England as a Slow Travel Destination

On April 12, I did a live interview for Around the World, a travel show out of Santa Barbara. This was my second time on the radio (the first time was on Tuesday) and my first time live. Around the World is a great travel show and the host made me feel at ease immediately, so it was fun.

The topic was traveling in England and I spent a day putting together notes for the interview – I was ready for everything (more or less). Since 10 minutes really isn’t that long, we did not cover everything, so here are my England notes.

Traveling in the Cotswolds

The Cotswolds is a popular vacation destination for North Americans. The area is not large – you can drive through it from north to south in an hour, and from east to west in an hour – but it is filled with beautiful villages, historic houses and gardens, endless walking trails, good pubs and tea rooms. The area has been designated an Area of National Beauty and is protected from over development.

The area is popular weekend and holiday destination for Londoners and other tourists. The main villages can fill up with visitors on summer holiday weekends, but mid-week off-season the area feels like locals-only. The walking trails in the Cotswolds are among the best in England and there are many trails to choose from. You can do a short two hour circular walk, or spend ten days walking from village to village on a long distance footpath.

Vacation rentals are good quality and well priced

Because the British travel a lot within their own country, there is an excellent network of quality vacation rentals at good prices. People have been staying in vacation rentals in England for decades, centuries even. When Jane Austen’s characters wintered in Bath, they stayed in furnished houses – vacation rentals. We rented our first English vacation rental in 1988, almost 20 years ago.

Most vacation rentals are available for three night “mini-breaks” (weekend holidays) or by the week (some places are Saturday to Saturday, but others are flexible). In the Cotswolds, for a 2 bedroom cottage, expect to pay from $100 – $200 per night, based on level of luxury, location and season. In the summer months of July and August prices can be almost double the prices in spring or fall. You will pay more for a luxury cottage or an in-town location. There are many local agencies in England, rent from owner listings websites and US agencies where you can book vacation rentals. I have some price examples at the bottom of this post.

Go to England for the food – yes!!

The Cotswolds is a good walking/hiking destination, but is also a good food destination! The food in many parts of England is excellent. Forget that old traveler’s tale that English food is bland. Maybe 30 years ago! Now the food is innovative and fresh. They support local organic farmers and artisan food makers. You can get cheese made locally from the cows of the area, buy fresh baked organic bread, eat fresh lamb from local farms, drink beer made locally.

England is heaven for vegetarians (and for meat-eaters too). Nearly every tea room, pub or restaurant has vegetarian selections. It is as good as California for this! We can go out walking in the countryside, stop in a small village and go into the pub for lunch, and have a choice of vegetarian dishes – as well as good fish and meat dishes.

Most Cotswolds towns have good food shops

Most of the larger villages have good quality food shops offering local products. There is an excellent deli in the center of Stow-on-the-Wold. Daylesford Organic, a farm with an upscale food shop and restaurant, near Stow-on-the-Wold, sells local, organic produce, bread, cheeses and other prepared foods.

You will find good food in tea rooms, pubs and restaurants

We like to have lunch at a good pub in the Cotswolds. The setting is casual and the food is usually excellent. One thing that they do in the pubs, that I find interesting, is to serve traditional dishes, like Bangers and Mash, but using top quality ingredients. For example, at the Plough Inn at Ford, you will find this on the menu:
– – Gloucester old spot sausages served with buttered mash and rich onion gravy, £8.95 ($17.00) – –
They tarted up the description, but this is Bangers and Mash!

Ploughman's Lunch
Ploughman’s Lunch

My Favorite Pubs in the Cotswolds

The Plough Inn at Ford, west of Stow-on-the-Wold. My favorite drive in the Cotswolds is on B4077, the road from Stow-on-the-Wold, through Upper Swell and Ford, to Stanway. In May 2006, we did this drive and stopped at the Plough Inn for a Saturday lunch. The pub was crowded and we got the last table. We had an excellent lunch in a very pleasant pub.

The Bell at Sapperton, between Cirencester and Stroud. This is my favorite pub in the Cotswolds. We have had many good lunches here, including a Sunday lunch sitting outside in the sunshine in May 2005. Great food, good service, lovely areas to sit inside or outside. There is a very good hike from this village along a unused canal.

My Favorite Tea Rooms in the Cotswolds

Every good sized village in the Cotswolds has at least one tea room. These are usually small, family-run restaurants that serve breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea. Typically they close by 5pm.

Our favorite one in the Cotswolds is “The Kitchen” in the village of Minchinhampton, near Stroud. We spent a week in “Minch” in September 2005 and went to The Kitchen several times. The food goes beyond the typical tea room fare of jacket potatoes and toppings. They serve delicious and innovative meals and have an amazing variety of homemade cakes.

Afternoon tea at The Kitchen in Minchenhampton
Afternoon tea at The Kitchen in Minchenhampton

A “Cream Tea” consists of a pot of tea, two scones, butter, jam and clotted cream. This is offered in most tea rooms in the Cotswolds and usually costs around £4.50 ($9.00) per person (England is not cheap!). We carefully researched the quality of cream teas in the Cotswolds and decided our favorite was in Tewkesbury, a town just west of the Cotwolds, in the Abbey Tea rooms, across the street from the beautiful Tewkesbury Abbey. The tea room is run by a lovely family in a very old building with beamed ceilings, sloping floors and small homey rooms.

Sample Food Prices

  • Pot of Tea – 95p ($1.80)
  • Pint of real Ale – £2.50 ($5.00)
  • Cream Tea – £4.00 – £5.00 ($8.00 – $9.00)
  • Tea Room breakfast of eggs and coffee – £4.20 ($8.00)
  • Tea Room lunch of Jacket potato with stuffing and tea – £7.00 ($14.00)
  • Pub, Ploughman’s – £7.50 ($15.00), at a good Pub
  • Lunch at a good pub (soup, entrée, beer) – £20.00 ($40.00) (The Bell at Sapperton – Sweet potato and pear soup, pasta with wild mushrooms or sea bass, half pints.)
  • Takeaway – Fish & Chips – £4.00 ($8.00)
  • Takeaway – Indian Food – £8.00 ($16.00)
  • Wesley House, dinner, £35.00 ($70.00), set price, 3 courses, not including wine

Disclaimer: I love England as a travel destination. The United Kingdom is the most popular destination in Europe for American travelers, but I think many of those visitors don’t get out of London and experienced travelers dismiss England as a travel destination because it is not “exotic” enough.

Vacation Rental Prices (summer prices) – England

For a 2 bedroom cottage, expect to pay from $100 – $200 per night, based on level of luxury, location and season. In the summer months of July and August, prices can be almost double the prices in other months. You will pay more for a luxury cottage or an in-town location. There are many local agencies in England, rent from owner listings websites and US agencies where you can book vacation rentals.

These example prices were taken in April 2007 for summer 2007 (high season).

Examples of Cottages on a Farm
Sansome Cottage, 2 bedroom/2 bathrooms, large cottage, $1200/week ($171/night – sleeps 4)
Helpful Holidays, Belmont Farm, Somerset near Taunton, 2 bedrooms/2 bathroom, $1400/week ($200/night – sleeps 4)
Rural Retreats, Plough Cottage, Well Farm near Painswick, Cotswolds, 1 bedroom/1 bathroom attached cottage on a farm, $1150/week ($164/night – sleeps 2).

Examples of House in a Town
Great Trips Unlimited, Old Stone Cottage, Stanton near Winchcombe, 3 bedroom/1 bathroom, $1400/week ($200/night, sleeps 4 adults, 1 child)
Rural Retreats, Jasmine Cottage, Windrush near Burford, Cotswolds, 2 bedroom/1 bathroom, row house in a village, $1500/week ($214/night – sleeps 3).

Example of a Large Country House
Great Trips Unlimited, Stanton Country House, $5000/week ($714/night, sleeps 15, $50 per person, per night)
Rentvillas, Windrush Manor, Bourton on the Hill, 5 bedrooms/4 bathrooms, $5,774/week ($825/night, sleeps 10, $82 per night per person)

Examples of Apartments in London
London Perfect, The River View, 1 bedroom/1 bathroom, $2,000/week ($285/night – sleeps 2)

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Pauline Kenny

Pauline Kenny and Steve Cohen are US expats living in Dorset. We moved to the UK in 2010. Read about our move. If you would like to talk about travel, please join us on the Slow Europe Travel Forums.