greeted at the desk by a man much like Basil Fawlty of Fawlty Towers, who reported that they do have an employee from Barcelona. We had a lovely tapas dinner there at the bar, which had an "upside-down wishing well" (actually coins wedged into cracks in the ceiling beams). The inn is reputedly the oldest in England and still retains portions of the original walls from 947 A.D., "witches' marks" at the fireplace, an alms window, and very low doorways; it was interesting to see how they managed to turn it into a comfortable inn with modern amenities.

On Wednesday L&J started out early to Moreton-in-Marsh, 6 ½ miles away, while D&L walked around Stow and bought souvenirs and plasters, then took the 11:20 bus to meet L&J (one negative about the Footloose plan is that walking took all day, so we never got to browse the shops). While L&J's walk took 2 ½ hours, D&L's bus ride lasted only 10 minutes, during which D&L chatted with Brits (two older women) who are members of the Ramblers, the popular walking club. They were staying at hostels in towns where the local club was sponsoring a walk, then they would move on by bus to the next town and do another ramble.

Reunited in Moreton-in-Marsh (John waved to D&L on the bus), the four of us toured the busy market town, bought picnic provisions (a wonderful bread called Scottish bap, assorted pasties, strawberries and cheese) and continued on the Footloose route toward Chipping Campden, 7 ½ miles away. Despite constant dark clouds, it never rained, which is good because the route was open and quite hilly.

Atop one hill was Blockley, a very cute town with a great pub where we stopped for drinks (John tried a shandy, which is lemonade and ale). We passed a man painting his shutters in Blockley and commented that he must not think it's going to rain. His reply: "Rain? In Blockley? Never!" (Every local we met on the trip was both friendly and colorful; they dressed, spoke and behaved like British characters one would order from Central Casting.)

After passing Broad Campden we finally arrived in Chipping Campden and our high-class lodging, the Seymour House Hotel. Our huge, elegant rooms were located in a cottage building well behind the main hotel and the correct luggage was in each room--a first. The manager asked us which newspapers we would like delivered in the morning (and charged us a premium for them at checkout). After baths we walked around the lovely village, then ate dinner in the hotel. We first were seated in the fancy dining room but Lorraine was picking up "snob vibes" and felt uncomfortable, so we moved to the bar. We had the back room to ourselves next to an ancient leaded window, and enjoyed a fine meal. The next day Lorraine realized that the discomfort she felt in the dining room may have been tension between the manager and an awkward server, whom we had dubbed Manuella. At breakfast Manuella served us lukewarm coffee and tea, which we brought to her attention. She apologized and returned to tell us that "no one [meaning her?] had turned the boiler on." She never did bring Lynne tea.

Thursday stayed cool, overcast and windy all day. We compounded the 14-mile route to Stratford-upon-Avon by walking around Hidcote Gardens. But we found it, as advertised, one of the best in Britain, comprised of huge themed "rooms" created by trees and tall hedges. Abutting the Gardens was a farm offering pick-your-own berries, which Lynne was only too happy to do. We made several mistakes following directions this afternoon and sometimes struggled with overgrown paths. We picnicked on the green in Upper Quinton, a large, ugly plot of grass, as the pub was closed--an all-too-common occurrence for us. One wrong turn was in Preston-on-Stour, where we asked some residents for directions, which resulted in one of the many delightful exchanges we had with Brits. The Reids were outside their home, an old mission they restored and added a second floor to. A worker had come to repair phone lines cut by a hedge trimmer two days before--and their neighbor hadn't even realized he was without phone service! The Reids gave us a history of the village and manor house and even let us use their bathrooms.

We were all relieved when Stratford-upon-Avon came into view. The route took us along the canal, but we cut a bit off the final leg by taking the little ferry across the Avon, operated by another man out of Central Casting. We were assigned the top floor at the Stratheden Hotel, wonderfully angular rooms with ancient wooden beams exposed. The proprietor recommended a brasserie down the street for dinner, as we were famished, and we ordered champagne to celebrate the successful completion of our adventure. D&L's college friends, Dave and Charlotte Spector and their two teens, Daniel and Lynn, were in Stratford at the same time and came to the Stratheden to look for us. The proprietor sent them to the brasserie and we had a nice visit.

Friday we celebrated the end of our walk by sleeping late, then going to the laundromat. We bought a bevy of gifts at the National Trust shop and did some sightseeing, although the day was quite hot. Instead of lunch and dinner we had High Tea at the Shakespeare Hotel: a pot of Earl Gray, scones with jelly and clotted cream (it's like thick whipped cream without sugar), triangular sandwiches of ham, cucumber, and smoked salmon (separately) with the crusts cut off, plus assorted petits fours. After an interesting tour of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and adjacent Swan Theatre, we saw a performance of Antony and Cleopatra (the Spectors attended both events by pre-arrangement), where we enjoyed seats in the third row.

L&J departed for London on Saturday to meet Andrea, and D&L rented a car and headed west toward Wales, with stops along the way. We lingered in Worcester Cathedral as the boys' choir was rehearsing--and the cathedral had much of interest (including King John's tomb and a crypt) We then stopped in Great Malvern, Ross-on-Wye, and the ruins of Goodrich Castle, which had an illuminating audio tour depicting castle life. We wound up the day at Tintern Abbey in Wales. After checking into our B&B, the Wye Barn (which had been used by Tintern monks to store tanning bark), we walked along the opposite bank of the Wye River (the side in England!) to eat a picnic dinner as the setting sun illuminated Tintern Abbey. During the walk we passed a pasture of long-haired (and long-horned) Scottish cows and chatted with the owners, who were checking on a three-week-old calf.

The B&B's guests breakfasted together, which gave us the opportunity to ask a Welsh historian the question David had been asking throughout England: what do the words around the outer edge of the pound coin mean? The coin is minted with four different "tails" and corresponding messages in four separate languages, and the Welsh words mean "loyal to my country," from the Welsh national anthem. After touring Tintern Abbey we visited Caerphilly Castle, breaking up a long drive to the southwest corner of Wales, where our destination was St. David's and the dramatic Pembrokeshire coastline. We stopped in the port village of Solva, known for its brightly painted cottages, and returned to the car to find two boys peering in admiringly. We had been upgraded to a just-released Volvo that featured a global positioning system screen (not hooked up) and audio controls on the steering wheel--a real plus for David.

At St. David's we toured the ruins of the Bishop's Palace and then St. David's Cathedral. The presence of a cathedral, a destination for pilgrims, makes St. David's officially a city, although it's just a small village. Despite the wind we bought pasties for dinner and ate outside (the day had been warm and overcast until we reached Pembrokeshire). We decided to walk to the coast but on the way came across a carnival, where D rode the bumper cars, and we decided to turn back as we still had to drive seven miles to Trevine to our B&B, the Awel-Mor Guest House (means ocean breeze in Welsh).

On a hot and sunny Monday we walked the coastline both at Whitesand Bay to St. David's Head and then at St. Govan's Head, where L went down the cliffside to see the chapel. Heading back toward England, we stopped at the Caerleon Roman fortress. Although we arrived too late to tour the baths, we enjoyed the museum and the outdoor sites, including the amphitheater and barracks. We checked into our B&B outside Hungerford, Marshgate Cottage Hotel, and walked along the canal into town, where we had a good pub dinner.

Although we left the B&B in plenty of time for our flight on Tuesday, we cut it close after being caught in a massive traffic jam, then were unable to find the place to return the car, then faced huge lines for check-in. But we made it home safe and sound.

John and Lynne at Stonehenge
Lynne and David in Lacock
Pulteney Bridge, Bath (based on Italy's Ponte Vecchio)
Wells Cathedral
Lower Slaughter
Walking from Bourton to Upper Slaughter
Oxford from the tower of University College Chapel
Rolling bales on the way to Woodstock
Thatch cottage with solar panels in Yarnton
Marlborough Maze at Blenheim Palace, Woodstock
Avoiding bulls while walking to Charlbury
Church of All Saints, Shorthampton (of Norman origin)
David greets a new friend when leaving Charlbury
Holy Trinity Church, Ascott-under-Wychwood
Shipton-under-Wychwood (lunch at the Shaven Crown)
Walking to Stow-on-the-Wold
Stow-on-the-Wold ("Place on the Hill")
Buying lunch in Moreton-in-Marsh
Lynne threads her way through overgrown path
The paths went through pastures with stiles to climb fences (rather than risk leaving gates open)
John tries a bitter shandy at the Crown Inn in Blockley
Walking through pasture on way to Broad Campden
Arriving in Broad Campden
Chipping Campden
David stops at the chemist's to buy "plasters" for blisters
Hidcote Gardens
Countryside on the way to Stratford-upon-Avon
Walking through a bean field
College Arms Pub in Upper Quinton
Tudor house in Preston-on-Stour
Stratford-upon-Avon at last!
Shakespeare was born here in 1564 (Henley Street in Stratford-upon-Avon).