Having resolved to travel at least once a month this year, in mid-February we settled for a country getaway. Destination: The Cotswolds. Because where else says midwinter romance like the Cotswold countryside?
With a few days in summer visiting the area, we had a couple of stops in mind and eventually settled on Stow-on-the-Wold. Competition is fierce for the most beautiful village in this area of outstanding natural beauty. However, Stow is probably one of the finest.
We arrived in Stow mid-afternoon on a Sunday. I was half expecting the crowds to be waning on this half-heartedly sunny afternoon. But alas, fellow journeyers had had the same brilliant idea of mooching around in the village. Our first stop was the charity shops, as has become a habit for me. For a little gem of a village, Stow does boast a good share of treasure troves.
Just off the market square I discovered my favourite: The Children’s Air Ambulance Shop. As well as donated good, this shop also features a specialist accessories department. Like moth to a flame of course, my attention quickly turned to handbags, and one in particular which I bagsied (do excuse the pun!)
The Cotswolds seemed confused about the weather as within one hour we had at least two seasons and a half. First part of the hour was dark, then it got drizzly and finally we had glorious sunshine – luckily before we set back on the road to Cheltenham. Fortunately, cosied up in my extreme polo neck oversized khaki jumper from Femme Luxe I was cosy enough to shed my coat.
After admiring the gorgeous architecture and quaint shops for a while, we headed over to Coach House Coffee, a small but perfectly formed, and what’s more dog-friendly coffee shop. Mr O opted for mocha while I decided to taste their turmeric latte. So glad I did. Just the little winter warmer one needs.
One more spot of bargain hunting in the Blue Cross shop round the corner and we were back on the road.
We arrived in Cheltenham just in time for check-in at the scrumptious No 38 The View. If you did ever wonder where the name of this amazing boutique hotel came about, it’s simple. It is a gorgeous Georgian townhouse situated on No. 38 Evesham Road and opposite is the park – can’t be any more strategically placed for us dog owners.
Of the Lucky Onion group, No38 The Park is possibly the best stay you can get in Cheltenham. The wide, black and white tiled floor of the hallway, past a vast, stunning antique wooden drinks cabinet leads to a light and airy private dining room complete with a skylight, convex mirrors and doors opening on to a paved terrace.
Each of the 13 bespoke bedroom interiors are all individually designed. Antique roll top baths, geometric tile work, eclectic art taking your breath away. Super king-size beds, with Egyptian cotton linens and mohair throws, perfect for those long lie-ins. Bottles of Bramley toiletries, made in England using natural ingredients, to keep you primed and polished. And a delightful minibar with a range of quirky snacks.
No.38 offers a stay you wish wouldn’t ever end and makes you kick yourself for booking just one night. We stayed in room 9 on the top floor with views of the park from the window on each side of the free standing roll top bath, antique furniture and quirky artwork seamlessly coming together to offer a blend of contemporary chic with olde worlde charm and a doggie bed and bowl for Doodles.
While we wanted to explore Cheltenham some more that evening and wanted to dine out, the next morning we dashed back to the dining room for breakfast. But not before being treated to a breakfast tray of freshly squeezed orange juice and croissants. This was probably the only let-down of our stay as the full English was not much to write home about, sausages lacking in flavour and bacon a little on the overdone and chewy side.
In the grand Georgian front room which feels more like a house than a hotel – No.38 does not have a reception, instead check-ins are completed on the laptop on a cabinet, I just had to play dress up. What’s better than my Femme Luxe jumpsuit. Made of comfy lightweight ribbed material, this black high necked jumpsuit is comfortable yet classy. With a pair of heels and minimal accessories, it makes for a sleek, sophisticated look. Perfect of course for such a sleek, sophisticated setting.
With a couple of more hours to walk around the city, it was back into cosy knits, this time wrapped up in my extreme polo neck oversized mustard Femme Luxe jumper. Spring-like temperatures meant I could lose the coat for the day.
We pottered around a few charity shops (I’d highly recommend British High Foundation book shop off he High Street for your second hand book cravings), stumbled upon the oldest shop in Cheltenham and discovered Cheltenham Minster with St Matthews. The only surviving medieval building in Cheltenham was a pleasant surprise as we discovered it only as a result of a short cut.
Finally it was time to say goodbye, already plotting our return when it’s a little warmer, or perhaps later in the year for the Cheltenham Literary Festival. In the meantime though, we just had to stop one more time in Stow on the way home for another quick coffee and a look around the medieval built St Edward’s Church.
The two trees flanking the entrance to the church are widely believed to be the inspiration for JRR Tolkien’s door to Moria in The Lord of the Rings. Although it can never be proven, JRR Tolkien was known to visit the Cotswolds so there’s good reason to believe that they were. Especially as the Bell Inn pub – just 5 miles away in Moreton-in-Marsh – is thought to be the inspiration to the Prancing Horse pub which also appears in the book. Of course we had to have a snoop and take a snap before heading out of Stow. Once again resolving to come back another day to spend a little longer and perhaps even overnight in this charming little village.