Monday, 3 November 2014

A slice of country life .. Idyllic Cotswolds charm

I'm always happy to get away and having a weekend off when there's nothing pressing that needs to be done at home, there's absolutely no reason not to. Being so close to continental Europe I could have gone anywhere .. Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam .. all fab places to spend a weekend but this time I chose to be closer to home with no trains or planes to catch. I just wanted to hop in the car and drive for a couple of hours and find myself surrounded by fields and gently rolling hills dotted with sheep .. and what better choice than the Cotswolds.

We arrived in the village of Burford on Friday afternoon, checked into The Highway Inn and wandered down the high street to have afternoon tea in the renowned Huffkins bakery and tearooms. They have wonderful produce for sale in the shop next door and I managed to come away with a bag full of goodies for gifts! Apparently their Christmas cake is 'to-die-for' .. a secret recipe made with locally sourced ingredients .. I look forward to a slice or two.

The weather was positively gorgeous for the time of year. Unseasonally warm and sunny at 21C .. it was a lovely surprise. I expected grey misty mornings and possibly rain and I actually wouldn't have minded .. I had already visualised taking walks through the woods all rugged up for the cold. I don't like to let the weather phaze me. For a city girl like me the thing I noticed about being in the Cotswolds is the quietness .. there is no motorway noise coming from the distance as is noticeable in many other parts of the country. 

Saturday morning after breakfast we went to visit the Chedworth Roman Villa which was about a 15 minute drive away from Burford. The roads were empty as we meandered the beautiful partially stonewalled country lanes through undulating hills, past fields of dying sweet corn crops and with brightly coloured pheasants flying overhead.

After spending a couple of hours in Chedworth we drove through more very narrow country roads for about 20 minutes to the village of Northleach. A friend had recommended a great place to eat The Wheatsheaf Inn. There didn't seem to be much going on in this tiny town but the Inn was very busy and we were lucky to get there a little on the early side to secure a table for lunch. We only wanted a light bite but what we had was absolutely delicious .. spicey roasted pumpkin soup and the cheese souffle .. cooked to perfection. Their New Year's Eve party looks like fun too .. rogues, wenches, highwaymen, scoundrels and villains and promising 'thoroughly disgraceful behaviour'. If you're interested I suggest you book now!

Moving on we then drove up to Stow-on-the-Wold, an ancient market town with a town square and a wide variety of shops, antiques and places to eat. It's larger and busier than Burford and we spent an hour or so browsing before heading back to relax before dinner.

The Feathered Nest in Nether Westcote was another restaurant which came highly recommended by a friend and I couldn't wait to go. We were told that cabs were few in the area so we booked one in advance through our hotel. As we waited in the bar it got later and later and it became evident that our car was not coming. The manageress at the Highway Inn came to our rescue and offered to drive us and got us there on time .. we were very grateful to her .. thank you Michelle! I didn't really relish the thought of driving myself and not be able to sample a good wine with my meal!

We had drinks at the bar which featured some unusual bar stools, probably not the most comfortable or practical (for ladies anyway) but quirky! We then moved to a lounge area (with the only open fire of the weekend) and ordered our food before being shown to our table. The wine list is extensive with wines ranging from around £30 to around £700 and there is a somellier there to offer his expert advice. The food was most delicious and lived up to all our expectations and more .. between us we had starters of monkfish and crab, to follow grouse and pork .. the dessert was the pièce de résistance .. pistachio souffle with chocolate ice cream .. light, fluffy, delicious, superb!!

However, the service on the night was not what I would call exceptional. I won't go into it but we did tell them and they took it on board so hopefully it was because they were short staffed on the night. It wouldn't prevent us going again. We did also manage to get a cab back too!

Sunday morning brought with it rain so we decided to grab a few goodies from the local produce stores and head back to London before the build up of traffic. A fabulous weekend in the beautiful Cotswolds .. would I go back? In a heartbeat!!

ps .. the food at the Highway Inn was also very good as were the breakfasts!

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