This was an epic six days exploring the British countryside.
My trip was all organized by Visit Britain – the tourism board for Great Britain who invited me out to share my experiences with you. The goal was to show me a wide breadth of countryside destinations in the UK during my 6 days on the road.
They organized each activity with earnest local tour operators and booked my hotels. I was at their whim – entirely. And to be honestly, this trip wildly outdid my expectations.
If I go back (and I’d like to) I would spend even more time in Wales exploring castles with my guide from Planet Wales. I would love to take a pony ride and go hiking or biking through the mountains of Breacon Beacons National Park. And I would stay in one of the little towns inside the park – probably Hay-on-Wye for it’s charm.
And I certainly would like to come back for multiple nights at The Painswick Hotel to just soak in the countryside with this hotel as my base. There are so many little towns to explore in the Cotswolds, doing it only in one day gave me a taste but it was so beautiful I would go back to enjoy another few days.
Below I’ve included a bit of practical info and links for the tours and activities I experienced on this trip in case you are planning a trip yourself.
Day 1: The Cotswolds
After a morning train to the region from London, my driver from Great Escape Cars picked me up from the station. In my case, I had a driver but people usually rent vintage, luxury cars from this company to drive themselves while exploring the countryside.
Throughout the day I visited Broadway Tower and poked around the towns of Chipping Campden, Broadway, Lower Slaughter, and Painswick. They were all beautiful with their own unique characteristics. I suppose that is what is so special about The Cotswolds – the beauty and the subtle differences.
On my first evening I stayed at The Painswick Hotel. See my hotel article here.
Day 2: Bath
This was Saturday morning. After waking at the Painswick, I enjoyed a lovely breakfast of poached eggs on toast with an exotic fruit salad. And then, I took an easy train ride from Painswick to Bath.
Walking into town from the station, I quickly checked in to my hotel, The Francis Hotel. And I was off for a tour of the city on foot with my guide, Andrew, from Sulis Guides. (Bath video coming soon)
Dinner was at The Chequers in Bath. Definitely stop in there for a meal. Just off the beaten path it provides not only a local experience but also has delicious and beautifully presented European fusion food.
Day 3: Bath
Sunday got off to a exhilarating start with an adrenaline-filled activity – taking to the sky by helicopter. The company, Into the Blue, runs helicopter tours and charters in regions across the country. And they just added this new flight that takes off from the Bath racecourse. My pilot flew us over Bath and Bristol, and back. The whole trip was about forty minutes. It went by in a flash!
The rest of the day I really just meandered around, and soaked in the local life taking pictures and videos.
Day 4: Cardiff
On Monday, I had another fully-charged day. I woke up early for a train to Cardiff. And I was met at my new hotel by Sean of Loving Welsh Food. She sure has a deep connection to Welsh cooking and you can really feel it when she describes the food and share her stories both personal and historical.
A food tour is the ideal way to experience Cardiff. It is a cosmopolitan city, very diverse and busy. On our tour we had many stops that cut right to the heart of local life. Among them: Madame Fromage for rarebit, Pettigrew Tea Rooms for lava bread scones, and Fabulous Welsh Cakes for the obvious.
Day 5: Abergavenny
Next I was off to a small town in the Welsh countrysides (by train), called Abergavenny. There, I spent nearly four hours in the home kitchen of the lovely chef, Penny Lewis. She is well known as a chef requested by royals and dignitaries from the UK and beyond. From her home just outside Abergavenny she runs a B&B and cooking school called The Culinary Cottage.
I was really impressed with her patient and detailed teaching style. I learned the proper way to chop an onion (which I thought I already did pretty well!), make soda bread from scratch in less than an hour, and a handful of other stunning dishes. I’m so happy to take these recipes home and try them out in my own kitchen!
After my cooking class, Penny dropped me off in town where I made a beeline for the famed couture milliner, Alison Tod. See the video of me trying on hats and fascinators in this impressive shop here!
After cooking and shopping, it was only natural to have a bit of repose with a tea just a few doors away at The Angel Hotel – a nice place to stay in town.
Day 6: Welsh Countryside
My last day was probably the most adventurous. I was picked up at my hotel by Bill from Planet Wales. This man is a walking encyclopedia of everything Wales. And the way he told stories and explained intricate details of the castles enlivened my imagination. We went castling hopping – including to the stunning Caerphilly Castle (featured in the video).
Then we made our way into Breacon Beacons National Park where I saw beautiful rolling green hills, wild ponies, sheep, ruins, old but still active churches, small towns and B&B’s. In Britain, parks were created primary as recreational spaces for the public. Unlike in the US, it is common to find small towns, homes and businesses within the bounds of national parks.
At the end of my final day in Wales, Bill dropped me off at the Newport train station and I was back in London in under two hours. Train travel in these parts sure is convenient.
I hope you enjoyed the video and that this post was helpful to your planning process!