While I was still in Edinburgh, I met a friend of a friend who grew up in nearby Chipping Norton. Having a local in my grasp, I of course grilled him for recommendations.
He told me about a pub I could walk to, a pathway that was great if I could find a dog to borrow, and a gorgeous poppy field.
We suddenly stopped, and giggled a bit, realising that all of these suggestions were just variations on the traditional English institution that is The Country Walk.
Well, let me introduce to the daddy of all Country Walks: Blenheim Palace.
Designed by Capability Brown with gently rolling acres and sparkling ponds, it’s the pinnacle of the English Garden.
We walked the grounds for hours – and because we visited on a rather overcast day, the place was entirely ours to roam. We bumped into a little lamb or pheasant here, and wandered around discovering new little pathways that led to views like this.
I genuinely felt like I was living in one of the Gainsborough’s landscapes!
I know I’m geeking out here a bit, but if you don’t know much about gardens this video is a great crash course and will make you look really smart in front of your friends (in addition to enriching your travels, of course!):
Right, that’s all your homework from Professor Rose today, I promise!
After all of that walking and wandering about, we headed back to the Palace to warm up with some hot tea and cakes.
You could spend days exploring all of the different gardens and tours here at Blenheim Palace. Rather than try to cram everything in, just pick whatever interests you and delve into it.
As you’ve probably noticed, I’m happiest with a long walk and hot cuppa, but if you’re a history buff then make sure you go on the State Room Tours. Into Fashion? They’ve got you covered too! Want to take it easy? Hire a buggy to drive you around. You could even go fishing in the middle of the estate, take a photography course, or attend one of the weekly organ recitals. There’s seriously something here for everyone!
We had one final wander around the Palace and headed back towards the main gate and into the town of Woodstock, admiring the storybook setting yet again from another angle.
Woodstock itself is a really cute village that, much like it’s neighbour, feels like it’s been plucked right out of a fairytale.
Just make sure you don’t get so distracted by the dreamy creeping ivy and honey coloured stone that you forget to check out the doors!
You’re really spoiled for choice in the sleepy little village, as there are loads of lovely little pubs and cafes in Woodstock!
The Starwood Inn offers traditional Cotswold dishes from locally sourced producers and the rather stylish Kings Arms has seasonal dishes and lovely outdoor seating. Macdonald Bear offers an old-world luxury option and The Crown is a modern, airy Instagram goldmine. You can stock up on picnic supplies at Hampers Food & Wine if the weather is cooperating. The Bleinham Buttery Inn and The Feathers, which holds the world record for having the most comprehensive gin bar, are also great options in town. If you like yoga, I’d also highly recommend checking out Downdog & Crow, a swanky yoga studio just adjacent to St Magdalene Church.
Who’d have thought such a little village would have so many great options, right?
Are there any other picturesque little villages bursting with great food and drinks? I want to know -leave me a message in the comments so I can check it out!