Dom Joly: I heart the Cotswolds
- Credit: © Thousand Word Media
Having listed the things that annoy me about this place, it’s time to redress the balance with a collection of the things I love
A couple of columns back I did a list of things that annoyed me about the Cotswolds. Although heartfelt, I think it only fair to redress the balance and give you my list of things that I absolutely, totally love about them too. Now, as an ex-Goth with a hardline cynical streak this doesn’t come easy to me, but I’ll give it my best shot.
1 Belas Knap. I love how I can walk out of the back of my farm and, within half an hour, be standing on top of a five-and-a-half thousand-year-old Neolithic burial mound. If I’m honest, I’m slightly less keen on the canoodling teenage couples necking strong cider in the ancient alcoves, or the bare-chested tattooed youths who drive stolen four-wheel vehicles up there to set them on fire but, maybe I’m getting old…
2 Whisky Sours at 131. I hate whisky. I’d really like to love it and swirl some 20 year old single malt around in a thick tumbler in front of a roaring fire but… I just loathe it. The whisky sours at 131 The Prom in Cheltenham however, are a magical concoction. They turn my life into wonderful slow-motion and appear to have the magic secret to putting my wife into a good mood. I strongly suspect that the barmen might be involved in some kind of witchcraft but, with these results, I’m turning a blind eye.
3 The Windrush Valley. Nowhere deserves to be this beautiful. I have travelled far and wide across the world but would be hard-pressed to find somewhere quite as idyllic as sitting by the river, under a weeping willow on a hot summers day and wondering whether you are going to join your two Labradors in a cooling plunge?
4 Made By Bob. For ages this was my regular foodie haunt in Cirencester and I miss it now I’ve moved further afield. It is one of those rare restaurants that get it just right. You can’t book, the menu changes regularly, the food is cooked in front of you and the place is always buzzing. They serve the best steak and chips in the UK – hands down.
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5 The Cotswold Way. You know that middle age is upon you when you proclaim your love of walking for no particular purpose but what can you do? I still feel that should you walk the “way” in large groups replete with sticks and laminated maps then you are a legitimate hunting target but I’m probably in the minority there. If you haven’t “walked the way” then what are you waiting for? It’s a British marvel.
6 Sandford Parks Lido. Lido is the Italian word for beach and this, therefore, is the Cotswold Riviera. I only recently discovered this and wondered why on earth I hadn’t done so earlier? This beautiful, outdoor swimming pool in the heart of Cheltenham is a godsend on a sunny day when you have restless, bored kids rattling around the house. Not only that but they have a great little café that serves almost healthy fare.
7 Cotswold Stone. I know it’s obvious, but it’s only when you leave the area that you really start to appreciate just how special it is. I now start to feel uncomfortable when I venture into “red-brick” zones and get anxious when the dying sun doesn’t turn nearby stone into subtle hues of honey. There are still issues with the lack of stability in the dry-stone walls, but when you look like that – like thick, statuesque, horsey blondes – they can be forgiven anything.
8 Burford – Gateway to the Cotswolds. I have to admit to not really liking Burford. It’s a bit twee and the sort of place my wife’s Canadian relatives might love. However, when I’m on the long drive back from London and I’ve suffered the nightmare of the single-lane traffic jam from Oxford, it’s only when I hit Burford that I remember why I live out here. I can pop into the wonderful Upton Smokery to stock up on exotic food and drink that I don’t really need, before heading home through staggering scenery with a big, huge, smug smile on my face.
I love you, Cotswolds.
This article by Dom Joly is from the September 2014 issue of Cotswold Life.
For more from Dom, follow him on Twitter: @domjoly