We really enjoyed our time in the Cotswolds and our stay at the Old Swan in Minster Mill Hotel and it broke our hearts to have to leave after such a lovely stay but our itinerary was merciless and it was time to move on to the next destination we were really excited about visiting: Bath.
But first, we had a few more stops before we got there.
Minster Lovell Hall
The village where we were staying, Minster Lovell, was famous because of an old ruin located there. The ruins of Minster Lovell Hall are a romantic stop on the Oxfordshire Cotswold trail and we knew we had to make a stop.
So, after we loaded up our car at the hotel we walked up the street to explore the ruins. Located in an old Churchyard, Minster Lovell hall is a wreck. A beautiful wreck.
Minster Lovell Hall was a massive manor house that was the center of the village of Minster Lovell. But this was back in the 1400′s. It was a thriving manor house until it was abandoned by its owners in the 1700′s to be dismantled and ruined by the locals, who probably used the stone in their own homes.
England is full of ruins like this – and it’s amazing that they’re just laying about. This one is free and open to the public. It’s used by locals as a place to sunbathe by the River Windrush which rushes by the ruins as it has long before there was ever a manor house on its shores.
There weren’t many people around when we visited, so we got a chance to explore the place on our own – a rarity with English tourist attractions. It was so cool to walk through the ruins of the Great Hall and think about the lives that took place, the history that passed and the beauty of the building, even in it’s ruined state.
If you’re driving through the area it’s a quick stop, bring a picnic and enjoy the peaceful setting away from it all.
Chedworth Roman Villa
After our visit to the Minster Lovell Ruin, we hit the road intending to go straight to Bath so we could make the most of the day there. Instead, we let serendipity get in the way. While driving through the country lanes on our way to Bath, we kept seeing signs for a Roman Villa.
Having not yet seen any Roman ruins on our trip, we were very tempted to stop, so we thought it would be a quick stop off like the Minster Lovell Ruin.
So, we turned off the main road and followed the signs. And followed them. And followed them.
The circuitous journey took us down tiny one lane country roads, through picture postcard village, over the edges of stunning green valleys. After about half an hour of this ‘torture’ we were still following signs leading us to a Roman Ruin. We started to wonder if we’d been lured into the English equivalent of a Tourist Trap.
But we weren’t complaining because the drive was one of the most beautiful drives we’ve ever taken in our lives. It didn’t matter if we ever made it to the villa, we were enjoying the drive itself.
Eventually though, the road actually terminates at the Chedworth Roman Villa.
The Chedworth Roman Villa is a vintage Roman Ruin that dates back to the 2nd century when the Romans controlled Britannia. It was lost to time in the woods and eventually rediscovered in 1864 and it’s been in the care of the National Trust since 1924.
The facilities are Chedworth have recently undergone a multi-million pound renovation and a new visitor’s center was constructed along with a new protective covering for the ruins themselves.
This is not a free attraction as it’s in constant care by the National Trust to protect the delicate ruins – unlike say Minster Lovell which has been allowed to decay with time without intervention. The visitor’s center has a lovely little cafe which is where we decided to eat lunch. Huffkin’s (remember them?) actually run the cafe and I’m happy to report that they serve their delicious chocolate care there as well. As well as the cafe, there’s lovely restroom facilities along with a fantastic Roman themed National Trust gift shop.
Once you’re done enjoying the amenities of the visitor’s centre, you’re off to explore the ruins themselves. The new protective cover for the ruins is enclosed and it raises you above the ruins so you can explore how the Romans lived during the 2nd century. There’s an audio tour that’s free with your admission and there’s also plenty of prompts within the ruin to give you historical background.
It’s really quite amazing to think that what you’re looking at is the equivalent of the manor house we’d just seen, except this was for the Romans. It was a prosperous settlement during Roman times and was bustling with life. It’s so interesting to be able to touch such a distant time period.
Once you’re out of the protected ruins – there’s plenty of other ruins to explore on the grounds of the attraction, including stunning views across a valley and a museum with archeological finds from the site.
If you’re into Britain’s Roman history, or passing by on your way to somewhere else or just fancy some nice chocolate cake, definitely make a stop at the Chedworth Roman Villa.
Arrival in Bath
Bath was not a far drive after we’d visited at the Roman Villa but we were in the middle of nowhere so we had to use our trusty Britain road atlas to find our way to Bath. We cannot recommend enough taking a Road atlas with you. If you rely on the GPS on your phone, you’ll incur massive roaming fees, so to avoid that, you need be old school and navigate by map.
Jackie was our navigator and she was great at finding our way down winding roads that don’t make any logical sense. We saw tons more countryside, listened to Classic FM on the radio while Anglotopia Jr napped in the back and we enjoyed our drive through the English countryside.
Unfortunately all our dawdling put us into Bath during rush hour. Believe it or not, Bath has a rush hour. And we got stuck in it.
It did not help that our directions and our atlas were useless once we arrived in Bath and we got horribly lost. It took about an hour to find our Bed & Breakfast and really once we did find it, realized it shouldn’t have been that hard. Give us a break though, we’d never driven in a British city before!
Our home for the next three nights was to be the Abbey Rise Bed and Breakfast, an elegant restored Victorian Townhouse on the edge of Bath City Centre. We were welcomed with open arms by the proprietor Katherine Dewhurst.
The Abbey Rise is a small B&B with only 3 rooms available for rent, so it’s relatively quiet. It’s like staying in an English friend’s home. Once we got settled and lugged all of our bags into our room, we rested after a long day. Helpfully, Katherine provided all the facilities we need to care for Anglotopia Jr, including a travel cot.
Getting hungry for dinner, we ventured down into the City Centre for some fast food for an easy dinner. Visit Bath arranged our evening plans which was a place on the Bizarre Bath walking tour, an irreverent look at the City of Bath.
Bizarre Bath is very popular with tourists and it departs every evening from March to October in front of the Huntsmen Inn. It’s not a history walk and you won’t learn much about the culture of Bath, something your host for the evening will make clear.
The walking tour is a mixture of comedy, magic and good old British fun. It can be cheesy at times but that’s its charm. As I said it’s very popular with tourists, so if you want to see your fellow Americans, you’ll definitely come across them here. There’s a fair bit of walking and a large flight of stairs – which was not ideal for our stroller – but other than that it’s a pretty flat and easy-going walk. We would recommend wearing comfortable shoes and bringing along a sweater, the breeze of the river can get quite cool after the sun goes down. You get to see most of Bath City Centre, so it’s a great way to orient yourself.
We definitely recommend the Bizarre Bath tour over any of the other ones.
After the tour, Anglotopia Jr was up way past his bedtime so we wandered back to our Bed and Breakfast and turned in for the night.
Come back tomorrow as we explore the city of Bath in detail and visit some of it’s most famous attractions.