While I did tens of hours of research for our British Isles trip, it was a last-minute, night-before suggestion from dad that was one of my favorite stops of the trip: The Cotswolds. It had been a favorite of his on a previous trip to England when he was a youngster, a trip I had not been aware he had taken! I thought I knew most of the places he has traveled over the years, but this one was a surprise to me.
The Cotswolds are designated an AONB, which stands for Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It's a British thing that practically is a National Park-lite.
Dad researched three towns: Bibury, Bourton-on-the-Water, and Stow-on-the-Wold. We settled on visiting Bibury because it was the least complicated name. Actually, we chose it because it looked the nicest to me in some Google Image searches and it was handily right on our route from Oxford to Brecon Beacons National Park.
The most scenic part of the town is Arlington Row, pictured in all the previous images. There's a road that goes all the way to Arlington Row, but I strongly recommend against taking it. We briefly debated taking it, before being dissuaded by a sign that said "Unsuitable for HGVs". We had no idea what an HGV was (it's a "heavy goods vehicle"), but it sounded as if it might be of similar size to our nine passenger Vauxhall Vivaro van. The road you shouldn't take is appropriately named Awkward Hill Rd. and is incredibly narrow and steep and there's no place to park: you'll likely annoy local residents by blocking their driveways or the entire road itself if you try to park back there. Instead, there's a very nice car park with a 60 second walk across a pedestrian-only bridge. I've placed two red arrows at the beginning and end of the parallel car park very close to "Arlington row entrance" which is where the pedestrian bridge is. I've placed a third arrow at another free car park that adds only an additional 60 seconds of walking.
On a future trip, I'd love to explore The Cotswolds more, visiting a few of the other towns we learned about. Even though this is an AONB, there are other places in the British Isles with far more natural beauty. The really killer feature of The Cotswolds for me was not driving through the countryside, but rather the unique stone cottages in the quaint towns. The Cotswold stone used is mined locally and has some measure of renown.
We finished our hour-long stop in Bibury by eating some delicious home-made ice cream and sipping some high quality espressos from Bibury Trout Farm, located across the road from the second car park I mentioned above. It was a perfect end to our quick visit to a wonderful little English village!
This post is part of a series of posts about my family's British Isles trip in July/August of 2016. My parents and four siblings joined me as we went from London to Dublin and everywhere in between in 2.5 weeks. Here's our itinerary:
- London (England)
- Stonehenge (England)
- Oxford (England)
- Bibury, Cotswolds (England)
- Peak District (England)
- Chatsworth House (Peak District, England)
- Yorkshire and Staithes (England)
- Foggy Scottish Highlands (Scotland)
- Bright Scottish Highlands (Scotland)
- Kilts & Bagpipes (Scotland)
- Edinburgh (Scotland)
- Northern Ireland
- Waterford/Dunmore East (Ireland)
- Western Ireland and the Cliffs of Moher (Ireland)
- Dublin (Ireland)