England 2015 – Day 4: Castles and Villages

I’ll admit it.  I was a bit nervous that I had built the Cotswolds up so much in my mind before this trip that the actual experience may not live up to my expectations.  It has been exactly the opposite.  Every time I turn a corner into another village, I think, “This is exactly what I pictured in my mind.”  Now I understand why the British use words like “lovely” and “charming”.  They are the only words that can begin to do justice to places like this.

Sudeley Castle
Sudeley Castle

Today started off with a visit to Sudeley Castle.  Before I say anything more, you should probably know that I am not a history person.  At all.  Names, dates, places… none of that interests me.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gained more of an appreciation for American history, and I’ve done some research into my ancestry, but that’s about the extent of my interest in history.  So learning about the history of an old castle in England was not high on my list of interests.  That being said, I figured I should at least visit one castle and learn a little about the area I’m staying in.  To be honest, I went mostly to take some pictures and figured a little history lesson wouldn’t hurt.  The castle is beautiful; not built up and over-visited like Windsor or Warwick.  It is located a mile or two outside of Winchcombe in Gloucestershire.  Approaching the castle visitor’s center, you would not imagine the beautiful castle on the other side of the entry.  The self-guided tour starts at the remains of an old tithe barn.  Built in the 15th century, the tithe barn was used to store agricultural goods and produce the local parishioners would give to the church.

Continuing the tour, you approach the main castle through a side garden.  The castle is still in use today as a family home, so only portions of it are open for touring.  Many of the rooms contain historical artifacts from various periods in the castle’s history.  Remember my disinterest in history?  I was able to move through the historical rooms pretty quickly.  A couple of the bedrooms that are open for visiting are still in use today as guest bedrooms.  After finishing the interior of the castle, I decided to take a guided tour to the church.  Located just next to the castle, the church is still used today for monthly services and special events.  It is also the place where Queen Katherine Parr is entombed, the only English Queen to be buried on private land.  The tour provided some interesting information, but I was anxious to take some photos in the garden and head for my next stop: lunch.

View from The Mount Inn, Stanton
View from The Mount Inn, Stanton

Lunch today was at the Mount Inn in Stanton.  I had read reviews online and several people have recommended it since I’ve been here.  How could I skip it?  The Mount is located in the tiny village of Stanton, at the top of a hill overlooking the village.  There is outdoor seating on the terrace, where I was able to snag the last table.  I opted to try a burger and fries (chips).  The burger was flavorful, but a different texture than what we are used to at home.  And it had some herbs and onions mixed into the burger.  I wasn’t asked how I wanted it cooked, and it came out sort of a medium/pink color.  Good, but different than I was expecting.  Every place here has malt vinegar on the table, so I’ve made good use of it on all of my chips this week.  On a side note, this was the fourth English cider I’ve tried this week.  I love cider at home, but Angry Orchard and Woodchuck don’t hold a candle to local English ciders.  Yum!

The village of Stanton
The village of Stanton

After lunch, I spent about an hour walking around the village of Stanton.  So far, my top three villages have been Blockley, Ebrington, and Stanton (not necessarily in that order).  They are all small, picturesque, and mostly devoid of tourists.  Perfect for exploring.  Like the others, Stanton has plenty of honey colored cottages and thatched roof homes.  My guidebook describes Stanton as an “almost too perfect village”.  It is easy to see why.  Stanway and Snowshill completed my afternoon tour.  Snowshill is actually one of the locations used to film “Bridget Jones’ Diary”.  There is a picture waiting to be taken of a bench and red phone booth in front of the wool church.  Unfortunately, the lighting was coming from the wrong direction, so I’m planning to pass through again tomorrow morning in the hopes the sun will cooperate.

St. Barnabas Church, Snowshill
St. Barnabas Church, Snowshill

I skipped dinner tonight in favor of an evening walk instead.  I headed up to Dover’s Hill, which is another large sheep pasture with walking trails overlooking the farms and villages nearby.  It was a picture perfect way to end the day!

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