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Trip Report: American visiting Bibury (Cotswolds) and London

Trip Report: American visiting Bibury (Cotswolds) and London

Apr 7th, 2011, 12:06 PM
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Trip Report: American visiting Bibury (Cotswolds) and London

Hi Fodorites,

I imagine this trip report will only be of middling interest to those traveling from Heathrow to the Cotswolds. The report will be a bit dry – sorry – trying to be as helpful as possible. More to come in segments.
ChgoGal is offline  
Apr 7th, 2011, 12:12 PM
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Well, I'm doing that. Snap it up, snap it up!
lennyba is offline  
Apr 7th, 2011, 12:40 PM
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Day One: Heathrow to Bibury
Flew Chicago O’Hare to Heathrow on March 29, scheduled to arrive at 7:50 a.m. Plane delayed (30 min). Disembarking plane (10 min). Walk to and queue for border control (10 min). In line for border control (35 min). (The line was very long at my arrival time… I was very near the wall.) Then on to collect baggage at baggage reclaim (10 min).

I mention the time this took in case you need to catch a connecting bus as I did. Buying bus/rail tickets (not to London, but to other locations) in advance is much, much cheaper, but you need to allow time to get to your bus – as these cheaper bus tickets aren’t changeable/refundable.

(I used http://www.traveline.info to plan my Heathrow-Bibury-London travel and to link to sites to purchase my bus and train tickets.)

At arrival lobby (you will be funneled here from baggage claim), I withdrew cash from the ATM machines near the information desk. (There are around 4-6 all together along one wall.) Before this I had no local currency.

Also, you may want to buy a 5 pound phone card to call the US or call local numbers. Rates are around 2 cents/minute internationally. Not sure about local calls, but could be more. Also, calling a local mobile phone is more expensive. Remember to write down home phone numbers and the country calling code to make these calls (ex. to America 011-area code-7 digit phone). If you carry your laptop, my friend used skype which also allowed calls to land lines and mobile lines for $.02/minute – I think minimum credit amount to purchase was $10.

After that, I walked toward the Underground station and the Central Bus Station (same direction). Clear signage for both. At the Underground station, went to the ticket information window and purchased an Oyster card for use with London’s subways. There is a 5 pound deposit for the card, plus I put on an additional 15 pounds. Tip: I believe it’s best to use cash-only though others may disagree. Don’t mix methods of payment (i.e. cash and credit card) because you get your deposit plus any remaining balance back (at Heathrow station) when you leave and I’ve been told twice now by the ticket agents it’s best not to. Also, if you have more than a 10 pound balance on the card when you return the card at the end of your trip, you have to fill out a short form. My friend who used a credit card had spent ten minutes answering questions and presenting her passport to get her deposit and balance back. Adding money to your card (or “topping up” is easy at all stations. Just takes a few minutes to figure out the process.) Also, ask for a bus and tube map at this time.

As I was going to Bibury by way of Cirencester, I double-backed (a short distance) to take the elevators to the Heathrow Central Bus Station where there is a coffee shop, restrooms and ticket stand. A central lobby has departure boards to tell you which bus stand to move to nearer your departure time. My ticket was purchased many weeks in advance and I presented my e-ticket to the bus driver. (See link above to traveline.info).

The ride to Cirencester took two hours and the bus driver told us food and drink aren't allowed but as long as you’re quiet and discreet (and not spilling food obviously), you shouldn’t have an issue.

The bus arrived in Cirencester, and the stop I needed was the Beeches Car Park (parking lot) – which is a sheltered bus stop with a pay phone 30 feet away, and a pay-toilet (20 cents) if needed.

From Cirencester to Bibury, I’d booked a taxi thru freephone taxi ( http://www.freephonetaxi.co.uk/ ). Did this online and received a confirmation email in a few hours. I DID call again just to let the taxi company now I was there early and Marc (the driver/proprietor) came right away. Very nice man. The charge was 14 pounds to Bibury, but I tipped a couple more. Don’t know if he would have been there without my calling once again. Best to confirm whether he needs that second phone call telling him you’ve arrived or not. Jot down a couple other taxi numbers in case.

The ride from Cirencester to Arlington/Bibury is around 8 miles.

I believe there IS a bus from Cirencester to Bibury, but I didn’t see this information on traveline.info. I learned of the bus from the hotel proprietors and took the bus BACK to Cirencester for under 2 pounds. If going to Bibury, perhaps your hotels can help with the schedule and pick up location.

More on Bibury to come.
ChgoGal is offline  
Apr 7th, 2011, 12:46 PM
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Hi, lennyba. I did hikes in the Cotswolds last October basing myself in Cheltenham (walking about Chipping Campden, Broadway, Snowshill, Winchcombe and other villages) -- used public transportation all along the way. If you have specific questions about Cheltenham as a base, let me know.
ChgoGal is offline  
Apr 7th, 2011, 12:58 PM
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hi chgoGal,

just dropping in to see how you got on.

so far so good!
annhig is offline  
Apr 7th, 2011, 01:02 PM
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ChgoGal - most definitely interested! We're basing in Moreton-in-Marsh for a few days this coming October and will be using public transpo only as well. If you have any specific walking reco's or books/maps you used, please let me know.
lennyba is offline  
Apr 7th, 2011, 01:12 PM
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Topics: Bibury and The Catherine Wheel
I booked a single room at the Catherine Wheel Pub in Bibury which I thought was a quaint little Cotswold name until my friend wondered aloud why the inn was named after a medieval torture device. The rate was 49 GBP or $78.96. You can see my pics on tripadvisor.com in the next day or so.

The Pub is in one building, and the rooms (3, I think) are across the car park in a separate building. The room was smallish but linens were very clean, the bathroom was immaculate, and the shower was phenomenal. Great water pressure, brightly lit, recently remodeled – very nice. Issues with the room: no phone in room and hairdryer was at the desk (without a mirror so you’re drying blind). Breakfast included in rate at the pub – cereal, fruit, and full English breakfast.

The staff were lovely, warm people. And they brought me the local village newsletter (without irony) full of charming parish news of fundraisers featuring a bouncy castle and such.

They told me of the twice-daily bus to Cirencester and called (the post office, I think) for the bus timetable. The bus stops right in front of (on the same side of the street) as the Catherine Wheel Pub. Not in front of the car park, but near the larger bay window facing the street. You’ll see there is a small bit of paved road that is inset here. No bus stop sigh – you just flag the bus driver as he nears. The bus was right on time. You tell the bus driver either single or round trip, and your final destination and he'll tell you the fare. The driver does give change, but I didn't know for sure, so I was ready with lots of coins. Fare was around 1.8 GBP... definitely under 2 pounds.

As for Bibury village itself, know that Arlington and Bibury just sort of melt into each other. Very small villages. Very walkable. The Bibury church is beautiful – wonderful stone carvings. Go through the graveyard and you’ll see a wooden door (light blue, if I remember correctly) that leads to the gardens behind the Bibury Court Hotel. Very pretty. You can walk along the River Coln here and around to the front of this pretty hotel.

Charming cottages all throughout the village. Arlington Row is wonderful to see. Ducks and swans (which despite their elegance, I suspect are unpleasant.) A couple old mill buildings, an antique shop and the Trout farm are other attractions. My focus was on the hikes, and those details to come next…
ChgoGal is offline  
Apr 7th, 2011, 01:56 PM
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Hi annhig and lennyba: Thanks for the replies.
annhig -- had a great time in lovely England. Had gorgeous weather and the people were extra nice. (Needing tourist dollars?? Preparing for the Olympics??)

lennyba: The traveline site was great for me to plan bus/train schedules. As for books and maps, you will need a compass and an Ordnance Survey OS Explorer series (paper) maps for the areas you're going to. You ought to buy them in advance. If you go to the site, often there are discounts to buy 2, get one free. (They're about 14 pounds each.) I photocopied the areas I was going to walk and laminated them. I used a clip to attach them to my backpack and to keep them folded. (I still brought the full map, but a smaller, laminated, waterproof sheet that you can mark with a china marker makes the going easier.)

Learn how to use the map compass before you go. It's not very, very hard, but practicing is a good idea. I'm directionally-challenged, but I am getting better and better. The more at ease you are with working with your compass and the map, the better off you'll be.


I bought my compass as REI. The maps are scaled 1:25,000 and the American compasses are scaled 1:24,000 -- which meant very little to me as I didn't really use those measurements. I just used the directionals.

Also, trekking poles are (retail) about $100, but at steepandcheap.com, they are often up for sale, and I bought mine for $65. Many on the boards will tell you they're not necessary, but when you're going up/down steep inclines, especially if the way is muddy (and this can be very slippery), they are wonderful for both balance, foot & ankle stability and to help your knees and leg muscles.

A GREAT book I got from the library was Walking in the Cotswolds produced by AA publishing (2006). Hope you can find this book. The link at the Chicago PUblic Library is here:

but if you can't, AA publishing seems to do other walking books.

or at this website:

and I consulted these websites, too.

You can often google "Moreton-in-Marsh walks" and check google images for some walks. With a published walk and the ordnance survey map, the way can be fairly easy.

The walks that follow the Cotswold way are better marked, but many others aren't. Still, your eyes begin to get used to seeing the faint indications of a walking path or spotting a colored trailmarker from a distance.

If you aren't married to Moreton-in-Marsh, I'd recommend basing your stay in Cheltenham at the George Hotel, as the bus station is a block away and the restaurant at the George is wonderful. I had such an easy time from Cheltenham... don't know anything of Moreton-in-Marsh so this may be good, too.
ChgoGal is offline  
Apr 7th, 2011, 02:13 PM
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What terrific information, thank you! I am satisfied with Moreton for now but won't rule out other options...
lennyba is offline  
Apr 7th, 2011, 09:49 PM
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"The driver does give change, but I didn't know for sure,"

The American cult of "exact fare only" is almost unheard of in Britain (and as far as I know almost everywhere else in Europe).

In a few places (most notably central London), buses won't sell tickets at all: you have to prebuy or have a pass. And obviously buses often won't have change of a £50 or €100 note. But when cash is accepted, change is always given

Viewed ergonomically, the US tradition is weird: watch the (generally rare since most passengers have passes) process of buying a bus ticket for cash, and most of the time is taken up by customers rooting for money. Insisting on accuracy from the (untrained) customer adds time, since the extra rooting and counting takes longer than it takes a trained driver to dispense change.
flanneruk is offline  
Apr 8th, 2011, 02:12 AM
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Hmmm - in my experience Flanner there are plenty of bus companies who operate a "no change" policy. In fact until your comment I'd have thought it almost ubiquitous with the obvious caveat exempting prepaid schemes.

Be that as it may, in conclusion, I think it would be unwise of visitors to assume they'll be getting change, nor to assume that what is true of one bus company will be true of another.

Dr D.
Dr_DoGood is offline  
Apr 8th, 2011, 02:19 AM
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Flanner, in Glasgow and Edinburgh it's exact fare only, I'm afraid. Driver, doesn't handle the cash, it's dropped into the machine and the ticket is issued.
In Edinburgh though, it's a flat fare (£1.30) at the moment.
In Glasgow, it's a pain with lots of different fares. I love Glasgow, our bus service, although it has lots of useful routes, isn't the easiest.
alihutch is offline  
Apr 8th, 2011, 07:30 AM
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True, flannerUK. I was miss fumble-fingers with the coins... not knowing what the denominations looked like quickly. Fortunately my driver was nicely patient and didn't tear off down the street while I stood there painfully deciphering the coins.
ChgoGal is offline  
Apr 8th, 2011, 08:13 AM
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Day one and two: Bibury and Cirencester
My first walk was a circular walk from the Catherine Wheel north to Ablington Manor, north towards Winson (not quite going all the way to Winson), east through a great valley walk, then south down the ‘Salt Way’ Walk, and finally west passing Hale Barn back to the village. (This walk is 6.25 miles and is a featured walk in ‘Walking in the Cotswolds’ – see info. above.)

Finding the start point is always hardest: From the Catherine Wheel, cross the street and go left (westward; not toward the village which is east) and there are 2 streets that rise (up a small incline) from the road. The first is a cul-de-sac to a few residential homes. This isn’t the right street. The second street that rises leads to a field where the walk is. There is signage very soon after you make that turn from the main road in front of the pub… but it’s not RIGHT on the corner. Few trailmarkers, but the paths are clear, and using both a photocopy of the pages from the book and my ordnance survey map, had very little trouble with this walk. A highlight is going the 1-1.5 miles through a twisting valley. Wonderful.

I could have extended this walk to take in Winson to the north, or Barnsley to the south, but was jet-lagged from the flight.

The second walk was from Bibury to Coln St. Aldwyn. The highlight of this walk is following the twisting River Coln to the village. Absolutely beautiful and somewhat diverse… through woods, then through the flat river valley.

The walk is 6 miles (a little less if not doing the circle) and the map I used is here:

To start, go to the front of Bibury Court hotel and walk to the river. You’ll be on the river path (right is towards the village, left is the small bridge.) Walk to the bridge, and cross bridge going to the right. You’ll see a bridle path stretching before you – clearly marked. Eventually on the left, you’ll see a very large home with a huge stretch of parkland as a “back yard” with the Coln River winding along it on the left. Follow the bridle path into the woods (up a slight incline). The bridle path is clearly marked. You keep the river to your left all the way to the village, and on your right on your return.

The village of Coln St. Aldwyn has a lovely church. A nice place to wander about before returning to Bibury. There was a small shop on the way to the church where you could buy snacks, but so small it may not keep regular hours. Best to bring your own provisions.

There is a circular walk that has you return (from the village) on a different path. I began to do this (by mistake) and the view on the path (away from the river) was bland. I recommend going back the exact same way you came – following the river.
ChgoGal is offline  
Apr 8th, 2011, 08:14 AM
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Day two: Bibury to Cirencester to London

Rushed back to the Catherine Wheel triumphant, sweaty and covered in mud, to catch the 2:05 p.m. bus to Cirencester. As mentioned earlier in this thread, the bus goes twice daily to Cirencester.

From Cirencester, I needed to catch another bus to the Kemble Rail Station to catch the train to London.

All this travel information was found at http://www.travelinesw.com/swe/XSLT_...LPxx_link=home

You pay cash on the bus (no advance reservation/purchase needed; under 2 pounds) to ride to Cirencester. A big stop is the Cirencester Corn Market which is where I got off and where I was to catch the 881 Bus towards Tetbury (which stops at the Kemble Rail Station).

Cirencester is a lively town… lots of coffee shops, restaurants, etc., so nice to wander around if you have time.

The Kemble rail station was closed when I arrived so I used the automated ticket machine to print out my pre-paid ticket (bought through http://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk/). You must have the exact same credit card you used to purchase the ticket, because this was the only option to locate the ticket. (The machine didn’t offer an option to put in a record locator or confirmation number.) AND the machine had a hard time reading my credit card, so I had to try several times. Eventually, the machine spit out my ticket. The fare from Kemble to London was 14 pounds when I purchased a month in advance. The train arrives at Paddington Station.
ChgoGal is offline  
Apr 8th, 2011, 09:07 AM
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Don't know why you'd think this would be of middling interest. Lots of good information.

I stayed at the Bibury Court some years back -- before it was renovated and the prices soared. It was charming even then and the food was quite good. I even spent a few hours casting to trout on their stretch of the Coln. I don't think the Catherine Wheel was open, then. Prices at the Swan were more expensive than Bibury Court, but today it's half the price!
Fra_Diavolo is online now  
Apr 8th, 2011, 12:39 PM
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i like Cirencester too. it makes a great stopping off point on my [family/duty] trips from Cornwall to Coventry; the shops are sooo much better than anything here but I have to be careful not to stop too often else I'd be bankrupt.

I'm STILL enjoying the report, Chgogal. Don't know why you thought they wouldn't.
annhig is offline  
Apr 8th, 2011, 01:36 PM
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Well, with this information dump, I try to be useful when I have little hope of being entertaining. Thanks for the nice words, annhig.
ChgoGal is offline  
Apr 8th, 2011, 02:28 PM
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Day 3-6: London

From Paddington, I went to my hotel, the Darlington Hyde Park (rate = 89 GBP/$143), which was a great little hotel just a quick walk from Paddington. Very clean. Large room for a single. Same issue as my Bibury hotel: no alarm clock, no hair dryer that could be plugged into an outlet in the bathroom – so no mirror. See my pics at tripadvisor.com in a few days. I’d recommend this hotel to anyone. Staff was very kind, too. The pics on tripadvisor or their website don’t do justice to the atmosphere of the hotel.

Stayed only one night there as I’d rented an apartment in Marble Arch with my two friends. Will post VRBO information at a later date after we’re free and clear of our landlords and our security deposit is returned.

Saturday, my friend and I went to the BOROUGH MARKET and joined a huge crowd of people. The weather that day was wonderfully warm. We bought flax seed “flaxjack” bars from the FlaxFarm vendor in the Jubilee market. http://www.boroughmarket.org.uk/page/3033/Artisans/11 (I’d bought them back in October and had to get more. These are more delicious than you’d imagine they’d be.)

Met up with two other friends at the http://www.kappacasein.com/ stand because I’d read from a Fodorite that sandwiches here were to die for, but after seeing the dangerous amount of cheese they slathered on their too-tempting sandwiches and potato jackets, we passed on lunch here. (I’m not young – my body would protest in unpleasant ways.)

We were starving, so decided to grab a bite at the MARKET PORTER PUB which is where we planned to meet Fodorites Jamikins, BikerScott and PatrickLondon, and others. http://www.markettaverns.co.uk/The-Market-Porter/

Food vote: The fish and chips, steak pie and burger were very good, the pesto pasta was bland. The cider I had was wonderful – had a little pear on the label but never remember names. Bartlett’s? B… something. Lovely waitress, too. We sat upstairs as the restaurant was packed.

I was itching to meet up with the Fodorites, so I went back downstairs looking for clustering folks I thought might be them. Several groups were creeped out by my hopeful, crazy-eyed stare, and then my approaching to ask if they were the "Fodors group," but luckily I recognized Patrick by his profile pic, then met the others: a good-looking group of normal-looking people without unusual piercings or visible neck tattoos. (You never know, right?) I ascertained their location by the fireplace but had to hurry back to my friends to get at our lunch.

The Fodorites moved on to the Southwark Tavern, but I heard Southern Tavern, and my friend heard Sutton Tavern. What dull ears we had. We walked right by the Southwark Tavern and decided that must be it, but the others needed to get on with more sightseeing (they’d not been back in many, many years) so I caved to the will of the group. I regret missing my chance to talk with such a nice group of people. I hope to meet them the next time I’m in London. So - Don't be afraid of the Fodor's GTGs.

We walked to ST. PAUL’S to hear the 5 pm EVENSONG. There were plenty of seats, but to get the best effect, walk to the alter as close as the seating allows because if you sit in the back, you’ll be distracted by the people shuffling about and leaving the service early.

My friend and I left our friend with her two England-based pals at a horrible pub in the City called O’NEILLS PUB. It’s a chain, and the Londoner of the group stressed this was a terrible, terrible, crap pub and that we were only there for convenience sake. Then the Londoner nearly lost her mind when one of us Americans tipped the bar girl a pound. She told us this isn’t really done at crap pubs and would just confuse the poor girl. Still, we felt good about the gratuity. And the pub wasn’t terrible. I had a soda bread appetizer – good – and a fairly good cider, so I was satisfied.

In honor of my 40th birthday, the girls treated me to AFTERNOON TEA at the DORCHESTER. A wonderful treat. I think I’ll have to make this a “must-do” each time I return. We’d reserved a 5:15 p.m. sitting as we were all busy during the day. The room is very smart, so we all dressed up a little, but I believe at the late hour, the crowd coming in was a bit more casual than they might have been earlier in the day.

There were many blends of teas to choose from – and all were excellent. The server came by with a selection of 6 sandwiches (crustless, about the size of my stapler) and they were mostly bland, but very fresh. The array of petite desserts they brought out next were all very good and more exotic than usual bakery fare. Very nice. And, as we let drop that it was my birthday, the server brought out a slice of birthday cake on her own volition. And the piano player played ‘Happy Birthday to Me.’ Very nice. Then the server offered to have the cake boxed up almost immediately as she knew we’d be stuffing ourselves with the tea pastries. (Classy.) Tip: Let slip that it’s someone’s birthday in the group and get free cake. (Not classy.)

The next few days, we hit the V&A, the Wallace Collection, St. George’s in Hanover Square, Chiswick and Kew Gardens and explored many neighborhoods. I won’t elaborate as information on the board and web is plentiful. If someone wishes for my impressions, let me know and I’ll happily dredge my memory for you.

On our last day, we took the train from Earl’s Court Station TO HEATHROW. We allowed 4.5 hrs to get to Heathrow – which was just perfect. And here’s why…
12:45 – 1:00 p.m.: taxi from apt. to Earl’s Court Station
1:00 – 1:30: on train to LHR
1:30-2:00: return Oyster Card for your 5 deposit and our card balances
2:00 – 4:15: at LHR. Walk to departures from LHR tube stop (long way, 10 min), print boarding passes at automated kiosks (no line, 3 min.), check bags (5 min), go through security (20 min), had a nice, sit-down lunch (45 min), shopped in international terminal (very nice selection of shots and restaurants)
4:15-4:30: walk from center “wait area” to gate. Note: gates’ distance vary; they’re 5-15 minutes away so allow time here. Gate information is posted on digital displays here in the center “waiting area”
4:30: Plane begins boarding
5:00: Plane is CLOSED
5:15: Take off

I'll end here. A nice trip. England never disappoints.
ChgoGal is offline  
Apr 8th, 2011, 02:33 PM
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PRONUNCIATION TIP as I was wrong on both: Bibury is pronounced bye-burr-ee and Cirencester is si-ren-ses-ter (like an alarm 'siren'). Long 'I's.
ChgoGal is offline  

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