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The sweet familiarity of home

Self-guided walking holidays in the UKOne of the many positive things about going away is coming home to a familiar place where you appreciate your home comforts, whether it’s the urge for a ‘proper brew’, or to catch up on our favourite topic of conversation – the British weather! Being at home can often make you wonder why you ventured abroad in the first place!

Last week, a ray of long-overdue sunshine prompted some British spontaneity and persuaded a colleague and me to visit the Cotswolds to check our short-break walking notes, and (purely in the name of research, you understand) to sample some of Britain’s best-loved puddings!

Driving through the Gloucestershire countryside, we were greeted by honey-coloured (oolitic, apparently) limestone villages, where each quaint and colourful thatched cottage with Georgian-leaded windows added to the overall beauty of the Cotswolds.

This is quintessential England, where competitive neighbours strive to outdo each other in creating the most showy and most colourful hanging baskets on the row. Despite the fact that we had come to an area where people speak English and the weather was the same as what we’d left behind in North Yorkshire, it really did feel very different.

Our ‘home from home’ on this trip stands in the heart of the small, pretty village of Mickleton. The Three Ways House – possibly better known as home to ‘The Pudding Club’ – dates from 1871, and has been an hotel for over 100 years. Today, it is owned and managed by two Inntravel customers, Jill and Simon Coombes, who greeted us warmly on arrival and made us feel very welcome.

Self-guided walking holidays in the UKThe hotel is comfortable and sumptuous, each room unique in style and theme, and boasting a splash of indulgence that makes any stay just that little bit special. Nevertheless, what really sells this place is its courteous and friendly approach to guests with an emphasis on paying great attention to every detail. The team here is also dedicated to promoting the ‘best of British’, from a ‘mood board’ in reception (which explains where the material for the bedroom curtains is sourced), to the ingredients used to create your evening meal – all local, of course! (Being a northern lass, ‘pudding’ to me means any dessert or sweet, and so this place wins many brownie points from me – excuse the pun! The only thing I need to add is that the puddings here really are as good as you’d imagine them to be...)

With all that delicious indulgence inside us, it was time to discover the Cotswolds on foot – beginning by calling in to visit the renowned gardens at Hidcote Manor and Kiftsgate Court. Time your visits wisely as these ‘hot spots’ are incredibly popular and for very good reason. They are both situated in superb locations from where you can admire not only the craftsmanship of some remarkable green-fingered gardeners, but also truly magnificent views over the Vale of Evesham.

Self-guided walking holidays in the UKThe walk to Broadway via Chipping Campden strikes a fine balance between rolling countryside and charming Cotswolds villages steeped in history and culture. There is no compulsion for us to rush – it’s a leisurely, satisfying walk, with plenty of time to pause and take in the countryside around us. Its natural beauty says it all. Passing all the quirky little delicatessens in Chipping Campden, offering Cotswolds cream teas, worked up our appetites and so we decided to stop for lunch at Dover’s Hill. With a bench perfectly placed for a picnic offering extensive views over the Malvern Hills and the Welsh hills in the far distance, it was incredibly romantic!

Self-guided walking holidays in the UKDover’s Hill is named after Robert Dover, the visionary who came up with the idea of hosting an Olimpick [sic] Games on the hill above Chipping Campden. Remarkably, the Games are still running and claim to be the oldest in the world. Nowadays, some 400 years later, this eccentric annual event is hosted every May and is a great spectator event – with shin-kicking, tug-of-war and ‘Champion of the Hill’ being great crowd-pleasers! And to finish, the Games close with a very English tradition – fireworks lighting up the night sky and a torch-lit procession into Chipping Campden.

Continuing this walking holiday in the UK, we descended through lovely woodland which soon opened out into lush pastureland before reaching our final destination – the striking village of Broadway, resplendent in the late-afternoon sun. (No – that isn’t a typo. We actually returned to the office with sunburn!) It was incredibly picturesque – so much so, that I got a little carried away and found myself tipple tailing* in delight downhill!

Our great hosts at the Broadway Hotel were expecting us – our bags had already been taken to the room and we were soon tucking into our complimentary Cotswolds cream tea that we knew was waiting on our arrival. This historic hotel stands in the heart of the community and, with a newly refurbished brassiere, its mixture of old and new works really well. The food is more than excellent and complemented nicely by an impressive wine list and open-air winery in the restaurant.

Self-guided walking holidays in the UKBroadway itself is the perfect place from which to make an early morning hike up to Broadway Tower, an impressive folly boasting magnificent views, as we reflected on our last few days. My lasting impression is that the Cotswolds is a place which is fortunate to house such a diverse wealth of culture and heritage – and, just as importantly, lovely people. The warmth and charm of the local community together with a charming backdrop of thatched cottages and rolling hillsides makes this an ideal short break to showcase the best of Britain.


*tipple-tailing – must be a Hull thing!

Self-guided walking holidays in the UK


Posted: 22/05/2013 13:26:37 by | with 0 comments
Filed under: festivals, gastronomy, heritage, lifestyle, opinions, UK


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