Cosy Castle Combe

A long weekend in the Cotswolds

One of the resolutions I made this year was to explore more of the UK. It occurred to me as I jetted off abroad last year that perhaps I’ve overlooked some of the amazing sites in my own country, many of which are barely a few hours drive away from home.

While it does take a fair bit of convincing myself to get outdoors in the cold, dark and damp winter months, a visit to the Cotswolds proved to be well worth the effort. I spent a long weekend at the Castle Inn in the remarkably picturesque village of Castle Combe, tucked away in the Wiltshire countryside. The village, seemingly untouched out of an ancient history book, is tiny and sleepy: only a few pubs and tea rooms can be dotted around the main street. There’s a famous racing circuit located nearby too (although seems to be used as a jogging circuit during winter months).

The main (and seemingly only) street in Castle Combe

Also within the village is a traditional English Manor house (‘The Manor House Hotel’), a posh hotel and golf course which draws most visitors from far and wide. While the accommodation here was way beyond my price range, I had a fantastic time each evening reading, sipping on tea and conversing with the staff, before retiring to my room in the sister budget hotel next door. With the weather outside rather grim, it really was a heavenly retreat curled up on an armchair in the snug lounge. There was nowhere else I could imagine being!

My first ever ‘Full English’, or the vegan equivalent at least!

All around the Cotswolds, I saw everything from souvenirs to snacks offered outside homes in exchange for payment through the letterbox. Payment is based purely upon trust. I wonder that would hold up in London?

Though the days were short, I managed to visit a few of the nearby towns and villages. I hired a car from London which was a necessity as public transport is more or less completely absent in rural Cotswolds villages, and it provided me with plenty of flexibility. In fact, I had never driven a car solo in the 10 years I’ve held a license, so it was a good learning experience too – especially in the snowy conditions along windy roads.

Bourton-on-the-Water, a British equivalent of Venice

All of the villages I visited were all beautiful in their own right. Sometimes while walking through the cobbled streets lined with unique limestone-clad buildings, I had to remind myself I wasn’t inside a storybook, like a village from The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. And, in fact a number of villages I came across were actually backdrops for the Harry Potter films, like The Abbey in Lacock which featured as Malfoy Manor and various interior scenes at Hogwarts..

Lacock Abbey

Inside Lacock Abbey. Many of the Harry Potter Hogwarts corridor and classroom scenes were shot here.

Another picturesque village I stumbled across was Bibury. This town is famous for a street of homes called Arlington Row, which was apparently rated as one of the most iconic streets in Britain (not only is it frequently depicted on TV, but since 2010 it’s also featured in all newly issued UK passports). A light dusting of snow over the village and marshes made Bibury as eerie as it was beautiful.

A dusting of snow in Bilbury

I can’t wait to head back to the Cotswolds in the summer time and discover some new hidden villages. I’m sure will be an all together different experience during the warmer days, but come rain or shine, there’s no denying that a visit to the Cotswolds feels like a cosy home away from home for everyone and anyone.


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