I was a stressed out mess last week with one of my three final assignments being due and all this uncertainty about what I’m going to be doing once the term is over, so it was really nice that a visiting friend invited me for a day trip to the Cotswolds. We booked a £46 ticket with Rabbie’s Tours, a company I previously used for my Highlands tour in Scotland, and met up at Victoria Coach Station at 9am and were off!
The drive to Oxford was under 2 hours, which gave me plenty of time to work on my essay and take in some of the English countryside views. I went to Oxford for the first time a couple months ago and while the city is cute, it’s very small and very much a college town, so I feel like there’s not a whole lot to do for visitors. We had two hours to kill, so I suggested a tour, but the only one available that day was for the library, which I had already seen (book tours in advance!!) and my next suggestion was a look at the texts displayed in the Weston library while I took a few moments to work on my paper some more. The Weston library features the Magna Carta, suffragette march posters and letters from Jane Austen, among other notable works. Apparently something was going on with the exhibit though, so my friends were in and out in a matter of minutes.
As it was noon, I suggested we go for lunch at Brown’s Cafe in the Covered Market. They do a really good fry-up (hi, buttered and fried toast is amazing) for like, £6!! I had it last time I was in Oxford and loved it even more the second time around. We then headed back towards our pick-up point and stopped for a quick pint at the Eagle and Child, a pub famous because it has seen the likes of J.R.R. Tolkien and Lewis Carroll writing their masterpieces over a drink or two. It was definitely a cool spot that was dimly-lit and super cosy, so I could see myself reading or writing there, but also hanging with friends. We actually managed to do quite a bit in our two hours, but my recommendations for any visit to Oxford are to check the weather (if it’s nice, go punting), eat at Brown’s and have a wander around the Covered Market, check out some cafes popular with students, find a cool pub (they’re everywhere) and if you want to book a tour of the university (very cool for Harry Potter fans), do it in advance and do one of the 60-90 minutes tours to get the most out of it.
Next up was a quick pit stop in the very tiny town of Burford. We were here 40 minutes and had enough time to grab a milkshake (under £3!!!!), do some souvenir shopping at a local boutique and take some photos of the beautiful daffodils. After that, it was back on the shuttle and off to Arlington, considered one of the most picturesque towns in England (I definitely agree). This was the best part of the tour because our tour guide actually walked us around (maybe a mile total) and showed us Arlington Row, a line of small cottages set up along a small road by the river. This was the most information and actual guidance we received on the tour, so that was cool. We took a bunch of photos and then made our way to the Trout Farm for some gift shop browsing before taking more photos of the river and the Swan Hotel. We were here for about an hour because our tour guide let us take our time, but there’s really only so much you can do there. We then boarded the shuttle and got back to the city at 6:30pm.
It was genuinely nice to get out of London for a few hours and even nicer that I spent less than £20 on all my food and drink intake for the day when breakfast in London alone will run you at around half that. Now, I had a really amazing experience on my Highlands tour where our guide was constantly talking to us and giving us fun facts and historical information, but idk what was up with our Cotswolds guide; he didn’t offer too much information and didn’t engage with us, which you would think would be a lot easier with a small group of four people who are friends (we were the only ones on th tour)? Idk. Maybe he was in a bad mood or maybe it was just an off day, but I really didn’t think our tour that day was worth the £46 we paid and aside from his off-putting demeanour, it wasn’t very structured. We were let loose in Oxford without any real recommendations of what to do, we stopped in a tiny town where the most exciting thing was literally finding a milkshake and then we took photos of the Cotswolds. There wasn’t anything awe-inspiring like with the Highlands tour, and that might just be chalked up to the fact that the Highlands are literally just breathtaking to begin with. I mean, my friends and I groaned about the £46 ticket then, but an hour into the tour at our first stop, we were so impressed by our guide and the scenery that we all agreed the tour could end there and be worth the money.
There are other more intimate tours of the Cotswolds, and I’m sure with more preparation and research on our end, we could have done more to make our experience fulfilling, but 3/4 are master’s students and were all working on major assignments, and the other already planned a bunch of stuff to get herself from the US to Scotland and then to London, so we didn’t really have time. I think it would have been nice to rent a place in Arlington for a day or two and just RELAX. Like, if you have a weekend to spare and want to do some reading, walking in the fresh air and get some quiet, then definitely do that, but I think you can save the £46 and do it on your own. Regardless, Arlington was a beaut and I do highly recommend visiting, especially on a clear, cool day like the one we were lucky enough to have.