Travel & Life Digest

Valentine's in the Cotswolds

Let's get one thing out of the way: a weekend in the Cotswolds is a romantic endeavour whether you choose to celebrate Valentine’s, or not. 
Apart from day trips, we do try to spend a couple of nights per year around the different villages in the area, it just works if you want to make yourself happy - simple as that!
We used Broadway, in Worcestershire, as our base this time around. 

My heart always feels that much freer, when we drive past Oxford.
And then, once you've driven through Burford, you are surrounded by glorious countryside, away from all the hustle and bustle of any big city.
Dusk was already hovering over the hills around Burford last Saturday and the evening mist was settling in, over all shades of blue hills in the distance; we slowed down and enjoyed the drive, no matter how excited my husband was to test-drive his toy for the weekend. 

If you are a keen driver, you will enjoy the bit after Stow on the Wold, towards Broadway.
This is one of the highest points in the Cotswolds and once you leave Oxfordshire behind you, the road swerves around the hills and drops down into Worcestershire plains.
In the early evening it's mesmerizing to see all the village lights dotted in the horizon.
In the day time you 'll feel like a movie characters, driving down this long road with tall trees and perfectly green picturesque hills on either side.   

Broadway is a small town, with a couple of hotels, a good choice of pubs, restaurants, even a fish & chips shop and numerous antique shops. The main road hosts traditional buildings, in local honey-coloured stone and in the end of the road you'll spot Broadway Tower, sitting on top of the vast surrounding hills like a little joker's crown.

We had dinner at the Swan on the Green, on Saturday night.
We hadn't made reservations for dinner beforehand, which is pretty silly on any given Saturday evening, but even more so on Valentine's weekend; we were tired and just couldn't be bothered to worry about that too. After all, we were not in search of the perfect dinner, just a relaxing evening with decent food, how hard can that be in the middle of the countryside? 

Table for two at the Swan

Pork belly, scallops and this velvety mash with bacon and hints of oregano....

So as soon as we arrived in Broadway on Saturday evening, we headed out for drinks and put our names down for a ten o'clock dinner at the Swan, thinking it would be our last resort if nothing else came up.
Nothing else came up! Everywhere was booked up, but no complaints!

The Swan is a very tastefully renovated pub, with colourful little dinning spaces dotted around the old building, comfy armchairs and lovely food.
We got talking to a local couple, who had brought their King Charles Spaniel, Louis, along for a pint and they re-assured us that they "hadn't had a bad meal at the Swan yet". Good enough for us!
Oh, and Louis downed his pint in no time, in case you were wondering!

Quirky details around the Lygon Arms.

I picked the Lygon Arms in Broadway for our stay, just because it came with an indoors pool & spa and it looked like a traditional charming Cotswolds property. 

I thought, what better way to start off Valentine's day but with a dip in the pool? 
The idea, in principle, was good, but if I had looked better on TripAdvisor, I would had made sure to secure a room in the main building. Instead we were sent at the hotel's not so attractive 70's extension at the back, in a room that gave us glimpses of a retirement home and we even had our very own trail of ants coming out of the bathroom. The whole thing put a damper on our stay, in this otherwise, very traditional and charming hotel. 
We were quite infuriated at the time; but a good dinner and a couple of drinks later, plus the fact that Monday would come sooner than expected if we wasted more time being upset, put everything into perspective. 

The main building at the Lygon Arms was so quaint;
fireplaces dotted around the various sitting areas, wooden beams and old stone floors reminded you that you are in the countryside and even the pool area was a welcoming change on Sunday morning. 
This would be a good hotel for a girlie spa weekend; 
Tip of the day: if you stay at the Lygon Arms, make sure to secure a room in the main building! 
On Sunday morning, after a couple of brisk rounds in the pool, we went to check out Broadway Tower. A little path takes you from the centre of Broadway, up the hills, past the deer enclosure, to the little Tower. You can drive straight up to the Tower, too.

This is the second highest point in the Cotswolds and the view over Worcestershire's rolling hills is fascinating, especially on a crisp, sunny day!

This would make for a good day out, even if you are just driving in, for the day.
Leave your car in Broadway, walk up the hill to the Tower and after you've worked up a healthy appetite head back down for a generous Sunday meal in one of the village pubs. The scenery will reward your efforts! 

On for lunch at the Porch House, in Stow on the Wold!
Apparently the building is one of the oldest recorded Inns, in Stow, but it has been renovated with all kinds of colourful touches and comfortable corners to sit at. I think next time we’ll stay here instead!
We had lovely white onion soup to start with and while, the man of the house, went for a roast, I decided that s cheese soufflé would be an appropriate calorific splurge for a cold winter’s day!
We even had dessert: another soufflé, chocolate this time, with salted caramel ice cream and a little glass of Muscadet wine. Ahh, Happy Valentine’s!

Walking around Stow is always such a pleasure.
Do not miss the Cooking Shop on the Market square; you’ll find everything you need in terms of crockery and tableware, in very good prices!
And if you fancy a cup of tea, you are spoiled for choice, there are so many traditional tearooms around the square, just take your pick. If you want something more upmarket, try Old Stocks Inn café, with its’ slight Scandinavian touches and artisan coffees.
Driving through hilly Burford.
Time to drive back, but slowly!
We took as many de-tours as possible, in order to enjoy the sunny day and the gorgeous little villages on the way to Burford. I wish we had more time in this lovely part of the countryside!

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