Moving from Penzance to Stow-on-the-Wold we had two sights to see - Port Isaac, the quaint fishing village know as Portwenn in the television series Doc Martin, and Avebury, Stoneheng's big brother stone circle with a diameter of over 1,000 feet.
I probably wouldn't have bothered driving out to Port Isaac, what with the white-knuckle factor and all, but my mother said "you have to go see that cute village where they film Doc Martin", so I put it in the GPS and away we went. I must say it's actually a pretty cool place, and not terribly commercialized in spite of its relative fame. We figured we could at least pick up a Port Isaac calendar or something, but we only found one shop that had a few Doc Martin postcards. It was fun. I'm glad we went, though I wonder if there aren't a hundred similar villages along the Cornish coast. Watch this short video to get a sense for what these villages feel like - Port Isaac Video - Notice the Doc's house appear over the roof between the chimney and the power pole just as I pass the first building.
Avebury is an interesting place. It is another neolithic site similar to Stonehenge and built roughly the same time, give or take a few hundred years. The henge itself (a circular ditch with the removed dirt piled in a ring on the outside of the henge) is about 1,000 feet in diameter - it's HUGE, dwarfing Stonehenge by comparison. Large stones are set up just within the henge in a huge circle. It is so big that part of a village lies within the circle. Also, there are two additional independent stone circles inside the big one. It's a little mind boggling when you think about it and see these giant stones that have been standing since someone several thousand years ago decided a stone should stand in that location. It's quite moving.
Stow-on-the-Wold has been around for a very long time. The weekly markets were established in 1107 by Henry I. Our Hotel was 500 years old. So was the ventilation system - a window on each side of the room. Stow (as the locals call it) served as our base for a brief foray into the Cotswold walking culture.
A four mile drive to Bourton-on-the-water and we found ourselves as the lone tourists in a parking lot full of locals getting ready for their morning constitutional. We made a quick walk around downtown Bourton, found the public path to Lower Slaughter and headed out across fields filled with sheep, over streams and through tunnels of trees, rarely seeing a road or building. Lower Slaughter is a quaint town with a large manor house, a church, houses and a (non functional) mill. From there we continued on to Upper Slaughter where we stopped for a light lunch before our return to Lower Slaughter by the same path. From there we took a different and longer route back to Bourton. Altogether we covered 6.4 miles according to the GPS. The afternoon was warm and humid.
After resting a bit we visited the Cotswold Motoring Museum. This was a fascinating experience due to the large volume of old British and European cars that we had never heard of.
The next day it was off to Chipping Campden and Stratford-upon-Avon. It was mostly a drive-by day with quick stops to see the houses with thatched roofs in Chipping Campden and watch boats go through the locks in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Our final stop for the day was the Blenheim Palace, the birthplace and home of Winston Churchill, as well as generations of his family before him. It's quite a place. I was particularly interested in the Willis organ in the library. Unfortunately it is badly in need of a very expensive overhaul.
Then we turned in the car, hopped the bus to London for one last night with an ice cream sundae in Harrods and Mama Mia at the Novello Theatre. Then it was on the bus to the airport and home!
- Sept 13 - Penzance to Stow-on-the-Wold
- Sept 14 - Cotswolds walking tour
- Sept 15 - Stow-on-the-Wold to Woodstock via Chipping Campden and Stratford-upon-Avon
- Sept 16 - back to London