The beginning of the new week in London was quite a busy one for me. No more was I just walking around with friends or family members around little neighborhoods in London. The first few days of the new week were for my day trips. I had already done a day trip the day before. Tuesday, March 22nd was no different as I was going on another day trip. This time, it would be to the Cotswolds!
Related Post: Visiting London: Day 1 – Arrival in London
About the day trip
Day trip number 2 out of 3 would be to the Cotswolds. I’ve heard so many wonderful things about this general area, seen many vlogs, and read many blog posts on it. I figured that when I’d have the chance to return to London, I would have to do a day trip out to the Cotswolds.
About a month prior to my trip to London, I took to GetYourGuide to look for some nice but relatively inexpensive day trips from London to the Cotswolds. I searched for day tours which consisted of ONLY the Cotswolds, because I wanted to exclusively explore this area alone. TBH: I couldn't find the exact Cotswolds day trip from London I took back in March. I'm not sure if they took it down or if there's another reason. The closest to the tour I took is this one right here.
The day trip would consist of several stops in small villages throughout the Cotswolds. It’s not just one place in particular. Rather, the Cotswolds includes many small villages in five different counties: Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire.
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The word “Cotswolds” is a combination of two words with different meanings. “Cots”, refers to an enclosed space for sheep and “wolds” means hills or rolling hills. Put them together, you get “Cotswolds”. I found this piece of information from the tour guide very informative, because prior to this, I didn’t know the meaning of the word or its relevance to this area of England.
You met your tour group at the old Mercure Kensington Hotel near Earl's Court Station to begin the tour. With that information in mind, our day tour of the Cotswolds would consist of us traveling through four lovely little towns in different counties. We’d have a little history lesson of the area, a little wonder around (between 45 minutes to 1.5 hours), and ample views of the country side.
Burford was our first stop in the Cotswolds. It’s called “the gateway to the Cotswolds”. Once you enter the town, you can see why it’s been given this name. The beautiful rolling hills, stone walls, and iconic country houses can be seen throughout the town.
We had about an hour in Burford to walk around and explore. I walked up and down the hills, looking at the cute little shops, cafés, restaurants, and homes of the area. I even walked off the main street towards the quiet little neighborhood. There's a beautiful church with a little cemetery next to it. Cemeteries aren't exactly appealing to some travelers but to me, I enjoy exploring them. Does that make me dark, maybe? But I'm into dark tourism and exploring things that are dark and creepy, so I don't mind.
But I digress. You won't really see a whole lot of tourists in this area. At least, not for mid-March, and probably during COVID times. Or maybe it's always a bit quiet? Maybe it's because Burford isn't as "popular" as some of the other little villages and towns in the Cotswolds? I haven't quite figured it out. Nonetheless, this quiet but picturesque town was a lovely little introduction to the Cotswolds.
Related Post: Visiting London: Day 2 – Exploring with Friends
Moving on from Burford, we journeyed to the next stop on our itinerary, which was Bibury. The drop off area in Bibury was a bit busier than Burford, frankly because there's a trout farm and loop path in the immediate area. While I didn't get a chance to explore the trout farm, I did have a chance to do the cute little loop path. It's, as you probably guessed by now, a path that just goes in a circle around this river.
Although it was a relatively short loop, you caught glimpses of the beautiful river, cottages, stone paths, and the lovely scenery of the area. Perfect for a warm day, like it was that day, to just walk around and take in the fresh air.
Overall, we had about an hour to explore the area. These time restraints kill me on the inside. It's a price you have to pay, literally and figuratively, for doing day trips. Off the loop path were other paths you could walk, which I assume would lead to the little neighborhoods with cute cottages and whatnot.
Bourton on the Water
Now, Bourton on the Water was our third and most busiest stop on the Cotswolds day trip. This little village is called, "The Venice of the Cotswolds". When you arrive, you can see why. The lovely bridges that span over the river, which runs through the main part of the village, remind one of the canals and bridges in Venice.
This was, by far, the busiest of the little villages we visited that day. Not only was it busy with tourists but there were more attractions and things to see and do. Just walking along the main street, you could see a variety of cafés, restaurants, shops, museums, and more. The Motor Museum, Bird Island, Mini Town Museum, are just a few of the museums and attractions here in Bourton on the Water.
Our tour group had about 1.5 hours in Bouron on the Water. I enjoyed having extra time to walk around and explore. Walking along the river, crossing over the bridges, and watching the ducks play in the water made for a lovely day. The scenery here along the river was splendid. Even after the crowds lessened, the bridges were gone, and it became more suburban, I continued to walk and explore. I found a few trails and cool areas to explore which were beyond the busy hub of the main square. However, as usual, time was not on my side and I made the executive decision to not explore those trails.
On my way back into the busy section of the village, I grabbed some lunch from the Chip Shop. Chicken bites with chips (french fries) was a bit easier to eat while sitting outside than fish and chips. While I ate my lunch on a bench by the river, an older woman sat next to me and we started to talk about random things. We talked about the area, how it's similar yet different to where I live in the USA, the ducks, and more. At some point, I did have to cut our conversation short as I had to walk back to the bus. Overall, I had a lovely time in Bourton on the Water.
Last but not least, Stow. The final stop on our Cotswolds day trip itinerary. According to the tour guide, Stow is also known as "Stow on the wold", meaning holy place on the hill. We only had about 45 minutes here, which was the shortest amount of time allotted to an area to explore.
I guess I can see why, in hindsight. The main high street is a wonderful area filled with shops, cafés, pubs, souvenir shops, with a church added in the mix. There's some tourists in this area but not nearly as busy as Bourton on the Water.
Beyond the high street area and the tourists, there wasn't much else to explore. At least, for a tourist maybe. I still walked around and explored the quiet, more suburban area of Stow. However, I didn't really find any off the beaten path trails or things to do. Just rows of houses. I'm sure there might be more local paths or parks around, but since we only had 45 minutes I didn't have the time to find them.
To conclude my time in Stow, and the Cotswolds in general, I wandered through a church graveyard. It was open to the public, so I took the opportunity to walk around. The grounds are so lovely, peaceful, and historic. Like I said earlier, I like exploring graveyards (respectfully, of course) so when I see a chance to do so, I act on it. With my mini walk around the church graveyard complete, I walked back to the waiting area to meet our tour bus.
Final thoughts on the day trip
That concluded the day tour of the Cotswolds. Our tour group explored four lovely villages throughout the day. In my opinion, I'd say the villages of Stow, Bibury, Bourton on the Water, and Burford, were all lovely places which represent the Cotswolds. Are there many more villages which could have been explored? Absolutely! However, I'd say this tour was a nice introduction to the Cotswolds and the beautiful little villages which make up this area in the UK.
Overall, I definitely enjoyed this day trip. The group size was small, about 11 of us altogether, which made for a more intimate group. The bus we had was small, so we were able to take a lot of backroads throughout the Cotswolds. Meaning, we were able to see more of the country side, see more beautiful villages we weren't able to explore, and just enjoy the lovely ride. I love it when you book with a smaller tour group, because you're able to do things like that.
The one downside, similar to the "con" from my day trip to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Oxford, is that we didn't have enough time to explore the surrounding areas of the main village centers. I'm the type of person that, not only loves to explore the busy touristy area(s) but also loves to explore areas away from that. You know, the less explored portions of areas. Even if there's nothing else to see or do, it's still nice to see what the area is like where, more often than not, the locals tend to stay.
Would I recommend this tour? Yes, I would! Especially if you're staying in London, like me, and want to explore a new place outside of London.