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Escape to the country
11:17am Tuesday 21st August 2012 in Travel
This is not the Broadway of bright lights, glitz and glamour.
In fact, it could not be more different, and that is what people love about it.
Yellow stone walls and mellow street lamps give you a feeling that shutting your car door too loudly would be considered anti-social behaviour.
That sense of peace and escape is what draws nearly 40 million people to the Cotswolds every year and, arguably, Broadway is its most picture perfect village.
It is a place where the average house in the street is worthy of a photograph. It’s like walking onto the set of a Miss Marple murder mystery and is every inch the quintessential English village.
I travelled there in July, but before I reached the village I noticed the first of my must-see attractions so took a left and headed for Broadway Tower.
As I wound my way up Fish Hill I became glad that just a week earlier I’d changed cars. There was no way my old Ford Fiesta would have reached the top.
It’s a helter skelter of a hill, on the way down you are constantly warned to ‘check your brakes’ and an extra lane is provided for anyone who loses control.
A little unnerving yes, but worth it because Broadway Tower provides views that money cannot buy.
On a good day you can see 14 counties. Mine wasn’t the best of days, but it was still breathtaking.
Displays within the tower itself provide a rich history of its uses in a cylindrical setting that makes each floor feel like a unique experience.
As someone with a fear of heights it was with trepidation that I walked out onto the turret, but at 1024ft you are rewarded for any bravery it might have taken to get there.
Once you’ve enjoyed the heritage and the views – not forgetting the nearby ‘nuclear bunker’ – the scenery and on-site restaurant make it an easy place to lose track of time.
A convenient location on the Cotswold Way make it a great base for a walk, but for me it was time to head to my residence for the next few days.
Russell's was recommended by friends who know a thing or two about places to stay so I was looking forward to seeing it for myself.
Nestled in the heart of Broadway, its rooms provide you with views over the village.
Anywhere I am called 'Sir' and am greeted with such winning smiles is doing well but at Russell's there is so much substance to the unrelenting style that is on offer.
It describes itself as a restaurant with rooms, but don't let that mislead you. The accommodation here is no afterthought, in fact the room I stayed in was immaculate with a designer bathroom befitting the grandest country home. The roll-top bath came straight to mind as limbs began to tire during an early evening walk.
Although there is a television in each room I hardly noticed mine and never considered switching it on. Reading a book just seems like a far more appropriate thing to do in the Cotswolds.
It is the total escape from everyday life that I love about the place.
As you would expect, Russell’s provides some serious fine dining and a great ambience. As a lone traveller I never felt awkward and enjoyed the high standard of service which was as professional as I have ever experienced.
Delightful food – both for your main meals and at breakfast – make this an all-round great place to stay.
Russell’s also provides you with the perfect base from which to launch your explorations of the area.
In one direction, and my first port of call on day two, is Sudeley Castle. Sudeley is most famous for being the final resting place of Katherine Parr, who survived marriage to Henry VIII and was a revered Queen of England.
At the castle, though, you learn there was more to the 'Mistress of Sudeley' than at first meets the eye.
Through the words of David Starkey – a coup for Sudeley, no doubt – you learn about her ambition and anger when left disappointed by Henry at the end of his life.
Lord Starkey guides you through Sudeley’s history through plaques on the walls and a video describing all kinds of historic shenanigans in his enigmatic style.
As with seemingly all Tudor stories Katherine’s is one of mystery, love and lust. You’ll have to visit to find out more.
The castle itself is mysterious. Part ruin, shrouded in creeping foliage and part historic relic dedicated to its past, which is bound by links to the textile industry.
For me its gardens were a real treat. A mix of formal and wild, they provide a sensory experience that anyone can enjoy.
Cap all that with a mean cuppa (or maybe two) and you've got a wonderful day out set in stunning countryside and less than 15 minutes from Broadway.
My final day in the Cotswolds was full of nice surprises.
Take a sprig or two of lavender for example. Fragrant but rather unassuming.
However, when you are confronted by 75 acres of the stuff – some 350,000 plants – it suddenly becomes a more impressive spectacle.
That is what you will see if you pay a visit to Cotswold Lavender, just minutes away from Broadway.
Lavender becomes a photographer's paradise when grown in such quantity. A purple backdrop that provides an artistic shot for many a family portrait.
Visitors from America and Japan can be seen in all directions, crouching down in awkward positions while maintaining a smile for the camera.
With skylarks providing a natural soundtrack a visit to this unique farm can be as relaxing as the 40 different products it sells.
As you drive away from the lavender farm it is hard to miss Snowhill Manor – so don’t.
The National Trust property is again set in stunning surroundings and provides a wonderful blend of history and secret gardens that appear lost in time.
It's hard to imagine a more peaceful place.
Your phone signal gets lost somewhere along the short walk to the home and all that's left to distract you from the quiet is the barring of dozens of sheep. Oh, and an extraordinary sound that might have come straight out of Jurassic Park but I think I can reassure you was a donkey!
It’s hard to tear yourself away from the Cotswolds after even just a few days.
As you drive out of Broadway and head glumly to the motorway, the texts start coming through and you slowly become aware of those work emails that have been piling up while you have been in this enchanting place.
It may not be the Broadway of bright lights, glitz and glamour but it has a magic all of its own.
One I plan to experience again very soon.
- Call Russell’s on 01386 853555 or go to www.russellsofbroadway.co.uk
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