The Cotswolds

The Cotswolds, the beautiful English countryside. It conjures up thoughts of lush, green rolling hills, picnics, punting, big floppy hats, beautiful manor houses, sheep, quaint idyllic villages, pubs and so much more. The beauty of the countryside will take your breath away.

The Cotswolds is one of the largest areas in England covering 787 square miles and borders Warwickshire, Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire. Located in southwest and south central England, this area is known for it’s rolling hills, meadows, valleys and quaint villages. In 1966, it received an AONB award, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. And it is easy to see why, it truly is a gorgeous place.

Burton-on-the-Water, Stow-on-the-Wold, Woodstock and The Slaughters were on our itinerary when we visited the area. Walking through these towns is like taking a step back in time. The original buildings have been amazingly preserved and are very interesting to see.

Burton-on-the Water is known as the Venice of the Cotswolds with it’s canals and narrow bridges, and is often voted one of the prettiest villages in England. Stow-on-the-Wold is a market town, located at the top of Stow Hill, it is the highest of the villages in the Cotswolds. Woodstock is the birthplace of Winston Churchill. The Slaughters is another charming old village to wander through and enjoy the scenery. All of these villages have much to do and see including parks, gardens, manor houses, shopping, good pubs and museums.

It was eerily quiet when we visited this old church and graveyard.

Bath Spa is one of the largest towns in the Cotswolds and is another lovely place to visit. I have written about this town on several occasions. Check out my previous posts on Bath.

I suggest renting a car when visiting the Cotswolds since many of the small villages are not easily accessible by bus or train. You will also find a wide variety of accommodations in the area. The quintessential bed and breakfast is my preferred place to stay in the UK. The full English breakfast will keep you going all day.

Travel enriches our lives in so many ways. Your mind will be opened by exploring other countries and cultures, and you may gain an appreciation for different values and beliefs. Whatever your reason for traveling, always be a polite and considerate guest when visiting. As my grandmother used to say, you get more flies with honey than with vinegar!

Happy travels!

From Bath, UK to Robion, France

It has been a nice trip down memory lane to revisit the five week European holiday my husband and I took in the fall of 2017. Many of my blog posts have been about our time there, including our first stop, Loch Ness. We wanted to get acclimated to the time difference before heading to The Backies where we stayed with some friends for several days. From there, we drove to Edinburgh where we met up with some friends who had just arrived from the U.S. Castle Douglas was our next stop, and from there we had a long drive to Bath. See previous blog posts for more information about these places.

After leaving Bath, we drove to Bristol to turn in our rental car. We had an early flight the next day to Nice, so we stayed at a hotel by the airport. We arrived early enough in the day so we could spend a little time seeing the Harbourside and Old Town areas in Bristol. We had a delicious lunch at Paco Tapas, wandered though a street market, and visited an old church.

Bristol is a vibrant city with an interesting history, and spending only an afternoon there wasn’t enough time. If you visit, be sure to allow at least several days to see the highlights.

The next morning we were up bright and early for our 6:00 flight to Nice. There are numerous small airlines in Europe that offer cheap tickets, EasyJet being one of them. We paid less than $100.00 for our two tickets. We have flown with them on several occasions and had good experiences each time.

We arrived in Nice on time, rented a car and drove to Aix-en-Provence for lunch. The iconic, tree-lined boulevard, Cours Mirabeau is a beautiful place to stroll and people watch. There are many restaurants, shops, fountains and monuments to see along the way.

Aix-en-Provence is another town that you will want to spend several days visiting since there is so much to see and do.

Our next stop was to find our Airbnb in Robion. We had a little challenge along the way at a toll booth. The directions said to insert un billet, but we didn’t have un billet so my husband pushed the call button to get some help. I tried to communicate in my limited French, telling my husband (who was in the driver’s seat) to tell the man “je n’ai pas un billet” but it came out as “je n’aime pas un billet.” Rather than “I don’t have a ticket,” it came out as “I don’t like a ticket”, sigh. In the mean time, the cars lining up behind us were honking and people were yelling, when my husband noticed someone approaching us with a credit card in her hand. He quickly put his card into the machine, and voila, the gate opened and we were on our way again. Pas de probleme!

Finding our Airbnb in Robion was a bit of a challenge as well. We ended up parking the car and wandering around the neighborhood’s narrow, twisting streets on foot until we finally found it. Our hosts were very friendly, and invited us in for a chat and a glass of wine. They spoke no English, but my limited French helped, and we were able to communicate without too much difficulty. The apartment came with a friendly cat that seemed to love everyone!

Robion, is situated close to Gordes, Rousillion, Bonnieux and many of the other villages in the area. See my other blog posts for information about these places.

Traveling and adventure go hand in hand, and the experiences we have along the way enrich our lives. Getting stuck at the toll booth was stressful at the time, but it’s one of those memories that we now look back on and laugh. I expect that the assistant is still laughing about it as well, “I don’t like a ticket” rather than “I don’t have a ticket.” Crazy Americans!

More on Bath Spa and Batheaston

Bath Spa and Batheaston are such lovely places to visit that you will not want to leave. I have visited the area many times, and at the end of my holiday, I always wish I could stay longer. I have found a wide variety of hotels, bed and breakfasts, Airbnbs, pubs and restaurants in the area; there is something for everyone! In addition, the bus service that runs between the two towns is quick, convenient and inexpensive.

One of my favorite places to stay is Brooks Guesthouse. This elegant bed and breakfast is close to Royal Victoria Park and the Royal Crescent. It is quiet, comfortable, the breakfast is delicious, and the staff are pleasant and helpful. I have stayed here twice and would stay again in a heartbeat. I don’t have many photos of Brooks, except for this little apple tree that grows along the side of the building.

In Batheaston we stayed at an Airbnb called Coronation Cottage. This delightful cottage has a stone fireplace, wood beamed ceilings, spacious kitchen, a spiral staircase that leads to the upper floors, and a lovely outdoor sitting area. Our host, Nick is terrific, and even hurried over one evening when we had forgotten the key. It is located in a quiet area, and the Gather Cafe, just over the road as they say in the UK, is a good spot for breakfast.

The neighborhood is lovely, and is a nice place to stroll and take photos.

From Coronation Cottage, it is a nice walk to the Bathampton Mill, a pub that has creative and delicious food in a beautiful setting next to the river.

Photo curtesy of theTravelsketcher.

In Bath, we had a delicious lunch at a French restaurant called Raphael. We enjoyed a bottle of chardonnay over a long leisurely lunch. Hey, we were on vacation!

There are old photos on the walls, and I found this one of what the building looked like in 1912.

A few of our other favorite restaurants in Bath are Pintxo de Bath, a great place for tapas, and of course, the Pig and Fiddle, is a favorite place among the locals.

As a side note, you will find many talented buskers in Bath. It seemed like every time we turned a corner, we heard another one.

Sadly, I did’t get her name, but she has a fabulous voice!

Have you visited Bath and Batheaston? If so, please comment below with your favorite places to visit.

Bath Spa, UK

After visiting Castle Douglas, the next stop on our trip, or holiday as they say in the UK, was Bath Spa. Bath is a picturesque city that is situated along the River Avon in the county of Somerset, England. The Roman Baths, built in 60 AD, are a major tourist attraction. There are many other sites to see, including Bath Abbey, the Royal Crescent and the Assembly Rooms. You will find many examples of Georgian architecture in the city. Bath is an easily walkable city, which adds to its appeal.

The Roman Bath were built in approximately 60 AD, during the Roman occupation of Britain. It is a very interesting place to visit, and is filled with history, artifacts and amazing engineering feats. Check the link above for more on the history of the baths. I suggest visiting first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds.

You will find costumed characters at the baths.

Bath Abbey was built in the 1600s after several other churches that occupied the site were ruined. One can attend services at the abbey; my husband and I have attended the Friday evening service on several occasions.

The Royal Crescent is another must see attraction. This row of thirty houses are a beautiful example of Georgian architecture.

Royal Victoria Park is a beautiful place to visit, in particular the Botanical Gardens are a pretty place to stroll.

There are many great restaurants in Bath, one of our favorites is The Pig and Fiddle, also referred to as “The Pig”, it is a popular place with the locals.

Creative ideas for planters!

Bath is a lovely place to visit, and it is quite popular and draws large crowds of tourists in the summer months, so I suggest going in the off season. We have visited on several occasions in October, when there are fewer tourists.

Have you been to Bath Spa? If so, please leave a comment with your favorite activities there.

Loch Ness

Scotland has over 30,000 lochs, and Loch Ness is probably the most famous due to the legend of the Loch Ness Monster, affectionally known as Nessie. Our first stop on our five week European adventure was a beautiful bed and breakfast on the shores of Loch Ness, before heading north to visit our friends in the Backies.

We had planned on arriving in Edinburgh early enough in the day so we could drive north while it was still light. However, our airline decided to put my suitcase on a later flight, which meant we didn’t even leave Edinburgh until late afternoon. It is a three hour drive from Edinburgh to Loch Ness, and just to add to the adventure, a storm had arrived bringing high winds and heavy rains. We took several wrong turns, nearly had a head-on collision in a round-about, but after a four hour drive, we finally managed to find our B&B. When I got out of the car, I felt like I was in the scene in the movie “Waking Ned Divine” when Jackie and Micheal delivered a plate of food to Ned. The rain and wind were insanely intense! But we were greeted warmly by our hosts, and were relieved to have arrived safely. My husband did a great job driving in the storm, and driving on the opposite side of the road!

Balachladaich is beautifully situated just steps from the south shore of Loch Ness. Our room had a view of the loch and the surrounding area. We woke up the next morning to sunshine, a welcome change from the storm of the previous day.

After a delicious, full Scottish breakfast, we took off to explore the area. Things certainly look different in the daylight! To say the area is beautiful is an understatement.

We took a drive along the loch and stopped at an old church with a graveyard.

We walked along a stretch of the South Loch Ness Trail, a 28 mile long trail, that offers stunning views of the loch.

We visited the little hamlet of Inverfarigaig, where we stopped for tea and a scone.

The village of Dores is not far from Balachladiach, and has a nice beach. The Dores Inn has an excellent restaurant. I had salmon in a leek and pea sauce. Yummy!

As we loaded the car the next morning to head north, I took one last look at the loch, hoping to catch a glimpse of Nessie, but she was as elusive as ever. Maybe next time.

Crichton Castle and Castle Douglas

After a lovely stay with our friends in the beautiful Backies area of Northern Scotland, we drove to Edinburgh where we met up with some friends who had just arrived from the US. From there we drove to Castle Douglas, and made a stop at Crichton Castle along the way. This 14th century castle sits above the River Tyne and is a beautiful place to explore.

The castle has a rich history, and passed through the hands of several families before it fell into ruins when a resident was accused of witchcraft. It’s a beautiful place to explore, and its elevated location offers nice views of the surrounding area.

A wee thistle.

From Crichton Castle we drove to Castle Douglas, in the Dumfries and Galloway area in the lowlands of Scotland. Castle Douglas is a market town that was founded in the 18th century. The area offers many activities and sights to see, including castles, lochs, beaches, and quaint villages to explore.

Our Airbnb was the gate house of a manor house. We had access to the manor house grounds and gardens, which were immaculately kept.

While in the area we visited Annandale Distillery, which is set in a pretty location. The distillery offers tours, and also has a nice restaurant.

The Douglas Arms Hotel is a good place to stop for lunch or dinner; the food is excellent.

Scotland is filled with a vibrant and rich history, rustic, wild scenery, and welcoming people. It is an amazing place to visit. What are your favorite things about visiting Scotland? As always, I look forward to receiving comments.

The Backies

The Backies is a region in the Highlands of Scotland where you will find charming villages, castles, distilleries and the crazy, fickle weather that is typical of Scotland. A colleague said to me “people don’t go to Scotland for the weather!” The locals say, “just wait 10 minutes, and the weather will change.” We certainly found this to be true; rain, wind, sun, repeat.

We went to the Backies in October, 2017 to visit some dear friends who live there. Scotland was our first stop on our five week European adventure. We had a delightful three days with them, and enjoyed many activities. One of our first stops was a hike to Loch Brora. Luckily, it didn’t rain while we were hiking, but the wind was fierce!

The next day we toured Clynelish Distillery. If you enjoy Scottish whiskey, I highly recommend this tour. It’s informative, educational and really interesting as well.

In the afternoon we visited a broch. Brochs are ancient, stone-walled structures, found in northern Scotland, that provided shelter and safety for people and livestock during invasions. As you can tell from the photo below, the weather was quite intense. The wind was so strong, I thought I was going to topple over!

The next day we visited Dunrobin Castle, the home of the Sutherlands. It’s a beautiful place where you can tour much of the castle, and the gardens as well.

The weather was sunny that day, and the wind wasn’t quite as strong as it had been, so it was a perfect day to stroll through the gardens.

My husband and our friend even played a quick game of croquet.

Dunrobin Castle is growing in popularity, and is experiencing greater numbers of tourists each year. We visited on a weekday in October, and the place was pretty much empty. However, summer months bring large crowds.

Have you been to the Backies? If so, I would love to hear about your time there.