We were up early and after our English Breakfast of eggs and ham at our Bath B&B (Claudia had smoked salmon), we said goodbye to our gracious landlady and took a taxi and our luggage down to a square near the Bath Abbey. There we met the 20-passenger Mad Max tour bus that was to take us from Bath through the Cotswolds.
Bath is situated on the border of the Cotswolds region
of southwest England, which spreads through part of Somerset, Glouchestershire and Wiltshire counties and covers an area about 25 miles across and 90 miles long. So we were soon driving up the hill to enter its rolling hills and bucolic pasture lands. Some of the roads are so narrow in the Cotswolds (some looking to our eyes like one-way lanes) that a big tour bus couldn't make the turns or pass the other cars on some of the roads we traveled. Prince Charles' Highgrove estate
is in the area, and although we drove close to this property, we wouldn't have been allowed to view it.CASTLE COMBE
Our first stop was in Castle Combe, a 13th century village that looks like it hasn't been changed since it was built to house the wool weavers several centuries ago. We cross a bridge over a lovely stream to enter the village. We were greeted by a lady who owns a large property in the town and she showed us her garden and one of the cottages. Its front door wasn't much more than 5 feet tall, so we all had to duck to get in. The cottage was beautifully restored and maintained; in an upstairs bedroom was an original wall made from uneven rough-hewn narrow upright stained timbers and white plaster between them.
The town square and main street were used as one of the locations for the recent Hollywood movie "War Horse" and represented the village where the horse was auctioned (we had both viewed this movie, by chance, on the airplane coming over, so the images were very fresh in our minds). We got to walk around the village and look into the old church where we saw a very old clock that used to be in the tower. A more modern touch was a display board with location photos of the shooting of the War Horse movie. BIBURY
Our next stop was the tourist village of Bibury, which showcased a working trout farm, the ivy-covered Swan hotel where Roy nipped in to sample an English ale, and Arlington Row
cottages built in 1380, reportedly the most photographed historic houses in England and we could see why. We had a short a walking tour of this very picturesque village and a short time to wander, buy a coffee and take final photos.UPPER SLAUGHTER and LOWER SLAUGHTER
From Bibury we drove north through many small villages and picturesque countryside areas until we came to the village of Upper Slaughter, perched on a hill above a green creek valley. We walked around the village a bit looking at the old brick buildings, and saw a cut-away display of how the stone walls are constructed. We even saw a pheasant in one of the gardens. The church was further up the hill, tucked behind another building, so Claudia ran up the lane to take a few quick pictures. Back at the bus, the driver gave us the chance to take a public footpath, down to Lower Slaughter. The walk took 15 minutes through sheep meadows and along the side of the mill stream. It was so scenic that we didn't mind dodging the plentiful sheep paddies!
In Lower Slaughter we got to browse through a shop and look at the water wheel and mill while Claudia ran over to the old churchyard to see if she could find any of her Harris ancestors' gravestones. She only had about 10 minutes before we all had to get back on the bus, so she was grateful to at least see the outside of the church - the doors of the church were locked and the old tombstones were very hard to read, so she didn't find any ancestor graves this trip. STOW-ON-THE-WOLD
We proceeded on to Stow-on-the-Wold for a late lunch in another old pub. We had time after lunch to look around the town square, shops and churchyard.MORETON-IN-MARSH
After lunch the driver detoured to take the four of us to Moreton-in-Marsh, about fifteen minutes away, The rest of the passengers had more time to explore the Stow-in-the-Wold before continuing the tour on their way back to Bath. We found the B&B deserted, even though we had phoned ahead, but soon found a note directing us where to find the keys, so we let ourselves in to our rooms. Our room was a really steep climb up narrow stairs to the third level (2nd floor). Everything was beautiful and recently renovated by the landlady's husband who is a local builder.
Our B&B was very close to the train station and only a block away from the town's main street. So we took a leisurely walk around town, and had a rest before going back to find a nice pub for dinner. It was a great day!
The plan for the day was to leave Bath by way of a Cotswolds tour bus, ending up in Moreton-in-Marsh as a stepping stone to Oxford. When we booked this tour with Mad Max Tours, Claudia told them we would need a drop-off at Moreton-in-Marsh, and that she was looking forward to seeing Lower Slaughter as her ancestors had come from that village. We didn't realize at the time that they would have to reschedule the tour and delay lunch to make this happen, so we truly appreciate this - thank you Mad Max!