Upon returning to Heathrow Airport, we took possession of a rental car we'd reserved and headed to the Cotswolds. Here's the front window view we had to get used to. We've driven on the left on a couple of occasions before, once in England and once in Ireland. Neither Sten nor I can imagine doing it alone; it takes two of us to keep things going comfortably, particularly when we have a map to follow. It definitely does help to have the driver sit on the right. Our first time driving on the left we were driving a car from Denmark that had the driver sitting on the left. Now that was definitely confusing.
The Cotswolds are particularly known for beautiful stone houses built of locally quarried golden-colored Cotswold limestone, picturesque villages, and verdant rolling hills feeding Cotswold and other breeds of sheep. In the past the region supported a thriving woolen industry. I'm in the process of reading Bill Bryson's book Notes from a Small Island where he describes the Cotswolds thus: "There is something about that golden Cotswold stone, the way it absorbs sunlight and then feeds it back so that even on the dullest days villages . . . seem to be basking in a perennial glow." He's right on with that description.
The Cotswold region is about 25 miles wide by 90 miles long. We were primarily in the northern part. The villages we explored most thoroughly were Bourton-on-the-Water, Upper and Lower Oddington, Stow-on-the-Wold, The Slaughters, Moreton-in-Marsh, and Chipping Norton.
Can you imagine this vine in the growing season? The house is appropriately called Vine House
This is Pear Tree Cottage.
When we realized that we were within an hour's drive of Stratford-upon-Avon, we had to make a pilgrimage there. First we visited the childhood home of Shakespeare's wife, Anne Hathaway. Only part of the house is from her time living there, though the rest of the development was done by her extended family in years following her marriage to William Shakespeare.
Can you believe this was the end of January? Snowdrops already. Wonderful!
After visiting Anne Hathaway's home on the outskirts of town, we drove into Stratford itself to see Shakespeare's home. We found this post in the museum to be particularly interesting.
Below is Shakespeare's home from the back side. I have my doubts that the gardens were as beautiful in the bard's day, but I could be wrong. Anyway, it was fun to see the house. Both here and at Anne Hathaway's home, docents in costume gave wonderful explanations about what we were seeing as well as fun historical information.
This view is from the front facing the street. It's quite a large home.
Last, we visited the church where Shakespeare, his wife, and several of their family are buried.
This bust of Shakespeare was erected when people who had known him were still alive, so it's considered an accurate likeness of the man.
The next day we returned our car to Heathrow, feeling very happy with what we'd experienced in the Cotswolds and Stratford-upon-Avon. We'd recommend both places for visitors to England.
Next stop: Durham and Hadrian's Wall at Housesteads Roman Fort.