Until we moved to Singapore last year, the only two things we ever really considered when it came to choosing our travel accommodations were price and location. Now that we’re in Asia and our dollar stretches a little further, we have a little more flexibility in choosing where to stay, but that just wasn’t the case in Europe. More often than not, we found ourselves in budget hotels, and later, cheap Airbnb rentals. Only a very few times while traveling in Europe and the UK did we stay somewhere that was more than just a place to lay our heads at night, and one of those places was the Cotswolds.
So, you guys probably already know by now that one of my favorite things to do is travel, but what you may not know is that being around animals comes in a very close second. Anytime I can combine the two (safely and ethically) I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot, and that is just what we managed to do on our holiday in the Cotswolds when we chose to stay at a Cotswolds farm stay instead of a regular B&B!
MANOR FARM: OUR COTSWOLDS FARM STAY
What’s a Cotswolds farm stay? Don’t worry – I hadn’t heard the term before I started researching accommodations in the Cotswolds either. Basically, a Cotswolds farm stay is just like a regular B&B, but on a working farm. Each farm stay is different – some have a look-but-don’t-touch policy in regards to the animals, while others will allow guests to participate in simple farm activities, like feeding the lambs during lambing season. (If only I’d been in the Cotswolds in the spring instead of fall!)
There are a fair amount of choices for Cotswolds farm stays, so we had quite a few to go through before finally settling on Manor Farm, a historic farmhouse on 850 acres in the northern Cotswolds. We chose Manor Farm for a few reasons – the first being that they offered a free farm tour with a stay of at least three nights. Also, Manor Farm’s location was spot on. Technically located in Weston Subedge which is so small it only has a few houses and one pub, Manor Farm is also so close to Chipping Campden (a much bigger town by comparison) that a less than 5-minute drive will have you back around civilization in no time if farm life starts to feel too isolating. The final reason we chose Manor Farm was because it just looked exactly like what we hoped a Cotswolds farm stay would look like.
Honestly, I was in from the minute I saw those sheep pillows. Anyone who goes so far as to make sure I can see sheep both out of my bedroom window and on the pillows on my bed is someone who is running a darn good farm stay in my opinion! Our room at Manor Farm was top notch. The room was just the right size – large enough to have plenty of space, but not so big as to lose the necessary cozy-factor required of a farm stay. Despite being built in 1624, our room and en suite bath came with all the usual 21st century conveniences like a good shower and free WiFi.
Besides the incredible view from our window (and the sweet sounds from the sheep that were our alarm clock every morning), my favorite thing about Manor Farm was the breakfast. Filling enough that we almost never needed to have more than a cream tea for lunch, most of the food served at breakfast is sourced straight from Manor Farm itself. A full English breakfast was prepared for us every morning and served with fruit, tea and coffee, and homemade bread and jam made by the owner’s teenage son. It was such a treat getting to eat this decadently every morning, and knowing everything was “farm fresh” made it even better!
THE FARM TOUR
Since we stayed for three nights, we got to take advantage of Manor Farm’s free farm tour on our second to last morning in the Cotswolds. Lucy, who is one half of the ownership of Manor Farm along with her husband Pup, took us around for an hour in her Land Rover and first showed us the town, such as it is, and gave us a little history from this area of the Cotswolds, and then it was time to check out the animals. From our room at the house, we had a great view of the sheep, but there are a lot more than just sheep to see here!
Of Manor Farm’s 850 acres, 600 are either farmed or used as pasture for all the sheep, cows, horses, and chickens that live here. We drove around a good portion of the farm, stopping here and there where the animals were nearby to take photos. The cows, as always, were my favorites to photograph. And while we’d missed the season where most of the farm’s lambs and calves are born, we still got to see some young-ish ones relaxing near their mommas. It’s safe to say that after this tour, I was missing our old farm life something awful. One day we’ll be “farmers” again, of that I’m sure, and in the meantime I’ll just get my animal fix everywhere I can! I am so glad we chose a Cotswolds farm stay for this trip – it was an experience I won’t soon forget.
The closest town to our Cotswolds farm stay was Chipping Campden. With a population of around 2,000 people, Chipping Campden is certainly not one of the biggest towns in the Cotswolds, but it still offered us everything we needed as far as places to eat, a convenient location for exploring other towns in the northern and central Cotswolds, and enough old, Cotswold stone scenery to make us feel like we’d been transported back to medieval times.
Normally, I’d make an entirely separate post to talk about Chipping Campden and the many things that are available to do here, but the name of the game is condensing lately, so it’s going to be an all-in-one kind of post today! Probably a good thing as it has forced me to limit the amount of photos I included in this post, and just in Chipping Campden alone I had taken almost 100. But when a town is this unique, what do you expect?
Once a wool-trading market town (chipping actually means market in old English), the old Market Hall still stands in the center of Chipping Campden’s High Street today. Speaking of the High Street, it was one of the prettiest we saw in the Cotswolds. After busy days exploring other areas of the Cotswolds, we loved ending each day back in Chipping Campden, walking through the town and taking photos before settling in for dinner. Chipping Campden is an easy one to wander in, too, because it’s just big enough to be interesting, but small enough that you can’t actually get lost.
There are many great places to eat here, but it’s very important that you book ahead for dinner. We learned this the hard way on our first night and ended up stopping in at least 3-4 places before finding an open table. Our favorite meal of the trip was at The Eight Bells (also an inn if you’re looking for something other than a B&B or Cotswolds farm stay for accommodations), but we also enjoyed dinner at the Cotswolds Grill inside Cotswolds House Hotel. For lunch, the Badger’s Hall Tea Room is a good choice, and if you’re willing to drive a few minutes to Bretforton, The Fleece Inn also has good food and music and is open for both lunch and dinner. (It’s even closer if you stay at Manor Farm!)
HOO LANE & COTSWOLD WAY WALK
Besides the Market Hall, the High Street, and St James’ Church, the other place you absolutely have to visit in Chipping Campden is Hoo Lane. Not only does it have an adorable name, but this is also where you’ll find the town’s best-looking cottages, some even with thatched roofs and attractive old cars conveniently parked in front of them. It is always awkward to stand in front of someone’s house or front door and take a photo, but I’m pretty sure they’re probably used to it on this street.
At the end of Hoo Lane is a public footpath leading up to Dover’s Hill, the highest spot in town with the very best views of the surrounding countryside…if the whole area isn’t shrouded in fog when you get up there. On our way up to Dover Hill, we got caught in a crazy, spontaneous thunderstorm complete with monsoon-level rain and more lightning than we would have liked considering we were huddled under a giant tree in the middle of an empty field. I thought we might die, so of course I videoed the whole experience. After the worst of the storm passed, we continued on up to Dover Hill only to find it covered in a thick fog that didn’t look like it was going to dissipate anytime soon, so we made our way back down to Chipping Campden via wet (and very muddy) fields of salad.
The walk from Chipping Campden’s High Street to Dover’s Hill is actually the first part of a much bigger trail called the Cotswold Way. We walked a few miles in a couple different towns of this path’s 102-mile length, but someday I’d like to return and do the whole thing. And when I do, I’m staying in a Cotswolds farm stay again and making sure my trip is in the spring, because – baby lambs. (Insert heart eyes emoji.)
For more great places to see in the Cotswolds, check out 7 Charming Towns To Visit In The Cotswolds.
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