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Marion Ainge takes an Idyllic break in the beautiful Cotswolds

Marion Ainge

is a travel writer for


There was no running water or electricity when, as a toddler in the 1950s, my friend lived in a tied cottage in Sapperton, a Cotwolds village. Her father was chaffeur/nurse to the estate manager, and she recalls her mother drawing water from the well in the garden and lighting oil lamps at night.


Today, in this idyllic, peaceful, chocolate box village, properties are at a premium - there's three-bedroom cottage on the  market for £550,000. Many residents have lived in the same properties all their lives, and although getting on in years, they can be seen still tending their flowers and vegetable patches on terraced gardens which lead down to the lower lane.  There's a primary school, a church, two pubs but no shop, and it's six miles to the nearest town.


The Cotswolds, set in the heart of England, is instantly recognisable for its old, golden stone architecture, rivers, water mills and rolling countryside.


Our first base was the delightful Bourton-on-the-Water where families picnicked and children frolicked on the grassy banks. Little boys fished in the many-bridged River Windrush, here, only 10 inches deep to its pebbled bed, and clear as  tap water.  Within the village, attractions include Birdland with 500 winged species, a motor museum and toy collection, the Dragonfly maze,  a model village showcasing a one-ninth replica of Bourton-on-the-Water in local stone and a perfumery.


Set back from the road with a wonderful, tree-shaded, rear walled garden, which features a swim spa  Jacuzzi, is the charming 14-bedoomed Dial House, dating back to 1698 and built from mellow Cotswold stone. From the award-winning, fine dining dinner menu, for starters we chose Dorset snails with garlic and parsley, declared delicious by  my companion. I settled for the Roquefort with pear walnut and chicory.  All dishes were exquisitely presented, and perfectly prepared, but guests with hearty appetites may find the portions a little on the small side.


The charming village of Lower Slaughter - the name doesn't represent what you might think - and enables a two mile walk through farmland and wooded paths to the picturesque village of Upper Slaughter, with its trickling stream, flower bedecked cottages and old water mill.


Just a short drive away is Stow-on-the Wold, our next stop. This small, elevated market town abounds with interesting, quirky little shops and quaint cafes just begging to show off their pretty courtyards and cream teas. Our home for the night was The Grapevine, the privately owned, 22-bedroomed, sister hotel of the aforementioned Dial House. Situated on the main road through the town, the characterful 17th century building with some original flagged stone floors, boasts a 150 year-old vine which climbs over the inside of the glass-roofed restaurant. The warm, hospitable, welcoming ambience was matched by the generous servings of gastro-pub style food - the home-made lasagne was possibly the best I've tasted

outside of Italy, and reportedly the calves' liver was outstanding.  Generous portions here, too, although I couldn't finish all of my main course. There's just no pleasing some folk.




Dial House, High Street, Bourton-on-the-Water

tel: (01386) 700754


Cosy double rooms from £89 per night plus VAT


The Grapevine, Sheep Street, Stow-on-the-Wold

tel: (01451) 830344


Cosy double rooms from £99 per night plus VAT



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