By the time we reached Day 4 of our minimoon, we were feeling nicely rested up. If you haven’t noticed the lack of going out for meals in the posts, let me point it out for you now – we knew we would be tired after the wedding, but I wasn’t prepared for the total exhaustion! I think it was a combination of all the setting up, wedding day itself and taking apart the venue, plus all the social interactions we’d had over that weekend with all the focus on us. We’re not hugely social people, so it really took it out of us! As such, by the time we reached the end of each day in the Cotswolds, all we wanted to do was sit down and relax. Fortunately, cooking our own meals is one of the big ways we relax, and our Airbnb had a good kitchen we could use. But finally, by day 4, we were ready to go out for a meal! But first, we had a day of exploring to do.
I’d had a vague plan for our trip (and I say “vague” – it was a spreadsheet with morning, afternoon and evening activities and places to visit outlined!), but we didn’t stick really strictly to it, knowing that the weather or what we felt like doing could change. Luckily the weather was on our side for our first planned visit: the Rollright Stones.
The site of the Rollright Stones was only a mile or so away from our Airbnb just outside Hook Norton. The site is owned by English Heritage but isn’t manned – it can be entered at any “reasonable” time and has a little honesty donation box with a cost of £1 each. The King’s Men stone circle is probably the most well-known and photographed at the site, dating back to around 2500 BC, but the area is also home to the Whispering Knights dolmen, potentially dating back to 3800 BC, and the King Stone, located across the road and dating to 1500BC.
The King’s Men stone circle is made up of approximately 70 stones, although it used to be more, standing shoulder to shoulder in an unbroken circle, as some have been taken away from the site and reused over the years, however legend says that they’re impossible to count – apparently whoever can count the same number of stones three times will get their heart’s desire. Well, we tried it, circling the stones three times and got the correct number – honeymoon good luck?! The stones apparently take their name from a king and his army marching across the Cotswold hills. They came across a witch who said: “Seven long strides shalt thou take and if Long Compton thou canst see, King of England thou shalt be.” Upon taking that seventh stride, the witch turned each and every one of them to stone, and there they have been ever since, as has she, as an elder tree still situated among the hedgerow.
The Whispering Knights have a different story that predates the circle: this is a “portal dolmen” – a megalithic tomb with four standing stones and a fallen capstone. There were likely more upright stones in years gone by that held up the top of the structure, creating an impressive table-like structure on top of a mound. Their name comes from the legend of the King’s Men stones, over a millennium later, stating that these are either conspiring or praying knights.
After exploring and counting these stones, we headed over to Winchcombe to the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway. In fact, we hadn’t actually realised there was a working line that we could travel on until we arrived – we’d been planning the visit as this is the station used in – yes, you guessed it! – Father Brown. See my last post for more info on this! Luckily we were there with plenty of time to spare before the next train was due to travel the line, so we grabbed our packed lunch out of the car, sat in the sunshine along the rail track and waited.
The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway travels between Cheltenham Racecourse and Broadway (the town we’d visited a couple of days before), but you can take this as a scenic round trip, although we started and ended our route at Winchcombe. The line has beautiful views over the Malvern Hills, passing small Cotswolds hamlets and villages along the way, with a stop at Toddington Station and passing Hayles Abbey Halt, where the train can be requested to make a stop. We managed to grab an empty compartment in First Class which made for a very comfortable journey. If you’re visiting the area and want a nice, easy day out, this makes an excellent one – check out the website here for more information on the services they offer.
And for the final part of our day, we decided to try out our local village pub. Hook Norton has three pubs: the Sun Inn, the Gate Hangs High and the Pear Tree Inn, all served by the local Hook Norton brewery. We’d had good recommendations for the Sun Inn so chose this one. We could have walked from our Airbnb down there, but I’m glad we didn’t as the route back up the hill is pretty steep! And of course, I only managed to snap a photo of our starters (the Black Pudding Scotch Egg with piccalilli with homemade chicken wings, if I remember correctly) and Ben’s local beer! We really enjoyed this meal though, even more so than our one the next evening which we’d booked especially as it had very good reviews in the area – but that’s coming up soon!