2105 – The Cotswolds & Oxford
AT A GLANCE
Welcome to the Cotswolds, as quintessentially English as afternoon tea.
We have been operating garden tours in the Cotswolds, sometimes twice a year, since 2002 and we know it well. This tour combines some of England's very best gardens, the charm and beauty of Cotswold's villages and the comfort of a splendid country inn – all set against a backdrop of some of England's prettiest countryside.
Few areas of England can compete with the wide array of quality gardens that the Cotswolds offers, indeed, we could possibly replicate this tour, without any loss in quality, and without duplicating a garden. World-class gardens abound. Arts & Crafts gardens, like Hidcote Manor, the garden visited in 1931 by Vita Sackville-West and her husband, Harold Nicolson, the then new owners of Sissinghurst Castle, and like, Kiftsgate Court, gardened by three generations of women. Historic landscapes at Sezincote, Buscot and Rousham, and contemporary gardens at Upton Wold and Broughton Grange.
The Cotswolds, more properly the Cotswold Hills, is a range of rolling yellow oolitic limestone hills running roughly southwest to northeast, some 25 miles/40 km wide and 90 miles/145 km long, and largely to the counties of Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire. It is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is especially characterised by picturesque market towns and villages, each of a slightly different hue of stone, varying from a warm grey to a rich, deep honey colour.
Since Norman times the Cotswolds have been inextricably associated with sheep and wool production, and it is largely the medieval wool trade that made the Cotswolds the prosperous place it remains today. The Cotswolds are notable, too, for being the natural home of the Arts and Crafts Movement, examples of which we will see throughout the tour.
The city is home to the University of Oxford, first mentioned in 12th-century records, it is oldest in the English-speaking world. It has been an important centre of motor manufacturing too, ever since Morris Motors was established in the city in 1910, and is the principal production site for Minis.
Sleeping & Eating
We will stay in the heart of the Cotswolds, at The Slaughters Country Inn, in the impossibly pretty village of Lower Slaughter and, when we dine out, we will dine at two pubs, firstly at a long-standing favourite of ours, The Village Pub, Barnsley, and secondly, at The Chequers Inn, Ettington, a new-to-us--last-year pub, and one worth returning to.
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3 – 9 June 2021 | 7 days
DAY 1 – 3 JUN
Tim will collect you from either Stansted Airport or from the Sheraton Heathrow Hotel, immediately north of Terminal 5, Heathrow Airport and, once we are all together, we drive to Banbury – of 'Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross' fame – for lunch at the Hillier Garden Centre, before an afternoon visit to Broughton Grange. Set in 350 acres of parkland, farmland and open meadow, with planting that owes its origins to the Victorian era, the gardens were brought back to the modern era when Stephen Hester bought the estate in 1992 and commissioned leading landscape designer Tom Stuart-Smith to transform the six acre south facing field into a walled garden. Broughton Grange now represents one of the most significant private contemporary gardens in Britain.
It is not too far from our hotel, The Slaughters Country Inn, in Lower Slaughter, a stunningly picturesque Cotswold village, where we will arrive in good time to check-in, relax and enjoy a drink before dinner at the hotel.
Today's total driving is about 160 miles/255 km, setting off from Stansted, or about 95 miles/150 km, setting off from Heathrow
DAY 2 – 4 JUN
Our day begins at Upton Wold, an exceptional private garden created by Ian and Caroline Bond since 1973, and one of the very finest gardens we visit. Indeed, it is astonishing to think that in 1973 there was no garden, just a piece of land around an old house, two very ancient yews, an imposing holly, some old apple trees and a very beautiful view.
After morning coffee, at Upton Wold, we visit Batsford Arboretum for lunch and an exploration of its wide-ranging collections – some 2,850 specimens, including the National Collection of Japanese Flowering Cherries. Its history is interesting too, especially if you are familiar with the Mitford sisters.
Our final visit is to neighbouring Sezincote, an extraordinary English county house built in the 'Indian Style', a unique combination of Hindu and Muslim architecture! The gardens, designed with the help of Humphrey Repton, are a romantic landscape of temples, grottoes, waterfalls and canals, reminiscent of the Taj Mahal, and we shall enjoy these until we return to Lower Slaughter for dinner.
Today's driving is about 80 miles/130 km
DAY 3 – 5 JUN
We start our day in Burford, one of the Cotswolds principal market towns and one of the finest, before a morning visit to Kelmscott Manor, the one-time Cotswold retreat of William Morris – quite possibly the 19th century's most celebrated designer and key figure in the Arts & Crafts Movement – and of his friend and colleague Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the Pre-Raphaelite artist.
We will have lunch at Kelmscott, and then the afternoon at nearby Buscot Park an Italianate country house, built between 1779 and 1783, now the home of Lord Farringdon and his extensive and fabulous art collection. Surrounded by pleasure gardens, the former kitchen gardens, on one side of the house, now shelter the ever-colourful Four Seasons garden and, in an unusual marriage of Italianate formality with an English parkland landscape, woodland walks lead to a splendid Harold Peto water garden, on the other side of the house. In all, superb art and a top-rate garden in a stunning situation.
We dine out at a long-time favourite, The Village Pub, Barnsley, on our way home to Lower Slaughter.
Today's driving is about 100 miles/160 km
DAY 4 – 6 JUN
After a suitably lazy start for a Sunday, we spend the morning meandering along the Coln Valley, stopping in Bibury, to visit Arlington Row, a row of 17th-century weavers' cottages, and stopping again, at the Saxon church of St Andrew in Coln Rogers, before retracing our steps for lunch and a midday shop at the excellent Burford Garden Company, a garden centre and so much else besides.
We spend the afternoon in other peoples' private gardens, hopefully in the idyllic village of Stanton, enjoying their 15 or so private village gardens, courtesy of the National Garden Scheme (NGS). During the year, some 3,000-4,000 gardens, more than half of them private gardens, open their gates to the public and donate an entrance fee to the NGS. Indeed, by opening their gardens to the public, gardeners have been raising money for nursing charities, and the NGS is now the most significant charitable funder of nursing charities in the country, having donated a total of £55m since 1927.
We return to Lower Slaughter for dinner.
Today's driving is about 90 miles/145 km
DAY 5 – 7 JUN
We spend the whole of today in Oxford, a city most associated with its university, the oldest such establishment in the English-speaking world, where teaching has existed since at least 1096, but from Alice in Wonderland to Morse and Harry Potter, and from boutique shopping to exceptional heritage, there is a great deal to occupy a day in Oxford and, to help you get the most out of your day, we take you on a guided walking tour with superb, specialist guides from Footprint Tours.
There is plenty of time to explore and and visit collages and museums, before we meet for tea and scones at the Old Parsonage Hotel, after which we will return to Lower Slaughter for dinner.
Today's driving is about 40 miles/65 km
DAY 6 – 8 JUN
We return to the northern slopes of the Cotswold Hills, starting the day with a visit to Chipping Campden, a glorious, busy, honey-stoned Cotswold market town, where we will visit St James' Church, a fine example of a medieval wool church, before lunch and an extended visit at Hidcote Manor, the world-famous Arts & Crafts gardens created by Lawrence Johnston. Johnston, an American, settled in Britain with his mother, who bought Hidcote in 1907. By 1910 he had begun work on the garden and by the 1920s he had 12 gardeners working for him. It was his life's work and is one of England's most influential 20th-century gardens.
Later in the afternoon we visit neighbouring Kiftsgate Court, another Arts & Crafts garden with far-reaching views over the Vale of Evesham. The home of the Kiftsgate Rose, it is a romantic garden, unusually a garden that has twice passed from mother to daughter, from Heather Muir, who created the garden, to Anne Chambers, her grand-daughter, who gardens it today.
Dinner at The Chequers Inn, Ettington.
Today's driving is about 50 miles/80 km
DAY 7 – 9 JUN
Our final day starts at Daylesford Organics, a farmshop par excellence, where we pick up supplies for our picnic lunch, and then set off to the historically-important 18th-century William Kent landscape garden at Rousham House, one of the few gardens of this date to have escaped alteration. To the side of the house are two large walled gardens, complete with herbaceous borders, parterres and an original pigeon house.
The Sheraton Heathrow Hotel is just over an hour away and, depending upon traffic, a little more than that again to Stansted Airport, where the tour ends and where we will be in good time for your evening flight home. For those of you staying on in Britain, and not wanting to return to either Heathrow Airport or Stansted Airport, we will assist you in getting to your next destination.
Today's driving is about 130 miles/210 km
Accuracy & Faithfulness
We endeavour to be as accurate as possible, in describing our itineraries, and as faithful to the itinerary as possible, when undertaking the tour, but changes can occur, either necessarily or unavoidably.