There's a distinct genre of grime produced by an international flight. The ghosts of recirculated air, a sleepless night, and microwaved curry dinners always seems to haunt me for days after any length of time on an airplane. After hundreds of flights, I think I've found the cure for the air travel grunge: three days in the Cotswolds.
A few weeks back I landed at Heathrow and hopped in a car bound for Gloucestshire. I felt a tinge of sacrilege in deferring an immediate visit to beloved London upon arriving in the UK, but I was quickly convinced that the Cotswolds was the place to go. Some friends and I rented a crooked stone cottage in the honey-colored village of Winchcombe, around which I kept expecting to find a Weasley or two. After a cup of tea, we wandered through velvet green fields of wildflowers and grazing sheep, past the local castle, and through the storybook town center. Nothing makes you feel cleaner than cool grass and late summer breezes in the dusky English countryside.
As the jet leg settled in, I sat on the downy white bed and watched a gentle rain put the village to sleep. I was overcome with an irrepressible, incandescent happiness to be back in my misty, merry England.
We spent the next morning at Hidcote Manor, a National Trust site with one of the Cotswold's most beautiful gardens. We wound through the grounds for hours and basked in the English quintessence of tangled flowers and thatched roofs. Every acre held a distinct little universe – hollows of ferns, fields of billowing wheat, huge hydrangea beds, and stone paths lined with pale roses – all wonderfully alive and just a bit wild. I don't spend enough time in the company of flowers and an afternoon at Hidcote reminded me of what great friends they can be. (If you'll be in the UK for more than a week, look into getting a National Trust membership. You'll get to see a ton of magical sites for one low fee.)
We soon found ourselves in Broadway and, using some type of built-in sweets radar, immediately located Hamilton's Chocolates. After some tea and Victoria sponge, we ambled the winding lanes of the tiny town.
Driving through the Cotswolds felt like hopping from oil painting to oil painting. Every twist in the narrow roads brought a new panorama of rolling hills or wildflower fields, grazing sheep or villages built of glowy amber stone. We marveled at every perfect scene en route to the bustling market town of Chipping Campden, where we went full-British with a Sunday roast at the King's Hotel.
In the UK businesses close shop fairly early, especially on Sundays. We hurried around Chipping Campden in an attempt to leave no bookstore or antique shop unexplored before the "Closed" signs appeared. The Covent Garden Academy of Flowers and Cherry Press stood out among the cuteness.
As the daylight dimmed and the rainclouds rolled in, we rushed to find one lasat Cotswolds experience for the day. The National Trust index led us to Crickley Hill where we stumbled upon a breathtaking view of the countryside. I've always thought England looked like a perfect patchwork quilt when viewed from above. Crickley Hill let us see the full spread of emerald and jade patches, stitched together by crooked stone walls and dirt roads. We drank in the soul-nourishing scene until the rain finally won and we escaped to the cozy fireplace of our Winchcombe cottage, where a Princess Diana Netflix special and leftover Chinese takeout awaited.
Our final day swept us away in a whirlwind tour of what seemed like every village in the Cotswolds. Our first stop was Burtron-on-the-Water. We walked along the canal and through the residential streets, where we stumbled upon my drug of choice: a locally-made ceramics shop! We then popped over to both Upper and Lower Slaughter and as we walked the public footpaths, we contemplated how such beautiful villages could have such gruesome names. Hilly Burford also made the itinerary and introduced me to my first ever bookstore-hat-shop-combination-platter, The Mad Hatter. I bought a copy of Sense and Sensibility, which I lost within ten minutes.
My very favorite stop of the trip was the Daylesford Farm Shop. Farm shops are universally delightful, but the Daylesford Farm Shop was particularly perfect – bright, airy, and crisp. The shop was filled with delicious local foods, gorgeously understated home goods, and fresh flowers. The store also had a workshop space for beekeeping and flower arranging courses. If I disappear for a while, you know where to find me.
Stow-on-the-Wold is perhaps the Cotswolds' most well known market town, so it seemed like the best place to end our brief but sweet stay. A piece of Pimms cake at the Old Stocks Inn and a lunch of figs and burrata at England's oldest pub (in that order) rounded out our wonderful weekend away.
We made it halfway back to London and decided an hour in Oxford might help ease us back into city life. Now that I've found the cure for international flights, I need to find a cure for leaving the Cotswolds.