Nestled in the middle of England and including parts of Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, Somerset and Worcestershire, the Cotswolds, like the South Devon Coast, is a designated "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty". We are not surprised!
It's not just the lovely rolling English countryside that is so appealing, it's actually the villages, entirely built with honey-golden Cotswold stone, that steal the show. We are staying for three nights in a hostel in Stow-on-the-Wold (even the names are charming!) Here it is, with the green sign, handily located on the market square between two pubs!
AND one of the pubs has a super good deal on beer!
The bus stops right outside the door, and a five minute ride away is charm-central, aka Bourton-on-the-Water, where I couldn't resist my favourite British ice cream, a 99!
We lost count of the tea rooms and curio shops while heading for our first Cotswold footpath, the Windrush Way, which follows the Windrush River out of town.
Footpaths in England are public rights of way and may be hundreds of years old. They often cut right across farmland..........
regardless of what the farmer might have in mind!
They are well signed but some paths have several different names
and I think we can be excused for being muddled now and then! We met hardly anyone on the path all day.
There are many stiles,
and kissing gates! Though not many have dedications like this one, to Princess Diana.
The Windrush is considered a river even though we might think otherwise! I suppose even the Mississippi starts off small! Here's where we enjoyed lunch our first day, among the nettles, thistles and sheep droppings!
Our second excursion involved the Slaughters..........no, not a heavy-metal band, a pair of tiny villages! Upper Slaughter must take the prize for sleepiest village on earth, there is NOTHING there except a few cottages, a church and a ford, where we ate our picnic! Good thing we hadn't planned on a pub lunch! We like the way the fords have footbridges, it beats removing your shoes and socks, or taking a running jump!
Lower Slaughter is equally charming, and has more on the go, like a cricket club,
We had more company on this walk and spent time with a woman from Melbourne, a couple from Arizona and one from nearby Oxford, and overtook a very slow group of 14 Americans with a guide.
This has been our first experience staying in a British IHA Hostel. Although cheaper than most B&B accommodation, it still cost £50 per night (about $90) for a very cosy room with shared shower and loo one floor down. Here's John in our room, which is supposed to sleep 4! I think if there were ever 4 people and all their stuff in this room they would have to be legless midgets!
However, the staff were friendly and helpful, there was a spacious TV room, a dining room serving excellent (pricey) meals, and a good communal kitchen, which we used along with supplies from a nearby Tesco.
Finally, if you like the look of the Cotswolds, you'll have to save up a few million for a country house like one of these!
Next stop the Welsh border - watch this space!