Throughout our road trip across Northern Ireland, Scotland, and now England, I had been looking forward to this perfect English countryside escape in the Cotswolds. Hidden streams run through rolling meadows and fields of golden barley in Painswick, a centuries old village in the Cotswolds. Though we drove in from the north, the Cotswolds are only two hours outside of London. Besides the pristine natural beauty (England designates such areas as “AONBs” or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty), the villages throughout the region are known for their golden stone cottages and rolling hills – “the wolds”. The Cotswolds did not disappoint. We even had an unexpected life-saving adventure!
For our stay in the region, we chose the town of Painswick, and were welcomed for two nights by a stylish inn called, appropriately, The Painswick. After a fast paced road trip throughout Scotland staying in a new place each night, it felt so luxurious to stay in one place for two nights! We walked through the living room past a roaring fire, and stopped on the terrace which overlooked the hotel’s yard and undulating hills dotted with sheep beyond. We were looking forward to two days of leisurely countryside pursuits: reading near the fire, exploring the tiny cobblestone streets in town, and getting lost on nature walks through the wolds. I could only be more perfect if we had a dog with us.
Our first morning in Painswick, we set off on a walk outside of town before breakfast. The hotel provides maps for walking tours of varying lengths depending on your ambition, and wellies (rubber boots) in case the paths are muddy. (Although I was prepared as I always pack my own wellies, and love this style so much I have them in two colors.) It was a warm day so aside from my rubber boots all I needed was a shift dress and sweater in case the weather was fickle. We picked up a map for a two mile walk that weaved along a narrow creek, over and through farmland and cattle pasture, and returned by way of centuries old church land. Did you know that in parts of the U.K., public passage is allowed by law across private property, as long as it is done respectfully? We were grateful to the townspeople who shared in the spirit behind this law and welcomed us into their backyards, slowly moving around cattle, crossing small footbridges, and wading through fields of barley. While nearing the end of our walk, we heard an animal cry out a few feet behind us. We walked back, and noticed a sheep was stuck in a fence hidden behind a row of bramble. He had seen us and was bleating for help. The sheep looked grateful for our about turn, but was clearly distressed. Unfortunately, there was no good way to get through the dense thicket. We approached a farmhouse across the path and found a woman watering her garden in the back, informing her of the sheep up the road. Setting her watering pot down, she thanked us and turned back to help the sheep, saying “Silly billy, not again!” (Apparently, this naughty sheep had a history of lodging his head in the fence). She had an obscured path through the thicket, hopped over, and tugged the sheep back to safety. In the meantime, we made our way back to town, and were very hungry, and ready for a full English breakfast!
The afternoon, we wandered around the small town and returned to the church we saw during our morning walk. It was originally built in 1066, and is surrounded by a beautiful forest of manicured, whimsical yew trees. All of the town is laid out in the Cotswold’s signature honey-hued buildings, with bursts of color from hanging flower pots. Between homes, we admired the antique stores and cafes and the Rococo Gardens in town. Back at The Painswick, the fire was built up, and we settled into a sofa to read for a bit before tea.
The next day we took another walk in the morning before sitting down for another full English breakfast (the best!) We packed up and started the drive to Daylesford Farm, which was highly recommended by several friends. But we never got there! As we were driving through Stow-on-the-Wold, we stopped at the traffic light on Sheep Street in the center of town and discovered the entire street was lined with the most glorious antique stores! I hopped out while David parked, only planning to stay for a few minutes. But each store was even better than the last and before we knew it the afternoon had slipped away, and it was time to meet our friend Tiffany for dinner in Oxford.
A visit to Daylesford Farm will have to wait until our next stay at The Painswick!
All photos by David and Stacie Flinner for stacieflinner.com