Travel future: My local travel summer
I got an email from a reader this week asking about travel in England – did I have any recommendations or posts she could look at? Looking back through my old posts, I found a few about London, some from weekend trips I’ve taken around the country. But I’ve almost nothing about the place I spend the most of my time – my home in Cheltenham. As well as the city itself this area is surrounded by pretty Cotswold villages in one direction and the gorgeous countryside of Herefordshire and Gloucestershire in the other, plus is within easy reach of historic cities like Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon. But after living here for two years I’ve hardly seen any of it. Any spare time I’ve had I’ve used to travel further afield and neglected what’s on my doorstep. So this summer I’ll be trying to see a bit of my own backyard, and sharing it with you. Some of the places I want to see are totally new to me. Others I haven’t been to for years. And others I know well but have never written about. Here’s what’s on my local travel summer list so far…
Exploring the Cotswolds
The heart of the tourist trail, the tourist buses have put me off a bit in the past but being only a few miles away there’s no excuse not to go and see what the Cotswolds have to offer. There are the postcard-perfect villages like Bibury with its row of thatched cottages. Historic houses from Chedworth Roman Villa to the abandoned Gothic Woodchester Mansion. Gardens from the manicured Hidcote Manor to the trees of Westonbirt Arboretum. Plus there are plenty of photo opportunities – like the dramatic Broadway Tower perched on a hilltop – and enough tea and cake shops to keep me stuffed for weeks.
I lived in Oxford for two years but have hardly been back since, and have never written about it – not least because I seem to have not taken a single photo of the city the whole time I was living there. So I plan to go back and put that right, revisiting some old haunts (er mainly various pubs and cocktail bars), doing the touristy things (touring the Oxford Colleges, punting on the river, dodging the cyclists) and trying out a few more unusual things (ghost walks, looking at shrunken heads in the Pitt Rivers Museum). I’m also planning to tick something off my wish list that I’ve wanted to do ever since I lived there – stay in a converted prison cell at the city’s luxurious Malmaison hotel.
Introducing Herefordshire and the Forest of Dean
This is where I grew up so is the area I know best, but it’s not an area that very many people know much about. Much less visited than the Cotswolds, it’ll be interesting to compare the two. I spent many Saturdays in the Forest of Dean as a kid but haven’t been to places like Puzzlewood (an ancient woodland where TV shows like Merlin were filmed) and the Sculpture Trail (a woodland trail dotted with modern art sculptures) for years, so it must be time for a return trip. Herefordshire and Gloucestershire are also home to some great local produce, so the plan is to sample a bit of it with a tour of a vineyard, brewery and cider orchard all within a few miles of each other.
So those are my local travel summer plans. Have you visited anywhere in this area that I shouldn’t miss, or heard of somewhere you’d like to read about?