After being locked down for the majority of 2020, it was very exciting to head off on a trip, and unlike the usual getaway, it was great to explore closer to home. I have never been to any of these areas before and it’s always extra exciting to go somewhere totally new. I had such an amazing time so wanted to share a few highlights to help you to plan your next trip anywhere close to these English treasures.
Cotswolds Way / Chipping Campden
I rerouted my direct journey in order to stop at this beautiful, quaint little town. The buildings down the main high street tell a story of times past with the Market Square as a central historic feature. I stopped here mainly to enjoy a walk after 3 hours of driving. This is where the famous 102-mile Cotswolds Way walk both begins and ends. I began the route, following the signs, past Market Square then taking a right up past the church… but then skipped a mere 100-miles or so to head straight to the end point, walking along a hillside with the fluffy sheep and colourful wild flowers to admire the open views.
I didn’t know this pace existed until I began seeing vast purple fields – it was really quite stunning! I then saw a sign for Cotswolds Lavender so got rid of my Google Maps and followed on. Many of these farms are private but you can pay entry to a huge one which is £4 for adults. As soon as I entered, I wanted to run through the fields, it feels so good to gallivant through nature. The aroma in the air was heavenly but I still kept having a good rub between my fingers to continuously breathe in the intensity of the lavender flowers. Lavender is used so commonly for relaxation and the smell made me feel very safe and content.
As well as the purple fields, there was a beautiful meadow of blooming yellow flowers which I enjoyed a stroll through. There is a small shack-style take-away and shop for refreshments as well as lavender infused cosmetics and home products.
I was fortunate to enjoy the best weather during my stay – clear blue skies and summer sun, still with a subtle breeze and the odd blowing of clouds above. My friend took me on a guided tour all over! We wandered through the park, farmers market, bulk shop; along the riverside, through the streets of Gloucester Road, Bishopston, Redland, Clifton and up to the observatory to lookout over Clifton Suspension Bridge.
I absolutely loved the vibe in Bristol, so liberal and easy-going. One day we met more friends and enjoyed an amazing picnic in St Andrews park, we could smell BBQs, see people playing, chat the afternoon away and relax in the lovely sun, it was perfect.
On my last evening, we got take-away from a vegan Persian. I called in advance and asked if we could bring our own containers which they agreed to very easily, the staff were really lovely. I raided my friend’s cupboard stocks and took containers down to collect the four mezze plates for £16. Honestly it was a small amount, and this is clearly meant more like a starter or to be enjoyed with extra bread and dips but we still had some picnic goodies so added that and enjoyed our tastes of Persia. Of course eating out is always going to be far more expensive than cooking yourself due to all of overheads they have to pay as a business!
Wow, where to begin. These huge stones are mesmerising, especially when considering just how long ago they arrived. Not that we’ll ever know for sure exactly when, why or how they were put there but many researchers have put a huge amount of energy into this and it’s widely believed that this modern-day attraction was built back in 2500-3000 BC as a centre for worship thanks to a heck of a lot of community action! It’s said to be the most architecturally sophisticated prehistoric stone circle in the world and marks both the longest and shortest day of the year.
I was fortunate to visit at this time of social distancing which meant that everyone had to book. Apparently, it is usually a lot more busy that it was for us on this beautiful Sunday morning so we really got to enjoy the trip back in time, speculating about who, what, why, when and where they acquired such stones. There is a great free audio guide to download providing lots of information, we listened to this on the drive home.
I absolutely loved Glastonbury and got so much out of my visit. Due to the pandemic, the main high street was closed to cars in order to provide more space for pedestrians; there were also sadly many shops and cafes shut down and of course lots of extra precautions for social distancing and sanitising. I still really enjoyed wandering and looking in at the windows full of crystals, hemp clothes, vegan food and pagan literature, maps and artwork.
I ate at the original vegan café: Rainbow’s End and had a wonderful salad bowl for just £4.50. The woman serving was so calm and lovely and the outdoor, yet sheltered, seating was the perfect environment to enjoy my fresh food in. The bowl was deep and she piled it high with the 4 salads of the day.
The myth of Avalon, an isle of enchantment, is associated with the Tor, making it a hugely sacred place. The Tor is honoured for its healing powers and has been worshipped by a variety of different groups. The Druids (wise Celtic leaders who honour and are attuned to the importance of the natural world) utilised the Tor from 2,500 BC as an initiation centre for priests and priestesses. The ruin of the 14th-century church can be seen for miles due to the vast flat land that lays all around this eye-catching hill. The walk up was wonderful and it feels very humbling to sit at the top and look out across the vast expanse of beautiful greenery.
I only stopped into Bath for a swim! I was so keen to plunge after so many months without that freshwater feeling. I am all about the cold morning showers and I love an indulgent bath so a combo of the two in natural water really is a treat. Seeing pictures and hearing form the locals, this is a hotspot that can get very crowded. Somehow it was practically empty when I got there. It was a Monday afternoon that had turned a little grey with a tiny sprinkle of rain… just the recipe to dissipate the crowds! For me it was heavenly, such a calm and gentle atmosphere. I enjoyed a dip then sat watching and listening to the fluid water – one of life’s greatest teachers.
I planned to make a little detour through the Peak District on my drive back up north and research spots over on the easterly side. I read about Dovedale and headed right to it. However, this was a mistake. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful, particularly as you walk further on past the steppingstones but of course, I should have known since it was the first thing that popped up when I researched the area; it’s a major tourist destination and therefore full of tourists! I’d rather hang with the sheep and should have just stopped at one of the many lovely spots I drove through but instead paid 3 quid to park in a loud and busy spot. Lovely spot if you’re looking for a nice morning/afternoon with the kids to meander on the steppingstones but not exactly a country escape into the quiet.
A short stop to stretch the legs; this is another quaint little village with lots of charm, colourful gardens and a fair few chippies!