Saturday, May 10, 2014

Weekend Day Trips in the UK - The Cotswolds

Famous Cotswold stone cottages in Bibury
Getting away for the weekend in the beautiful Cotswolds

As the demanding schedule of the month of May continues, escape in some form or other is never far from the educator's mind. I know from my own personal experience that nothing beats a good weekend trip! Many teachers who first move to London envision grand adventures to Europe's finest cities. From Paris and Amsterdam to Munich and Barcelona - all reachable by train in a handful of hours. Such is the great advantage of living in Europe, all the countries so close to each other. Accessibility at its best.

However, when I first arrived in London, I had a great desire to see England and the United Kingdom first and foremost. I dreamed of picturesque train rides to Edinburgh and the Highlands of Scotland. Sea side strolls on the shores of Wales. Gazing at the white cliffs of Dover and historic treks through the ancient streets of Cirencester and York.

One of my first trips outside London was to the charming countryside of the Cotswolds.

Beautiful church in Burford

The Cotswolds beckons

When I first visited the Cotswolds, I had a particular vision in my mind of what it would be like. Quaint little villages, inhabited by horse-riding pleasant folk who always had a friendly smile. And all this surrounded by the most delightful scenic hills and astonishing views of nature and wildlife. What I actually saw that day far exceeded my wildest imagination. As David Armstrong puts it in his article, 'The Cotswolds - so scenic it looks like a fairytale,' he writes that "There are two Englands: The England of the imagination, and the England of the everyday." Thatched cottages, flowing streams, grazing sheep, timeless churches, country pubs, silent woods and ancient marketplaces are all there to be seen in the Cotswolds. Very much the England of imagination, brought to reality.

The Cotswolds are essentially 'the Shire' of England, Middle-Earth's favourite rural settlement. With Stratford-upon-Avon (Shakespeare's abode) bordering it to the northeast, and Bath in the southwest, this area in south central England is home to the rolling Cotswold Hills and the famous golden coloured Cotswold stones, of which many of the beautiful cottages are made from.
More of the picturesque Cotswolds
The dwellings of the Cotswolds

There is a vast assortment of towns and villages to be found in the Cotswolds, each unique in their own way. Aside from the grand view, they all have so many other things to offer, waiting for you to discover. Medieval Tewksbury awaits, as do the villages and towns of Upper and Lower Slaughters, adorable Bibury and Stow-on-the-Wold, offering hill-top views of immense contemplation.

I enjoyed every minute traveling in the Cotswolds. A truly unique part of England where you can get lost in for a week or simply a day or two. Local inns, restaurants and markets are incredibly welcoming any time of year. I loved exploring the many country lanes and town squares that I came across. Wandering silently through the historic churches that sit peacefully among the hills - only to settle down in a vintage wooden chair in a local village pub. The experiences are endless.

There is always time to visit other incredible European cities, when the time is right. Maybe when you have more time in the summer or even the winter break. Milan can wait; Vienna will welcome you another time; Stockholm beckons on a different day. Next time the weekend arrives, cast your eyes instead on the hidden and not so hidden treasures that England and the UK can offer.

Here are some links to help you plan your next trip to the Cotswolds:

http://www.internationalfriends.co.uk - I've used this company before to book one and two day trips around the UK, including the Cotswolds. You can also rent a car if you're so inclined.

http://cotswolds.com/ - The official guide to Cotswolds breaks and holidays.

http://www.cotswolds.info/ - The Cotswolds Tour Guide and tourist information website.

http://www.sfgate.com/travel/article/The-Cotswolds-so-scenic-it-looks-like-a-fairy-5466291.php - David Armstrong's article on the scenic rural retreat that is the Cotswolds.

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