We all awoke well rested despite our 2am trip to Tesco, though we did wake a little later than we would have liked. With a packed itinerary, any time lost sleeping was one more thing we couldn’t do that day.
We had a great send off from the Oxford Hotel. As part of your stay, they provided a delicious hot breakfast buffet with more than you can possibly eat and it certainly helped to recharge our batteries and start the day off right.
The staff at the Oxford Hotel were impeccable and helped get all our bags back to our car – it was such a nice place to stay, we were a little sad to be leaving but we had to move on to our next destination.
That was the last we saw of Oxford and after being wowed by the City Centre, we resolved to come back and give Oxford a proper visit on its own on a future trip. We can’t wait to go back!
Our first stop on our itinerary on our first proper day in England was the bustling market town of Burford.
Burford dates back to the Saxon period of English history and there’s always been some sort of settlement along the River Windrush in Burford. The town is populated by buildings built in rich yellow Cotswold stone. Everything is old and it couldn’t be more lovely (or picture postcard as the English say).
We parked our car in the town’s Car Park, which is near the local church and next to the river. I remarked that in Britain, even their Car Parks are picturesque as we watched ducks glide down the river on our walk from the car park to the town centre.
Burford is bustling. It’s a market town and also on a main road, so it’s far from being a quiet and peaceful place.
That said, the town is filled with lovely old shops, antique stores, restaurants, historical points of interest and much more. We explored the shops. Jackie found a lovely knitting store and purchased a pair of knitting needles. Of course, I found the nearest bookstore and began building the trip library (which by the end of the trip would need its own bag).
While we shopped, I snapped pictures and video for our British Travel Web Series. We opted for lunch at Huffkins, a tea shop and restaurant that’s famous in the local area. We didn’t have a proper sit down lunch but instead had a full tea service along with cake.
Huffkins is a perfect stop for Tea. They’re teas are delicious and their scones are to die for. We had an amazing tea lunch there and would definitely make a special trip there to go back. The service was good and they had the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had.
After that we explored the town some more and headed for Burford Chuch, which we’d heard was particularly beautiful. We were greeted by a beautiful English church yard in full bloom. It’s free to go inside the church and we took advantage of the opportunity.
Burford Church was founded in 1175 and was funded by rich wool merchants made wealthy by Cotswold Wool. The Church has a bloody notoriety as it was used as a temporary prison by Oliver Cromwell after the English Civil War and he personally executed several rebel soldiers in the Churchyard for their refusal to follow orders.
The interior of the church features beautiful artwork, carvings and while we were there trees. Also inside, we sure to take a look at the famous Turret Clock, one of the oldest mechanical clocks in Britain that has been ticking away since 1685.
The Burford Church was a quiet and peaceful stop and we highly recommend a walk through the gardens surrounding the church which offer up lovely views of the surrounding countryside with plenty of benches to stop and have a rest.
Cotswold Wildlife Park
Our next destination was something we were rather looking forward to – the Cotswold Wildlife Park. Set in the grounds of the stately home Bradwell Grove, the Cotswold Wildlife park was founded in 1970 as a way to save the gardens and the house to be enjoyed by the public.
It’s a family run concern that also happens to be one of the most popular zoological attractions in Britain. The estate is vast – with many different types of animals on display from birds, mammals, carnivores, insects and more. There’s something for every animal interest here.
For us, the highlight of our trip to the Cotswold Wildlife park was the train. Their narrow gauge Railway runs through the estate and gives you an excellent overview of everything. You can see all the animals up close as you whizz by and you get great views of the stately home itself. Anglotopia Jr. particularly loved the train and enjoyed the ride immensely (as did his train loving father).
The park features a great playground area for the kids that Anglotopia Jr. also loved. There’s plenty for kids to do and have fun. Cotswold Wildlife Park is an excellent family day out and while it can be a little on the pricey side, it’s well worth the money for all that’s on offer. Don’t miss the award-winning Walled Garden which features a nice walk, nice flowers and interesting animals.
My only real complaint about the place is that the house itself, Bradwell Grove, is not really open to the public nor does it offer tours. You can walk through the ground level where there are bathrooms or enjoy the restaurant, but the house itself isn’t open to the public, which is a shame when it really dominates the landscape, making you want to see inside.
We recommend allocating at least most of a day at the Cotswold Wildlife park.
Cotswold Woolen Weavers
This really piqued our interest because Jackie is a knitter and one of her goals for the trip was to pick up some authentic English made wool. So naturally we thought Cotswold Woolen Weavers would be the place for that. So, after our stop at the Cotswold Wildlife Park, we made our way down the road to the old mill in Filkins as it was not far.
While it’s a working Woolen mill making beautiful woolen clothes – plenty of which they sell in their store – they don’t sell knitting yarn. They do sell plenty of beautiful things made in their mill – including wool jackets and hats. I’m now the proud owner of a new cool Tweed Cap that was made on site. Prices are a little on the high side in the shop, but you’re paying for English quality and there’s something satisfying about buying an item where it was made. It’s free to explore the grounds, artifacts and of course, the shop.
Cotswold Woolen Weavers is mostly a shop – there are little bits of museum type displays where you can learn about the history of wool weaving. The owners, Jane and Richard Martin have collected many cool artifacts over the years. There’s also a nice cafe on site that looks out on a nice courtyard. I was a little disappointed that the mill wasn’t operating that day, so we couldn’t see their beautiful old equipment in action. Cotswold Woolen Weavers is worth a stop if you’re interested in heritage behind Cotswold Wool and want to pick up well made wool goods but don’t stop expecting a full museum experience as it’s more of a ‘shopseum.’
Our next and final stop for the day was Kelmsott Manor. I was really looking forward to this as it was the home to William Morris, the founder of the Arts & Crafts design movement. It was his home from 1871 until his death in 1896 and current state is much as it was left when he died.
The interiors features artifacts he gathered, his famous designs and it’s very evocative of Arts & Crafts movement.
The house is only open to the public in the summer months, so you have to go at the right time. A note that the free car park is quite a trek from the house itself. The pathway is well marked, but wear comfortable shoes and also be prepared for a long walk (we weren’t after a long day).
The house is on the edge of the beautiful village of Kelmscott, which Morris himself described as ‘A Heaven on Earth.’ He wasn’t wrong. The village is beautiful and is a pleasure to walk through. If you’re hungry there’s a well rated pub on the walk to the manor house.
We arrived about an hour before closing time and the house was still pretty bustling. It’s not a free attraction and adults will pay £9 to get in. There are no guided tours offered, but there are helpful volunteers in each room who will tell you about the contents of the room.
Kelmscott, otherwise a rather unremarkable manor house, has been made remarkable by William Morris choice of decoration and detail. While there’s much to see you’ll be struck at how simple and rather spartan the house actually is.
A visit to Kelmscott Manor was a nice way to end an otherwise busy day and I would definitely go back.
We had one final visit of the day – we planned to drive through Bampton – which is more familiar to readers as where the village scenes for Downton Abbey are filmed. While we didn’t have time to stop as we drove through, we noticed that it’s actually a rather busy village, filled with cars. You won’t find quiet village streets like on the show!
After an interesting experience of letting Jackie drive for a bit (which we’ll cover in the driving post), we got lost but eventually found our way to our final destination for the day, The Old Swan and Minster Mill Hotel, where we would be laying our heads for the next 2 nights.
The Old Swan and Minster Mill is an old mill that was converted into a stunning luxury hotel that features a world-class restaurant. When we arrived, the staff were expecting us, helped us with our bags and showed us to our room. Our room was a stunning room overlooking the courtyard. The hotel is situated next to the River Windrush and when you open the windows, that’s what you’re greeted with. beautiful! The hotel also provided us with everything we would need to care for Anglotopia Jr, including a cot for him to sleep in.
The on site restaurant is the type of place you have to make reservations to eat at and if you stay at The Old Swan you MUST eat in the restaurant which has fantastic food and service.
After a wonderful dinner, we headed back to our room and put Anglotopia Jr to bed (we had another rough night, but you all didn’t come here to read about that).
Tomorrow, we explore somewhere I’ve wanted to go to my whole life, Blenheim Palace and then take a tour on an Oxfordshire Narrowboat.