When it comes to travel, I usually go for foreign destinations that promise sun and warm weather compared to grey and rainy UK. However, with sun shining this August, my hubby and I decided to be more spontaneous and visit English countryside famous for its perfectly groomed pastures, idyllic small villages and beautiful winding country roads. So with the keys to the rental car in hands, we set off on a weekend adventure to the Cotswolds, one of the most beautiful parts of England.
Located just a couple of hours away from London, Cotswolds is perfect for a short break. Knowing that there is much to see in short time, we decided to pick a couple of attractions – Sudeley Castle and Gardens on Day 1 and Snowshills Lavender fields on Day 2.
Day 1 – Sudeley Castle and Gardens
A visit to Sudeley Castle in Broadway is a perfect combination of historic and relaxing experience.
The Castle is over 1,000 years old and its exhibits take you on a journey through its vibrant history. It has been home to few royals, namely King Richard III and Henry VIII’s last wife Queen Katherine Parr, and is now residence of the Dent-Broklehurst family.
Various rooms are dedicated to different stages of castle’s history, from Tudors to current owners, who have kindly opened their private rooms to public giving the Castle a homey and intimate feel. But no photos were allowed for privacy reasons so unfortunately I can’t show you those rooms.
But what I really loved about the Castle is its vast grounds, ponds with gold fish and beautifully groomed gardens.
There are 10 individual gardens, lovingly looked after by the lady of the house, Lady Ashcombe, who employs leading landscape designers to create horticultural masterpieces. One of them is the Knot Garden based on the intricate geometric design of Queen Elizabeth I’s dress and featuring a Morrish-style mosaic fountain in the center.
How beautiful is this garden sculpture of the Queen Elizabeth I?
The gardens are so lush and secluded with endless pathways and arches – a perfect place to get lost and relax from city’s hassle. Each garden is filled with aromas of blooming flowers and herbs.
The Queen’s garden is one of the biggest here and is named after four queens who visited the Castle – Queen Katherine Parr, Queen Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey and Queen Elizabeth I. Surrounded by skillfully shaped trees and hedges, it features a beautiful collection of seasonal flowers and displays over 70 varieties of roses, which are in full bloom around June.
Next to the Castle we found beautiful St Mary’s Church, where a wedding ceremony just finished and happy newlyweds and the rest of the wedding party spread over the Queen’s garden. Rebuilt in 1855, the church is small and cosy inside. It is a last refuge of Katherine Parr, whose tomb is tucked away in the corner.
The Castle even has its own peasantry with some of the rarest kinds of pheasants from around the world. This particular breed was so colorful, I had to take a photo!
There are also a couple of lovely cafes to have an afternoon tea while enjoying views of Cotswolds countryside and a gift shop should you want to take a small memento home.
After we left the Castle, we walked around the fields where sheep grazed quietly before we set off for our stay at the Tewkesbury Park hotel in Tewkesbury for the night.
Tewkesbury Park hotel is a golfing resort set on 176 acres of vast land with 18-hole golf course, a fitness centre and indoor pool, tennis courts, a restaurant and three bars. Our room was really cosy with English countryside feel to it and a view on the golf course.
No noise, no traffic, a perfect spot for relaxing!
The hotel was quite elegant with plush furniture, modern finishings and a cool combination of colors.
Before heading for dinner, we walked around hotel’s grounds enjoying a truly stunning sunset and witnessing nature in its glory!
Day 2 – Snowshill Lavender fields
After a powerful English breakfast at the hotel, we set off to see lavender fields in Snowshill. I have to say I heard about them in the past but after seeing photos on friend’s Facebook page, I realized I had to see them myself while they are still in bloom.
Snowshill Lavender is a functioning family-run farm that has been in business since 2000. Since then it has become so famous that it now attracts thousands of tourists from UK and all over the world. The great thing about the farm is that you can see different steps of lavender oil production, from harvesting plants to crops being steam distilled and oil extracted. It is then used for a variety of wellbeing, beauty and even food products, some of which you can find at farm’s shop.
The farm grows 3 species, 2 of which are used for oil production, and over 35 varieties of lavender. This explains different shades and colors of lavender blooms. The scent was unreal and I felt like I was in nature’s spa!
Did you know that apart from its relaxing and calming effect, lavender has been traditionally used as immune system’s booster, natural antiseptic and analgesic. And lavender oil works magic on skin conditions, such as psoriasis, scarring and eczema.
So, I had to get few goodies at farm’s lovely gift shop: a slumber spray and gel for relaxed sleep, chocolate that actually tasted like lavender soap (not my thing!) and bath salts.
Last but not least, before we left lavender farm I had to try its famous lavender scones and tea. Yes, dried lavender is not just used for wheat warmers, sachets or drawer liners, but also in teas and cooking. Fish and meat can be seasoned with dried lavender, while lavender essence is lovely in fruit compotes, jams and mousses.
The farm makes delicious lavender scones, traditionally served with clotted cream and jam. I also decided to try Earl Grey with lavender tea, which you can also buy at the gift shop.
Overall, it was an amazing weekend. The weather was great, the landscape was stunning and being away from city hassle and close to nature was exactly what we needed to recharge the batteries. Cotswolds is a picturesque part of England and I look forward exploring more of its hidden gems next time!