Follow the heritage trail around town for all the architectural highlights, former coaching inns, quaint alleyways and St Edmund’s Church with its memorial to John Hart who made Shipston famous for weaving ‘shag’. Check the calendar for the wool fair, too.
Right on the doorstep to the northwest is picturesque Ilmington (of Morris dancing fame), and to the south, Long Compton and the mysterious Rollright Stones: dating mainly from 2,500–2,000 BC, they are said to be a king and his men turned to stone by a witch. Or tour the brewery, begun over 150 years ago, at Hook Norton on the edge of the Cotswold Hills. See accommodation near Shipston-on-Stour.
Here’s something to perk up the senses: a series of small demonstration gardens full of colour and scent where you can learn about growing herbs, and see fields of rosemary, sage, thyme and parsley. Over 500 varieties of culinary, medicinal and scented herbs are available for sale, including 25 types of rosemary, 25 of lavender and 35 of thyme. Stop for a snack and sample the tasty flavours of fresh herbs, then meander along the nature trail down the valley and through the fields to the wood.
Was Shakespeare caught poaching deer at Charlecote Park? Come and find out, and uncover strong associations with Queen Elizabeth I, too. Charlecote Park has been home to the Lucy family for over 700 years and its mellow brickwork and tall chimneys are the very essence of Tudor England. Inside you can see how the house was remodelled in Victorian times and get a taste for 'downstairs' life in the kitchen and scullery. Relax in gardens that include a formal parterre, sensory garden and woodland, or step out on a walk across the ‘Capability’ Brown-inspired parkland, still with fallow deer.
Embark on a ride of tracks and exhilarating vistas: around the Vale of Feldon on the fringe of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, riding over the Ironstone Hills and around Brailes Hill. The tracks are good, though largely soft and un-surfaced, so they are best tackled in dry or frosty conditions (it’s a muddy ride when wet!). Start the circuit at any point; we describe it here from Whichford in the south.
A fascinating route skirting the borders of Warwickshire and Oxfordshire. It features quintessential English countryside, several historic sites, and the chance to view paintings by Canaletto and Hogarth at the National Trust’s Upton House. Passing ancient woodland with views across the two counties, the route overlooks Edgehill Battlefield, site of one of the English Civil War’s bloodiest encounters. Cottage charms of the sandstone villages of Hornton and Ratley offer quite a contrast.
This 400-year-old Cotswold stone inn on the village green provides fine food and favourite pub dishes, using local suppliers where possible. Featured in The Good Pub Guide 2011, Michelin’s Eating Out in Pubs Guide 2011, Good Beer Guide 2010, Alastair Sawday’s Special Places to Stay – British Hotels & Inns and other top guides.
This 18th-century coaching inn with open fires and low beams exudes character. Imaginative menus and seasonal specials are inspired by both locally sourced produce and continental delicacies. ‘Gastro Food Pub of the Year’ and ‘Alfresco Dining Pub of the Year’ in The Publican Food & Drink Awards 2010. Also featured in Alastair Sawday’s Special Places – Pubs & Inns of England & Wales.
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