Saturday, 10 November 2012

The Cotswolds, Autumn 2012

Quite a few of you keep saying that as we have visited so many places and pubs in the last year, I should start writing reviews!  So I've decided to add a few reviews of pubs and places we visit from now on.

 The PH conference at Heythrop Park in Oxfordshire, in one of my previous blogs, was a highlight of our Autumn and instead of coming straight back home we travelled on to have a browse around Chipping Norton and then drove to Minster Lovell, near Witney in Oxfordshire, where we were stopping on for a couple more nights. I have had Blenheim Palace on my list of places to visit for ages now and we thought that while we were over in Oxfordshire it would be an ideal opportunity to visit. It just happened to be one of the most glorious autumn days you can imagine and as we drove into the pretty village of Minster Lovell, it actually took my breath away. It is all quintessentially very English, with pretty thatched cottages, the river Windrush meandering through it's midst and a six hundred year old inn, called the 'Old Swan and Minster Mill'.  We were staying at The Old Swan and when we got out of the car, there was the delicious aroma of wood burning coming from the pub. I couldn't really wait to check in the bags and then have an explore!
River terrace at The Old Swan

Main street, Minster Lovell
I have to say that by this point after such a busy weekend, I was completely flagging, but driven by the beautiful weather and scenery I didn't want to think I was missing anything. So we checked in and had a good old browse of the surroundings, there were lots of beautiful scenery on the doorstep to keep us both busy with our cameras.  

We had dinner in the pub, which serves generous portions of good quality food and an adventurous menu - I skipped on my starter when I saw the size of the main course - and it was a lovely intimate atmosphere, 'olde worlde' charm and roaring log fires. By the time dinner was finished I was so exhausted by the whole weekend, I could hardly walk and an early night beckoned.

Unfortunately, with PH, when you are tired its a lot worse than just tired, it's like you cross a certain threshold and then your whole body just gives up altogether. It's because your heart is working so much harder than a normal person's and just very simple tasks can be akin to a full blown zumba session and more.

When we got to our room, the beds had been turned back and there was a cosy hot water bottle, which was a lovely finishing touch, it was like they knew I wasn't well and they were making it as homely and as cosy as they could for me! This I have to say, clinched my love of this place, never mind the log fires and the beautiful food, just put me to bed with a nice hot water bottle! I'm easily pleased!

I will just add a note of caution if you find stairs difficult, as I do, there are some very tricky stairs to negotiate, as it is an old inn and has the original twisting, turning, low head height, wooden steps. Rob had to fetch all the bags in and out, without any help from me and really had to help me negotiate them.

Another place should you happen to visit Minster Lovell and worth a visit to, is the English Heritage place 'Minster Hall and Dovecote'. Hidden away behind the church in the village are some very picturesque ruins of a 15th century riverside manor house.

After a beautiful full cooked English breakfast, served in Old Swan style, the following day we set off for Blenheim Palace at Woodstock, which was about fifteen minutes drive away. We were so lucky with the weather, another glorious autumn day and as soon as you drive through the gates at Blenheim Palace you are blown away by the view over the water at this beautiful World Heritage site.

View as soon as you drive onto the Blenheim Estate, drive slowly so you don't miss it!
Blenheim Palace is an absolute treasure, the birthplace of Winston Churchill,  there is at least two days worth of things to see and more. As it was a beautiful day, we decided to concentrate on the outside and visit the palace another time to see inside. After such a busy weekend, I needed to go in my wheelchair as I had overdone things in a big way and could hardly walk and the staff at Blenheim couldn't have been more helpful.

They gave us wheelchair friendly directions and routes to take to get the best out of our visit, there are disabled loos and there is good access to the new 'take away' cafe. There are some parts of the gardens that have steep steps, so not so good, if you cannot walk at all, but on the whole I would say there were plenty of accessible places in the grounds to enjoy the visit. It does take a bit of getting around, so I would say if you struggle to walk too far, then a wheelchair or scooter is a must. 

We really enjoyed the spectacular views, architecture and gorgeous grounds of Blenheim and look forward to visiting again, so I've not quite managed to tick this one off my list yet! There is a lovely shop that is worth a browse around, we did a bit of Xmas shopping there, they had Xmas music on, which was a bit weird in October but it got me in the mood!  

It is a bit pricey to get in at £20 per adult, but if you were more able than me you could probably spend longer there and get more value for money. The good thing is once you have paid the admission fee, you can claim a pass for the whole year and come back as many times as you would like for free. So we will be going back and we will get in free - I'm always up for a good bargain!

We had another lovely evening at the Old Swan, this time I was not as tired as I had been pushed around in my wheelchair, so I was able to enjoy the evening much more, but I will concede that Mr Graham will beg to differ, he said he was 'knackered' after pushing me round all day!  We visited Woodstock town on our way home for coffee and a browse round the town and the Oxfordshire Museum at Fletchers House. Here there are some interesting artefacts and you can find out more about the local history, it's worth a browse. 

This was our second visit to the Cotswolds this year, we were blessed with glorious weather and know there are still lots of things to see and do that we couldn't quite manage to fit in, so we will be back ...

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