I went to England in November to look at cottages to rent for our grand holiday, which is coming up this summer. I was going to show my girls the exquisite beauty of the English countryside, and we were going to stay in a quirky little eighteenth-century cottage with crooked stairs and bathrooms carved out of the rock (or something). And I did indeed have a wonderful time, staying in one of these cottages myself and visiting a few others.
Thing is, like any vacation you try and plan well in advance, things changed.
DH1 wants to look at universities. We need to go to the Harry Potter Studio Tour. The girls love London. I don’t want to be driving absolutely everywhere (still need to tell you about that one). And the place that allows us to do all these things is…London. So, like four billion tourists before us, we’ve had to go with the obvious. And I’m so excited because I haven’t lived in London for twenty-five years, and to be able to come back to our 'own' house after trekking around Memory Lane will be bliss.
But my heart is still heavy for the cottages I had to leave behind me. So I’d like to tell you about them. I can’t recommend the Cotswolds or these houses enough, if you want to surround yourself with beauty and staircases with a passing knowledge of gravity. I’d also like to thank the owners and managers who took the time to show me around (including the one I messed around twice because apparently I don’t get the notion of time or traffic) and I wish I could stay in all these places.
Perton Cottage, Chipping Campden
I’m going to start with the cottage I stayed in, in case you spill your tea on your laptop and can’t finish this blog. Perton Cottage, in Chipping Campden on the northern edge of the Cotswolds, is just about the most perfect home you’ll ever visit (see my earlier post). I would stay there again in a second. The decoration was modern but cozy, the kitchen was well-equipped, and the bedrooms and bathrooms warm and inviting (with good showers, for American readers). Oh, and not to forget the secluded and peaceful terraced garden. Even though I miscommunicated with the owner about how many beds I needed made up, she was lovely about it and even sent her mother over to bring me more sheets.
I’ve raved about Chipping Campden already, but just to add that there are FIVE pubs within walking distance, as well as a Co-op and two tearooms. What else could you ask for? You’ll have to drive everywhere, but it’s worth it (if you’re not visiting universities in far-flung parts of the country).
Chastleton Cottage, Chastleton
Chastleton Cottage is the perfect location for a writers’ retreat, in my opinion. It’s far away from everything and has the most beautiful garden I saw on my trip. The view will just kill you stone dead all on its own. The owners were so gracious and even gave us a cup of tea (my sister was with me for this one), but that’s not why I’m raving about the house, honest. If you’re looking for some silence and headspace, you should try Chastleton. But if you absolutely must do something else with your stay, the 400-year-old manor, Chastleton House, is right next door.
Gassons View, Pilkins
Gassons View is in a location that’s a cross between Chastleton and Chipping Campden—the village is small but has what you need, so you can have peace and quiet but still find the pub whenever you wish. The house is well laid out with some great stairs (I love the crazy stairs in these houses), a beautiful modern kitchen with a huge skylight and folding French doors, and big bathrooms. Nearby is the Cotswold Woollen Weavers shop and tearoom, where we had another lovely restorative tea. I could have bought most of the things in that shop, especially on a sunny but chilly day in November.
Fairlie House, Bourton-on-the-Water
Fairlie House was the one that was the hardest to walk away from. This place is fabulous. Americans, you will be completely happy here. It’s big and solid, right in the middle of Bourton-on-the-Water—like, right on the water—and there’s off-road parking! The bedrooms are gorgeous, including the four-poster bed you see here. The walls are so thick, you’ll feel like you’re in an Elizabethan home—which you might be; I don’t know how old it is. The manager showed me around, and despite the dark rainy evening she remained bright and cheerful. The town is idyllic and a little more accessible than the others because it’s on a main road.
Park Cottage, Stow-on-the-Wold
An honorable mention goes to Park Cottage. I really wanted to see this one, but my inability to figure out time meant that the poor manager was waiting for me for ages and finally had to leave. So anyway, it’s a lovely town with an antiques store I walked around for ages while it rained outside, a bookshop ditto, and is also very accessible to main roads and a big Tesco’s, which as we all know, is an important part of traditional English country life. I’m bummed I missed out on seeing these lovely rooms for real. If you go there, give her my apologies again. When you’re English, you can never say Sorry too often.
Kimberley Ash is a British ex-pat who has lived in and loved New Jersey for twenty years. When not writing romance, she can usually be found cleaning up after her two big white furry dogs and slightly less furry children. Her first novel, Breathe, is now available from Crimson Romance.