Last week I took a very special family group out on a private tour of the Cotswolds; these were my first American guests. At long last! I have missed the positivity and warm company of our U.S. friends, and this group did not disappoint.
I knew the weather was going to be a bit cold and grey, so I planned for us to have lots of opportunities to keep warm and dry. We had a cosy inn booked for our lunch, plus delis, boutiques, churches and a teeny little museum to nip into when we needed to warm up. Plus of course, lots of fresh air and countryside views!
I collected my guests from their accommodation, as arranged, and we headed to Stow on the Wold, the highest market town in the Cotswolds. My guests had asked in advance if I could take them to explore inside a lovely bookshop. I took them to Borshoi Bookshop, which is an independent bookshop selling beautiful coffee table books, books about the Cotswolds, children's books and modern bestsellers. It's a happy place, and my guests came out laden with literary delights!
Not content with just bookshops to show them, I insisted upon a visit to Stow's beautiful chocolate shop, The Cotswold Chocolate Company . Even through our face masks, the scent of chocolate is delicious. More shopping bags and another tick in the approval tick box from my guests.
I always love to have a mooch in the estate agent windows on Church Lane so led my group up to take a look, while I popped off to buy everyone a much needed coffee, and they chose their dream Cotswold home.
Every time I visit Stow, I discover something new about the place. Last time it was the wonderful independent pop-up shop. The Curated Store. It's tucked away in Talbot Square. If you are looking for something unique to wear or for your home, do take a look. We didn't have time on this visit, but I highly recommend you go.
Because I am such a diligent (and modest) tour planner, I often watch documentaries about the Cotswolds in my spare time. Last night I came across one of our national treasures, Pam Ayres and her series on the Cotswolds. If you don't know who Pam is, she is a quintessential Cotswold-born English lady - a poet, broadcaster and entertainer and is excellent cheer up value, if you're in a need of a boost. The series is delightful, and a nice bit of validation that she visited lots of the places I like to take my guests, though Bourton on the Water is a bit of a pain because it is far too busy with cars and people, and I think there are far nicer places I can take you.
Anyway, I digress. Continuing with my tour, from Stow, we headed over to Filkins in Gloucestershire.
I wrote about this lovely village in a previous blog post. The village has its own tiny museum housed in a classic Cotswold cottage. It is authentic and simple, and the items on display tell a fascinating tale of life back in the 1700 and 1800's. My group loved all the history, and our museum curator, Diane told us all about the items.
We had a lunch booking at the Five Alls pub, where I ate the tastiest mushroom risotto I've ever had, and the others enjoyed their meals too (varying from gluten free dishes, to juicy roast dinners).
I insisted on a post lunch stretch around Filkins and led my guests around the village and into the Norman church. It's set in a peaceful and hidden location up a driveway towards some imposing Cotswold houses, it's so tranquil there. We paused en route to allow guests to hug some of the ancient Beech and Oak trees, I don't think they'd been hugged in a while, so everyone benefited from that little bit of spiritual enhancement. I told you these tours are good for the soul.
Last stop of the day was to visit Burford. I do love coming here, and the shop owners are starting to get to know me. In particular, Cindy the Pastry Chef and Director of Hugo Lovage Patisserie. Her cakes are so beautiful, and when opportunity arises, I like to get a box of goodies from her to treat my guests.
We explored the Burford High Street until dusk, when all the pretty fairy lights from Christmas turned on up and down the High Street, and then it was time to return my group to their accommodation and say our fond farewells.
I received some very kind feedback from the group after their tour. This is what they said:
Jan: "Our tour of the Cotswolds with Cotswold Teacup Tours was fabulous. Victoria was knowledgeable, fun and knew the “off the beaten path” shops & places to take us. I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to this beautiful, historic area. And next tour around, Victoria will be the lead! Thank you so very much, Victoria"
Alan: "Victoria was engaging, knowledgeable, entertaining and fun. Her personalized and flexible tour provided an in depth and care free look at the Cotswolds. This was a perfect tour for the out of town guest habituated to driving on the wrong side of the road. Kudos to Victoria and Cotswold Teacup Tours. Looking forward to our next outing!"