[This tour was provided to me free of charge.] I felt cheated – I had been lead to believe that one of my favourite films, The Holiday, was actually filmed in the Cotswolds. Ever since Cameron Diaz tried to get comfortable within the tiny walls of her little stone cottage, I had wanted to visit. Thankfully, I was soon enlightened during my tour with Go Cotswolds. And finally I was here.
Pretty with and without a Purpose
The Cotswolds were not exactly what I had pictured after my many Google searches. Our guide Tom knew why: the iconic photos of quaint stone houses with pretty roses next to a bubbling stream were actually just that: a single row of houses. Most tourists would not see much beyond that of the Cotswolds. Boy, did they miss out! (Don’t ever attempt a day tour to the Cotswolds from London!)
The tour started with a stop in the little town of Chipping Campden, where I got purposefully lost between old houses, on meadows behind backyards and gardens. I even head a funny encounter with locals. Impressed by my big camera, they asked me to take photos of them with their phone even though they were living in the next street. They rarely took the time to appreciate what they had in front of their noses, they said. I agreed. We tend to do that not often enough.
The next place on our list was Broadway Tower, which has been featured in a few British films. But its original purpose was merely to show off. Putting a tower at 1024 feet (312m) above sea level on the second highest point on the Cotswold Escarpment for no actual purpose was a sign of having too much money. In WW II, it finally received a use when it served as a lookout for enemies in the skies. Nearby a secret bunker was installed in case of a feared nuclear attack. Today, you can see far and wide over the Cotswolds and even spot Stratford, Birmingham and Wales in the distance.
Where Food is a Sport and Sport is Weird
Did you know that the Cotswolds are also known as the Fruits and Veg Basket of England? That’s because so much is grown here. But the most fun things are not made from fruit here, they’re made of cheese. Ever heard of the cheese rolling championships at Cooper’s Hill? They are held here in the Cotswolds, where a wheel of seven pound Gloucester cheese are pushed down the hill and crazy people try to outrun them. In all of cheese rolling history, that has never worked. Buy you can at least try – and will be caught by the local rugby team as you tumble downhill.
If cheese isn’t your thing and you’d rather get physical in a punch and kick kinda way, why not enroll in the Stick Fighting at the Cotswolds Olympics? In its original inception, it was the Chin Kicking – quite literally so. Times have changed and the games are no longer this brutal, though I am sure it still hurts to be kicked by a stick.
To top off the weird and wonderful world of British sports the-world-should-know-more-of is River Football. For this little gem, head over to Bourbon-on-the-Water – a popular tourist hot spot – and spot the local football teams in full gear splash about a football in the river between two of the five bridges
Tolkien, Folklore and Witches
Speaking of food and fun, onwards we went to for a lunch break at a bakery in and samples English fudge for dessert. Yet again, it was a typical Cotswolds village, complete with quaint houses, wooden shop signs and small chuches. Here’s a fun fact: the gates of the local church are framed by two old trees, which are said to have inspired J.R.R. Tolkien’s gates of Moria.
Fitting the mood, we did a little foray into the world of lore and mythology. Picture a mini Stonehenge and you’ve got an idea of the Rollright Stones of the Cotswolds. The 77 stones have obviously been carted over here about 4000-4500 years ago and arranged in a perfect circle of 100 metres in diametre. Weathered and rugged, they stand crooked, nearly bending over and covered in holes and lichen. If you look closely, you can see little gifts and trinkets sticking out here and there. Those have been put there by druids.
But since I can’t tell you too much about druid practices (if you can, feel free to enlighten me), here’s a little local legend. A few metres away from the stone circle, you’ll find the Kings Stone. Legend has it that once a king was marching towards his army and encountered a witch at the Rollshill Stones, who declared that if he saw the nearby village after seven steps he’d be king of England.
What she failed to mention was that if he didn’t (and the witch made sure of that), he’d be turned to stone. Too be fair, she petrified his five plotting knights as well. If you’re into these kinds of stories, don’t hesitate to ask your guide for more indication cause it gets even funkier than that.
Should You Visit the Cotswolds?
If you like pretty pictures. Then yes! If you want to see one-of-a-kind sports only the Brits can pull off. Then, yes! If you are into mythology and folkore. Then obviously. What you should know is to avoid the big bus tours, carting tourists en masse around. The Cotswolds are a big area with scattered villages, sometimes as tiny as having only 40 inhabitants.
You will need a car or get on a small group tour like I did with Go Cotswolds. This way you can get to the best photo spots (that Google doesn’t even list), hear local tales and interrogate your tour guide for more crazy stories.
Go Cotswolds Contact Information
Address: Alcester B49 5DL, England
Telephone: +44 7786 920166
I would like to thank Stratford Tourism for providing me with a press pass to experience the Cotswolds with Go Cotswolds. As always, my opinion remains my own. Also, this post contains affiliate links, which means that I receive a small commission at no expense to you if you decide to buy after clicking on the link.
Bonus: Watch the Cotswolds at Home
If you need to catch up on the Cotswolds filmography or just want to get in the mood, here are my suggestions for films, where scenes were shot in the area (they are Amazon affiliate links, so you have to disable your adblocker to see them).