Being blessed with youth (and time) is what has allowed us to take this trip. We have no “real” responsibilities (i.e. jobs, kids, pets, a house), so spending all our money on a seven-month adventure is not reckless, it is incredible. Once in a while, however, youth does have its disadvantages. Car rentals, for example, cost two to three times more if you are under 25. Because of this, we eliminated destinations from our list that we felt a car would be necessary. No Ireland, no Romantic Road (Germany), no drives through the French countryside. We went back and forth on whether the Cotwolds in England needed to be added to the “car necessary” list, but in the end I was simply too drawn to the cute villages and sweeping pastoral views to give up. So, after lots of research, most of which indicated I was aiming for the impossible, we decided to set up a home base in Cheltenham, which has decent transport options for exploring the smaller villages nearby.
We started our journey to the Cotswolds from Amsterdam. In order to save money we took the bus from Amsterdam to London (13 hours!!!, but we did get to go in the Chunnel, which was really cool). We spent the night in London before catching a bus to Cheltenham the next morning. Once in Cheltenham we spent a little time settling in, getting aquainted with our surroundings and grocery shopping.
For the next three days we bused around the area, visiting the towns of Winchcombe, Broadway, Snowshill, Moreton-in-Marsh, and Bourton-on-the-Water. Each town was a little different, but all of them had a special charm and are all surrounded by beautiful countryside. We had to walk the 2.5 miles from Broadway to Snowshill (there is no bus) but it was worth it, as there is a really interesting manor in Snowshill, which houses a strange collection of historical artifacts. There are rooms and rooms of old children’s toys, spinning wheels, musical instruments, bicycles (many with no brakes and a few without pedals), Samurai equipment, and old, interesting furniture.
The gardens at the manor are beautiful (all the flowers in this area are beautiful) and the views of the surrounding hills are amazing. Logan had noticed an old bicycle on the way into the manor, and after signing his life away, he was allowed to take it for a spin. His first try on the bike he nearly flipped over onto his head, which was momentarily really scary, but ended up being really funny to watch.
We had walked along the road to get to Snowshill, but for the walk back we wanted to take one of the trails through the meadows and forests. One of the docents at Snowshill gave us a hand-drawn map and we set out along Cotswold Way. We felt lost pretty much the whole time, and it took three times longer than the road had taken, but it was so, so beautiful. The trail goes through people’s property, but this is the kind of place where “No Trespassing” signs are nowhere to be seen and locals trust each other (and tourists apparently) enough to let them walk amongst their flocks of sheep. Once back in Broadway, we treated ourselves to a drink at a pub before catching the bus back.
Moreton-in-Marsh was the most disappointing of the towns (it was not as charming as the other villages), but if you ever want to go antiquing in the Cotswolds, then Moreton is the town for you! Bourton was easily the most touristy, but that is because it is quintessential Cotswolds. There is a creek running through the middle, where local children we playing alongside visiting/tourist children. Along the creek are adorable little shops, restaurants and homes. We walked in and along the water before settling along the side of the creek to read and eat some crisps.
We were able to visit five villages in our three days, but if we had been able to rent a car we could have seen a lot more. So, is it possible to visit the Cotwolds without a car? Yes. Would we recommend it? Not really. There are plenty of towns on the bus lines, but unless you are an extremely avid hiker, there are so many villages that are simply inaccessible without your own vehicle. Furthermore, most of the B&B’s that this area is known for are too far out of town centers to stay in without a car. That being said, we are really happy we went. The area is beautiful and quaint and everything I hoped it would be. I want to go back someday and explore more, but next time we will be renting a car.