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Slow Cotswolds: Including Bath, Stratford-upon-Avon & Oxford (Bradt Travel Guides (Slow Travel series)) Paperback – 15 Apr 2011
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'Eye-opening and wonderful' The Sunday Times Magazine 'Slow guides take time to point the way.' Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall 'The Slow guides are the perfect travel companion - warm, witty and stuffed with insider knowledge. I can't think of a better way to unlock the joys of Britain.' Carl Honoré, author of In Praise of Slow '....Mills is knowledgeable and in love with the region in which she spent her formative years. This passion comes through in her prose.' thetraveleditor.com '...Slow Cotswolds is a great example of an excellent local guide from a large travel publisher....it's an essential addition to all of our summer excursion toolkits, offering stacks of tips to help us enjoy the natural riches on our doorstep.' Bath Life 'In her book, Mills shares her love of the Cotswolds with an enthusiastic, personal narrative, guiding visitors from market towns to elegant abbeys, cheese-rolling competitions to Rollright Stones.' tlm magazine 'A pleasant and essential guide' Cotswold Life
About the Author
Travel writer Caroline Mills contributes to various UK magazines and guidebooks. She has lived in the Cotswolds for almost 40 years.
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This area includes some of the best places to go for a long weekend as well as having enough interest for longer breaks. Bath, Stratford-upon-Avon and Oxford are already extremely popular tourist destinations, but it's nice to have a guide that joins the whole area up and allows you to plan a holiday around these big historical sites - or just look at pleasant countryside, nice food & drink and a good walk.
Every destination gets recommendations for where to eat, shopping and accommodation and how to get there. But it's "unique selling point" is that it's not a guide for car users but rather is intended to be used by those who want to travel by other means and go on a cycle or walking tour, for example.
Nowadays we are very quick to jump in our cars and head down a packed motorway - but this is the "Slow" guide and it's not about rushing around and packing as much in as possible. As they quote : "What is this life if, full of care we have no time to stand and stare"
Much of the Cotswolds is designated as an "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty" - so why rush past it in a car? This book is intended to slow you down and get you "out there" on "Car-Free" exploration. So it has scenic walks and cycle routes and tells you how to get onto them without using a car.
In this respect I can see this being very well-received by Ramblers groups and I know that Will Self writing in "Walk" magazine, has bemoaned the fact that most people drive to get to the start of walks. This book allows you to plan an alternative to adding to the congestion on our roads.
I think this book is well-laid out - with a large colour map at the beginning and a lot of photos which entice you into the experience. It is then split into ten chapters/regions, as indicated on the map, with a good index at the end. There are lots of smaller maps scattered within, to help walkers/cyclists as well as indications of where you can download furher maps and information.
I can imagine that confirmed car-addicts will find this daunting - but for those who are prepared to give it a go and leave cars at home - this is the book for you.
The area covered by the guide is vast, providing an interesting overview of the region and highlighting some of the towns and villages that are worth a visit. The guide is illustrated by a handful of photographs grouped together at the front and sketches throughout the remaining pages. It is enough for me but may disappoint if you want a fully illustrated guide.
There are suggestions for places to eat and stay made throughout the book. The only one mentioned that I have tried recently was the Pump Rooms at Bath; a worthwhile experience amongst interesting surroundings with decent food, but not somewhere you would probably go accompanied by young children.
I found some of the decisions about how much space should be given to various places a little odd at times. For example, an entire page is devoted to the lavender fields at Snowshill. I have visited and, whilst they provide an interesting vista and heady fragrance, I would find it difficult to spend a huge amount of time there, even allowing for a visit to the tea room and gift shop. By contrast, Snowshill Manor and garden (a couple of miles away) feels very dismissed with a two paragraph entry in which Charles Wade's worthwhile and eclectic collection is described as `bizarre ... knick-knacks' and `near-on bonkers' and the garden is not even mentioned. I have easily spent several hours exploring the house and garden, walking amongst the varied collections on the many occasions I have visited - there really is something there to interest everyone.
Despite the above, there were no glaring omissions that I could find with my only real gripe being one of different taste for featured places over those chosen by the author.
If you are not familiar with the area then the book will provide an introduction that may help you to decide where to base yourself for a stay. You will need to supplement with walking guides if you wish to explore on foot and probably a more detailed guide to specific chosen areas to make the most of any visits and to create a balance in terms of which places will appeal to your own tastes.
For the entry on Corsham the only central pub described is The Flemish Weaver, but the landlord & landlady Mac & Dawn left many years ago and it's now by far the worst pub in Corsham (check out Tripadvisor). The adjacent Town Hall is described as Georgian, despite the enormous 1882 carved into the facade, it's also described as having been built as the market hall, but that was the pre 1882 building. Much also is made of the Flemish weavers cottages, whereas they were only described as such after the 1930's and it's very doubtful that they ever housed Flemish weavers (the pub,'The Flemish Weaver' was called The Packhorse until the early 2000's).
In the entry for Bath the book says that you can watch Bath Rugby for free from the end of Johnstone Street - don't plan a trip to Bath on this assumption as you can only see a quarter of the pitch from this vantage point and if you try to watch on match days you'll be swiftly moved on by security!
Not a bad book by any means, but take everything with a pinch of salt and double check before relying on it.
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