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A Journey Through West England With Small Children

Here is my first trip report in this forum. I’ve never taken an RS tour, mostly because I typically travel with my small children, but I use his guides and his advice extensively when planning each trip we make to Europe. I try to get over to Europe at least once a year, and if I can go more, that’s even better.

I had found super cheap tickets to London earlier in the year, about $430 per person, and it lined up with Spring Break and Easter, so we decided to go for it and tour West England and the Cotswolds. Our group was me, my husband, my mother, my eight-year-old daughter, and my two-year-old twins. My oldest has traveled with us throughout Europe, and the twins went to Portugal with us last year for their first international adventure.

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Day 1 – We flew direct from Baltimore via British Airways, and the flight wasn’t too bad. The kids all slept and were very well behaved thankfully! My husband even got to sleep a bit to help him rest up for the long drive from Heathrow to our rental cottage in Winchcombe at Sudeley Castle. We picked up the rental car, which unfortunately wasn’t the minivan we reserved, it was a smaller SUV. It took about 45 mins to get all of our luggage and passengers to fit into the small space, and then we were off.

This was my husband’s first time driving on the other side of the road, and he was pretty tired, but he did great. He drifted quite a bit on the left, but I helped him stay straight throughout the drive. We hit some traffic, so the drive ended up taking a bit longer than the GPS said. Eventually, we arrived in beautiful Winchcombe and the Cotswolds. The meadows and hills were covered with bright green grass and yellow rapeseed and lots of sheep! It was stunning.

We arrived at our little cottage (which was recommended by this forum!) and were pleased. It was spacious and full of character. The tiny area with all of the cottages grouped together resembled a set from Beauty and the Beast. It was perfect. We rested for a bit, and then drove up to the local grocery store to stock up on supplies. We had a quiet dinner at the cottage and went to bed early to prepare for the next day’s activities.

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Day 2 – We had breakfast at our cottage, packed a picnic lunch, and got ready to hike up to the nearby Sudeley Castle. Admission was free since we were staying at the cottages, and I love saving money. We toured the beautiful gardens and made our way throughout the castle. Everything was in bloom and colorful. At lunch, we made a spot for ourselves in front of the church at the castle. There were other families playing and picnicking, and our kids made a few friends while rolling down the tiny hill near the church and eating their lunch. We walked over to the adventure playground and got some ice cream for dessert a little bit later.

When it was time to walk back to the cottage, we took a different route, directly through a sheep field! We did have to choose our steps carefully, but it was quite an experience, with my kids baahing at the sheep. We took a short break back at the cottage and then went back out to check out Stow on the Wold. Stow was quaint and cute, but everything was pretty much closed, as it was about 5 pm. We were looking for a dinner spot, but nothing seemed to be open other than a Chinese restaurant. One pub looked promising, but it had an hour or so wait.

We remembered seeing a pub on the way while driving (The Plough Inn), so we got back in the car and went there. Luckily, there was no wait and there was also an outdoor play area for the kids. My kids started playing with other local kids as we ate pies and drank a few pints. My daughter made a new friend, a boy from Ireland who was vacationing with his parents.

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Day 3 - On our third day, we drove to Bath. The drive wasn’t too bad; my husband was getting better at driving on the other side of the road. We easily found parking in the city and made our way to the center for the sights. There was a big line to get into the Roman Baths, so I decided to skip it and just tour the city. We went into the Abbey and sat in on the evensong service for as long as the kids would be quiet. (The staff provided coloring books and crayons!)

Eventually, we made our way to Victoria Park, where an Easter funfair had set up. The kids rode tons of rides and ate lots of candy floss and other treats while the grownups relaxed. Finally, we found our way back to our car and drove back to the cottage for a nice home cooked meal.

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Day 4 – Next, we devoted a day to seeing Warwick Castle. We had breakfast at the cottage, packed a picnic, and drove to the castle. It was quite cold that day, so we switched to our heavy coats and brought hats for the kids. Walking up to the castle entrance took a really long time, and there was a huge parking lot, which wasn’t too crowded. I felt like I was going to a theme park. When we finally got up to the entrance, I wasn’t disappointed. The castle was incredible.

By the time we got there, it was lunch time, so we set up in the castle courtyard and had a picnic. It was really cool, with atmospheric music and plenty of families playing and picnicking on the grass beside us. Then, we set our stroller aside and toured the castle interior. My kids loved the armory and the mannequin figures throughout the castle tour. Later, we had ice cream and walked around the grounds to see the peacocks and falconry shows. The adventure maze was also a hit with the kids.

My oldest got a chance to try her hand at knight training, and we saw the trebuchet show near the end of our visit. We stopped by the playground before exiting, and the kids got to play on the swings and slides. My oldest loved the zip line! Dinner was at McDonald’s on the way home.

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Day 5 – After two long day trips, we set aside a quieter day to drive around the Cotswolds and see closer sites. We visited the impressive Hailes Church, a few minutes away, and the adjacent Hailes Abbey ruins. The church was incredible, with medieval frescos still covering the walls. We had the place to ourselves, which was surreal. The ruins were also very quiet and peaceful, with only the sounds of the nearby sheep interrupting the quiet. We had lunch at a nearby farm restaurant, which even had a resident dog visiting each table and looking for scraps. We also saw plenty of pheasants.

That afternoon, we drove over to Chipping Camden and walked through its center. The beautiful thatched roofs and honey-colored stonework made me feel like I was in another century. We also visited the playground right near the center, and my oldest made some new friends as she navigated the zip line and slides. One of my twins had a little too much time on the swing and threw up all over me as soon as she abruptly stopped when it was time to go. Good thing I always have plenty of baby wipes!

Dinner was at a pub on the way home called The Pheasant Inn. The pints were delicious, but the pies weren’t as impressive as The Plough Inn. My daughter saw her friend from Ireland again, and she got a chance to play with him!

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Day 6 – I wanted to visit an important cathedral during our trip, and since Gloucester was pretty close, we went there next. We drove up, hit some traffic, and had a quick lunch at McDonald’s. Once we got to the center, there was plenty of convenient parking. We walked through the historic area and took lots of pictures of the unique buildings. The area around the cathedral was under heavy construction, so we had to follow a few detours while on foot.

The cathedral itself was stunning. Not super easy to navigate with a double stroller, but we had three adults, so we managed. I made sure to stop by the tomb of Edward II, one of my ancestors. We spent some time in the cloister with the kids and threw a few pence into the fountain.

A few hours later, we walked over to the Docklands shopping area. There was a festival going on, and it had plenty of lawn games for children. There were also a few rides set up, so the kids enjoyed that quite a bit. We had afternoon tea at a nearby tea shop in the attached mall. Then, we drove home and picked up takeaway for dinner.

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Day 7 – This day was set for our visit to Stratford-Upon-Avon, which I had been looking forward to for years. Right after breakfast at the cottage, my two-year-old son took a tumble and banged his head on one of the ancient wooden beams in the cottage. He immediately developed a grapefruit sized lump on his forehead. He was crying nonstop as well. I thought he needed to get looked at by a doctor. The cottage listed Winchcombe medical clinic as a resource, so I called them up and they said to come on by. When we got there, a doctor saw him right away and reassured me that he had no serious head trauma or damage. Just a giant goose egg. As we were leaving, I stopped to pay for the services and was told there is no charge for healthcare in the UK. I was floored! Of course, I know all citizens get free healthcare, but I was shocked that this was extended to us as visitors. Great NHS experience.

Anyway, the day was still young, so we got into the car and drove up to Stratford. My mother was a little tired, so she decided to stay behind in the cottage. My little boy seemed perfectly fine and back to his normal self. Once we got to Stratford, parking was a bit of challenge, but we finally found a garage close to the center. We had lunch at Pizza Express and made our way to the sites. With three small children, you have to make adjustments to your touring plans, so we mostly visited the major sites from outside. Then, we went to Shakespeare’s grave site and took some pictures. We actually did go to the church, but my husband and I took turns sitting with the twins and the stroller outside since the stroller wouldn’t fit through the tiny entrance door.

After a snack, we took a walk along the river and admired the many different ancient trees around. We took a chain ferry across and found a wonderful playground for the kids. There was sand to play in, swings of all sizes, and of course, a large zipline for the oldest to try out. We got ice cream treats and made our way back to the car. We picked up ingredients for dinner back at the cottage.

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Day 8 – Good Friday – After breakfast at the cottage, we got in the car and drove to Oxford for our next day trip. Parking was an absolute nightmare; it seemed everyone was in the city for Good Friday. Finally, we found a spot and then had a late lunch at Pret a Manger. The streets were super crowded and there was tons of traffic on the road. We arrived at the sites with all of the colleges and walked around to take pictures. Unfortunately, by the time we got to Christ Church, it was about to close because of the holiday. Oh well. We crossed the street and had a nice afternoon tea nearby instead before going back to the car to go home. Dinner was at McDonald’s (yes, again).

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Day 9 – This was the day before Easter, and we had scheduled a day trip to Blenheim Palace for an Easter egg hunt. We packed a lunch and dressed the kids up in their Easter finest since the weather was supposed to be gorgeous. Once we got there, I was shocked at how vast the property was. We purchased tickets just for the gardens. There was a funfair set up, an Easter Bunny walking around, and plenty of other activities besides the egg hunt. After our picnic lunch, we got started on the hunt.

The eggs to spot were large vinyl eggs throughout the property, and the kids only had to count how many they found. We walked maybe miles throughout the gardens looking for each egg, and pretty much found them all, even the elusive golden egg. Then, we took some pictures around the actual palace and spotted the pheasants throughout the grounds. We met up with the Easter Bunny for a picture and then went to the playground for some playtime.

As we were leaving, we stopped by the rides and let the kids take a few turns before heading back to the car. I had the worst migraine, so we stopped by a drugstore on the way back to the cottage before making dinner at home.

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Day 10 – Easter Sunday – Easter morning, we had bought the kids some chocolate surprise eggs for the road and to take back to the US. Then, we packed up and drove back to Heathrow, sadly. We had an amazing time, and I can’t wait for our next adventure!

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Finlee,

Loved your trip report! My husband and I visited the Cotswolds last summer and it was fun to remember some of the places we visited via reading your post. Kudos to you for traveling with your children. What a great experience for them!

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142 posts

Can you tell us the name of cottage or listing number ant rental agency which you used? Thanks

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440 posts

Sounds like a great trip one which am sure your daughter will remember and talk about for years

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The cottage was rented directly from the Sudeley Castle website. The only issue was the internet wasn't very fast; everything else was wonderful! Our cottage was called Emma Dent.

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142 posts

Tjhank you for the information. I will pass it on to my sister who is very interested.

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11275 posts

Thanks for taking the time to write this report!

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681 posts

Sounds like an amazing trip that you will always cherish. Loved reading your report.

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1841 posts

This sounds like the ideal way to have a holiday in Britain with children. Yes, everybody in Britain can just walk into a hospital or see their family doctor for free as the NHS is paid for out of taxation. Foreigners do not have the right to free medical treatment and some have been turning up at British hospitals with known problems just to get free treatment before ‘disappearing' abroad. They are clamping down on health ‘tourism’. Local medical centres might simply do the odd tourist who comes in a favour and not bother to charge.

Regarding Oxford - parking. British cities were built long ago prior to the age of cars. Oxford, like Bath and other places, has Park & Ride (P&R) around the outskirts. At these places, you park the car and shuttle buses take you into the centre.

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278 posts

Your trip report really stands out as a very useful example for travel with children. You kept it simple and always gave them time to play every day. In short you kept things reasonable for them to handle all the while exposing them to new places and people. Nice job!

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11613 posts

Your children sound like great travelers (throwing up aside), and you sound like a perfect guide for them!

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26402 posts

That's a wonderful report and I'm glad to have those first hand accounts of the places I like to go. Sounds like the children couldn't have had a better time (bump on head excepted)!