Dreaming of a Cotswolds lifeBy Sarah Dave
November 06, 2009
Chipping Campden is one of the many striking towns in the Cotswolds. SARAH DAVE slowed herself down to engage in local history and wonderful food during a quick weekend escape
Superlatives cannot do justice to the picture postcard town of Chipping Campden.
Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds are some of England’s greatest assets and at only 90 minutes’ drive from Reading a wonderfully close gateway to happiness.
We’d been to the tourist traps of wonderful Woodstock, Bourton-on-the-Water, Moreton-in-Marsh and Chipping Norton before but this time drove a little further and into Chipping Campden in the North Cotswolds.
Driving from stunning village through stunning village on the way I had the feeling of never wanting to turn back but set up camp and enjoy this olde worlde countryside forever.
The town has charming tea rooms – not cafes, darling – bursting with home-made cakes and steaming cups of tea and fluffy scones. No chain shops here apart from a newsagent.
Otherwise cute boutiques selling costume jewellery, silk handbags, garden ornaments, first and second hand books, wines and antiques line the ancient high street. A Guild of Workshops with artisan producers is in nearby Sheep Street while the Court Barn in Church Street is a paid museum celebrating the skills of North Cotswold artists.
It is a great delight to visit places like these as you’re eating, walking, drinking and living in Britain’s heritage.
We stayed at the charming Noel Arms Hotel in the High Street, one of the oldest hotels in the Cotswolds. It started life as a 16th Century coaching inn once stayed in by Charles II.
Of course the structure and some features remain but it recently had a refurb updating its fixtures and fittings to make it a very chic place to stay.
A delightful coffee shop near its reception area serves an amazing variety of herbal teas (which come with a sand timer so you can infuse your bag to perfection) and has lovelies to chomp on – like Snickers Slices, pretty much a cake blended with Snickers chocolate bar – as you read a book. It also has a very impressive brasserie-style restaurant which uses local produce. We’d dine here even if we weren’t staying the night.
Our meal included pumpkin lasagne, delicious pork with apple tart and a belly-busting rice pudding – all perfect for the onset of autumn.
The hotel also has a pub bar, Dover’s Bar, and a terrace looking onto the courtyard.
Our room, one of 28, was a modern one in the courtyard block but for the ultimate romantic stay the one you want to book is Room 6 with its four-poster 17th Century carved bed – very Princess and the Pea. Incidentally, Noel Arms has a civil wedding licence should the romance take you. Staff were very welcoming and helpful and the waitress at dinner was particularly keen to big-up Cotswold produce – well done her.
Out and about in Campden, prepare for your breath, and your normal eating and drinking habits, to be taken away. Traditional pubs serving local ales are many. We recommend the cosy Eight Bells which has a food menu packed with comfort food including pork fillet stuffed with apricot and chilli, Moroccan Tagine with couscous and Campden-grown broccoli, and puds like sticky toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce and ice cream and local plum cobbler and custard. Walk it off by wandering to Dover’s Hill or Broadway Tower where you can see the 13 counties laid out before you.
By the Eight Bells is the breathtaking Grevel House, the oldest house in Campden dating from the 14th Century. The decorated windows and architecture are simply exquisite.
Over the road and round a corner, past ancient almshouses of Cotswold stone and thatched cottages straight from a fairytale, is the Jacobean gateway of Old Campden House.
Nearby gardens include Hidcote Manor and Kiftsgate Court. There’s also a falconry centre and Batsford Arboreta a couple of miles by car or take a trip to Warwick Castle.
Escape from the South’s big towns and cities is possible without getting on a plane and Chipping Campden is perfectly close where heritage is preserved and enhanced and value is placed on history and a slower pace of life. And you won’t get a better cream tea anywhere else.
Sarah stayed at The Noel Arms Hotel, High Street, Chipping Campden, GL55 6AT. Call 01386 841136 or visit www.noelarmshotel.com for booking and current deals.
Room tariffs per night, including breakfast, are £95 for a single room, a standard double/twin £130 and a large double/twin £160. A four-poster room is £180 or a deluxe four poster costs £200. A three-course meal from the a la carte menu with coffee is £27.50.