A few weeks ago, the hubs and I celebrated our four year wedding anniversary. On the actual day, we ordered a bunch of Italian food from our new favorite restaurant around the corner (Portobello Garden, they don’t have a website because they’re just that old timey and Italian?), but because we haven’t left London in over a month, we decided a weekend getaway was in order. In the end, we settled on a first time trip to explore autumn in The Cotswolds.
Our only requirements? Driving distance and dog friendly, as we’re still trying to get the pugsitter sitch in order. Obviously, we weren’t spoiled (spoilt?) (silly British English) for choice, and in the weeks leading up to the big day, we entertained everywhere from Cornwall to Edinburgh.
In the end, we settled on a place I’ve long been dreaming of seeing in person: The Cotswolds.
Because he’s a dream, the hubs ducked out of work a bit early so we could skip the insane Friday rush hour exodus, and we made it to Stow-on-the-Wold in just under two hours. Autumn was just starting to show herself, and the entire weekend was everything we’d hoped it would be…
Despite a very, very weird hotel experience.
After some research, the hubs shot an email to The Unicorn in Stow-on-the-Wold, which had mostly great reviews, and gorgeous photos on their website. Stone walls, fireplaces in the rooms, the works. We were told the property was getting a complete overhaul, but one of the new apartmentsuites was ready for guests if we didn’t mind the fact that the bar/restaurant/lobby… everything else, basically, was closed.
Based on the pictures on the website, we didn’t mind. But if the pictures had looked ANYTHING like the actual apartment we walked into, we would have stayed elsewhere. When we asked our host what happened to the fireplaces in the pictures, he feigned confusion and said it was too warm for a fire anyway! It wasn’t, and I probably should have taken pictures to fully demonstrate the absurdity, but honestly? I feel like once the full refurb is over, it might actually be a great place to stay…? Maybe?
But for now, I’d skip The Unicorn and sleep in one of the other equally as adorable hotels in Stow-on-the-Wold. The rest of the town did not disappoint. Such as the Porch House, which was one of our very favorite pubs of the weekend:
Other favorites? Champagne hour followed by dinner at The Bell at Stow, breakfast at The Coffee House, and the very, very best: dinner at The Old Butchers.
Clearly, I left my heart in Stow, but we also took all of Saturday to drive through Lower & Upper Slaughter, Chipping Campden, Bourton-on-the-Water (felt EXACTLY like Peddler’s Village, which is near where we grew up in Pennsylvania), and Cirencester.
It was a weekend full of, “ooooh!!! Let’s live THERE!” as if we didn’t just claw our way back into city life after a year in the French countryside. But seriously… let’s live HERE:A ram kept us from going too fast from Lower to Upper Slaughter, thanks rammy. Meanwhile, Parker was living the life. The hubs, ye olde ginger beard, on the other hand, was dishing out the sass, clearly.
On Sunday, we woke up bright and early to head to Blenheim Castle — the birthplace of Winston Churchill. We didn’t go inside, just strolled around the grounds and soaked in the autumn sun on the first official day of the season.
Unsurprisingly, it was a pretty quiet Sunday, so we soon moved on to plotting our next stop: Highclere Castle. The REAL Downton Abbey.
Because the newest season was premiering that night in the UK, it was obviously the very best way to prepare for our reunion with the Dowager Countess & co. Unfortunately, the castle’s season ended, like, 30 seconds before we arrived. We thought we might be able to see it from somewhere nearby, but alas. No such luck.
Next time, Highclere. Lord Pugbutt, the Earl of Notting Hill, is ready for you.
And I, for one, am more than ready to keep this UK countryside exploration going. I have a few things already in the queue, but anywhere I must be sure is on the list?? What are your English/Scottish/Welsh/Norther Irish faves?!