UK 2019: Cotswolds

Pictures from this part of the trip can be found in the Cotswolds gallery.

Day 9: Sunday May 26

We walked from our B&B to Bourton-on-the-Water in the morning. It drizzled off and on, but the weather wasn't too bad. Hiking in rural England usually follows a so-called right of way, which is a path where the public has a legally protected right to pass. The path is often on private land, so we walked through many cow and sheep pastures. There were little signs to help point you in the right direction, but it sometimes took some educated guessing to find the next sign. We took a back way to get to the main path, and it wasn't well-marked, so we were happy to have the map with us. A compass would have been helpful, but we chose not to bring ours on the trip. We wandered around Bourton-on-the-Water a bit, then walked back, eating our packed lunch on the way. We had considered calling a taxi for the return trip, but we had enough time to walk both directions.

In the afternoon, we visited Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare. We saw his childhood home and otherwise wandered around town. Like many tourist areas, it was full of people in the popular areas but much less crowded when you got outside of that.

We especially enjoyed Mary Arden's Farm outside of town, which was Shakespeare's mother's family farm. It's a working farm where they grow and breed a lot of heirloom varieties of plants and animals. Ken enjoyed reading a sign about all of the apples that would have been used in Shakespeare's time, including one that was only eaten when rotten, and tasted like stewed apples. (That variety doesn't exist any more.) We also saw something new: a cow that was so excited about its dinner that it actually galloped over to the hay bale that got thrown its way.

After leaving the farm (a full half hour after closing time), we drove back toward home and had dinner in Moreton-in-Marsh, the next town over, at the White Hart hotel. It was ok, but not memorable.

Day 10: Monday May 27

Our original plan was to visit Oxford or Blenheim Palace on the way to Bath. However, Julie saw that Stonehenge was an easy day trip from Bath, so we decided to change our reservation and visit there on the way to Bath instead of during the drive from Dartmoor to Portsmouth. That ended up being a good choice, because that drive was a nightmare (more on that later). Most of the drive to Stonehenge was uneventful, except that we got caught in a huge gawkers block on the main road into town, which apparently happens because Stonehenge is visible from the road at that point. We'll admit that this was a new thing for us.

We had bought advance tickets for Stonehenge, but even with that, we waited 20-30 minutes to enter the park. The line for the bus to the attraction itself was long, so we walked the couple miles through farmfields to get there. Stonehenge had by far the largest stones of any stone circle we've visited, and it was also the only one with the cross-beam lintel stones. We saw Neolithic ruins in the Orkney Islands back in 2014, and you were able to walk right up to the stones. Stonehenge gets so many visitors that they have the entire area cordoned off to save it from being trampled. The Stonehenge site had been in use for hundreds of years prior to erecting the stone monuments, and there are burial mounds and other structures visible from the air.

After leaving Stonehenge, we also stopped by the village of Avebury to look at another stone circle. This stone circle and its associated embankment and ditch (dug out of the chalk) was so big that it mostly enclosed the village! However, the individual stones were much smaller than at Stonehenge.

We continued the drive to Bath, where we parked at a city Park & Ride in the hills above town and took a bus into town. We missed our stop and got dropped off at the final stop, so we wandered around a bit to find the Bath YMCA. By this time, Julie was hungry, thirsty, and with the heavier pack, was very happy to find the hotel. We looked around for a restaurant, and everything was either gluten-unfriendly or not available, so we went to Koh Thai near our hotel. The fish cake appetizer was excellent and so we were initially optimistic, but the meals were small, mediocre, and overpriced. We wouldn't go back. After dinner, we wandered around some more and investigated more cheap gluten-free options around Kingsmead Square so we would know where to go the next day.