This post is all about the day where my family and I finally got the chance to visit the Cotswolds, those dreamy, fairy-tale like tiny British villages near Oxford which have been on our bucket list since the time I first moved to the United Kingdom. Finally, only about six years from the day I relocated to the UK, we managed to do it with Rabbie’s Tours – and what better time to visit the gorgeous, picturesque Cotswolds than at Christmas? Here’s what went on during our trip plus a few tips and recommendations.
The Cotswolds had always been on our bucket list thanks to travel guides and Instagram. Yet, visiting seemed tricky. Scattered around the English countryside, the villages are often only reachable via car – a bit of an issue with the unpredictable British weather and the fact that Italians don’t love driving on the left. Enter Rabbie’s Tours, day tours leaving from London and covering some of the most picturesque Cotswolds villages for £65 a day or under (for concessions). Disclaimer: this is not an advertorial for Rabbie’s Tours. I just ended up booking one of their day trips because they are one of the few companies that still run them in December, close to the Christmas period (and so when my parents were around).
Rabbie’s Tours are a tour company coming from Scotland that has been operating out of London, too, in the past six years. The good thing about their tours is that they only take small groups: about 16 per bus, which helps a lot when you’re trying to drive down tiny rural villages’ main streets. Plus, it means you’re able to have a bit more of a personalised tour, without an awkward guide trying to get you to sing along or follow umbrellas. Although our lovely guide, Nick, told us some really interesting and quirky facts about the area and British history during our drive to the villages, as soon as we got to our destination we were left to wander by ourselves – which was exactly what we wanted.
Our bus left at 9.15 from the Greenline Terminal near Victoria Coach Station. For those looking to find it, it’s not in the Coach Station, but across the road, inside the swanky white building in front of the Waitrose. Follow the signs. Our first stop was Oxford, which I visited already in my teens during my summer study vacations in the UK. However, it was really good to be back in the age of Instagram and with my family. We especially loved the Bridge of Sighs and the main colleges, and having a couple of hours to hang out in this marvellous, if tiny, university city.
The next stop was Bampton, known to Downton Abbey fans because its church, St. Mary The Virgin, is one of the main sets of the popular TV series. I personally don’t watch it, but my mum loves it so it was nice to see her face light up in recognition. Bampton itself is really small, and seems miles away from the hustle and bustle of the East London where I spend most of my days. I feel that’s where I should go on a digital detox.
After Bampton we went to Bibury to walk down Arlington Row, which is apparently the most beautiful street in England due to its row of picturesque old cottages. Turns out one of its residents made the news this year, after he decided to buy and park his yellow Vauxhall right in front of the listed buildings, causing an uproar among tourists. The Vauxhall was vandalised, so it’s now been replaced with a grey version of same car. I’m not sure I get why this is less divisive, but car or no car, the village is indeed beautiful – the stuff of dreams, I would say. It looks like a fairytale town. Visiting it was partly what made the tour worthwhile, so you can’t miss it.
Our last stop, before our return to London just after 7 PM, was Burford, another typical Cotswolds village where Elizabeth Murdoch, daughter of Rupert Murdoch, is lucky enough to be living. In Burford we sat down at the Mermaid Inn for warm scones and afternoon tea. I probably had the biggest scones in my whole life and it was totally worth it – they got us all warm and ready to walk down the high street and visit the local church.
In short, my day in the Cotswolds was nothing short of marvellous. I really recommend a trip if you’re either a Londoner who cba to drive, or a tourist who, like me, thinks that driving should be on the right side of the road.