The sun shines bright in a wonderfully clear blue sky as the train pulls out of London’s Paddington Station. It’s not long before we are in the countryside, and the frost covered fields and hedgerows sparkle in the sunlight. I’m so pleased to have been invited back for the new Cotswolds Mystery Tour, thought up by the very same family behind the Secret Cottage Tour that I so thoroughly enjoyed a few years ago.
Having left London at 8.15am the train rushes through the Oxfordshire countryside, passing pretty villages and rivers, as well as ponies, horses and sheep in the fields. Just 5 minutes from our destination of Moreton-in-Marsh, the sun disappears behind a thick blanket of mist – the vagaries of English weather on a chilly winter’s day. Our guide, Robin, arrives promptly at 10 o’clock and we bundle into his 4×4 and head off on a The Cotswolds Mystery Tour, the mist enhancing the mystery.
The Cotswold Mystery Tour
The Cotswolds is a lovely part of England, overflowing with historic towns and villages built in the honey coloured local stone from the profits of the wool industry. The market square in Moreton-in-Marsh was once regularly filled with 20,000 sheep or more. Robin explains that the word Cotswold in 9th century Old English means ‘sheep pens on the hill’. An era long since passed. The sheep you see today (and there are far fewer of them than there once were) are bred for the meat industry, and a number of crops are now grown here too, including barley for beer, wheat for bread and rape for rapeseed oil.
Our first stop is a cute little coffee shop for a much welcomed hot drink. The pastries look exceedingly tempting but I resist, saving myself for lunch.
The tour then winds its way through one picturesque town after another, stopping off every now and again to allow us to take pictures and to stretch are legs. Robin shares many interesting facts about the places we visit and, even though I’ve lived in England all my life and have visited the Cotswolds before, there is still plenty that Robin tells us that is new to me.
Fans of Bridget Jones films and the TV series Father Brown will particularly enjoy a couple of the stops, but I don’t want to give away too much – the tour is supposed to be a mystery, after all.
Lunch in a Traditional Pub
We stop off for lunch in a lovely old pub with wooden beams and welcoming fires. We had chosen our meals earlier in the day, so we don’t have to wait long for our lunch. It was great to see that at least one vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free dish was included in the options. On such a cold day, a hot meal, rather than the ploughman’s lunch I ordered (ham, cheese and bread with pickles), would have been very welcome and I rather wished I had opted for the soup. But the Irish Coffee I treated myself to warmed me up a treat. Our lunch did feel a little rushed, but this is the only negative thing I could say about The Cotswolds Mystery Tour.
Back in London for tea!
After lunch there are a few more stops, including a drive past a lovely old brewery by a picturesque lake with swans – it’s on private land so you wouldn’t usually get to see it. Then we are dropped off at the station and are back in London by around 6.30pm.
The Cotswolds Mystery Tour is an excellent way to see this stunning area of England in a small group. Our guide, Robin, was superb. If you are staying in London, I’d highly recommend escaping the city for at least one day to see the beauty of our countryside. While this is a more general tour of the area, visiting churches, towns and villages, the Secret Cottage Tour, run by the same family, is all about the cutest thatched cottages imaginable. The two tours have completely different routes with nothing overlapping, so if you have the time do both with an overnight stay in the area in between, you won’t regret it. If possible I’d do the Cotswold Mystery Tour first, followed by the Secret Cottage Tour. You can read all about the latter in my post, The Secret Cottage Tour of the Cotswolds, and you can see more of my images from that day in a second post, The Cotswolds in Black and White.
Disclosure: Thanks to the Cotswolds Mystery Tour for the complimentary tour. As always, I will only share my own honest opinions.
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