A Visit to the Enchanting English Countryside (With a Harry Potter Tour)

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My family and I recently spent some time in the English countryside as part of a quick trip to the U.K.

While we’ve been to London a few times we haven’t spent too much time outside of it other than a day trip to Stonehenge, Bath, and Windsor Castle. We had the wonderful opportunity to spend three nights in the English countryside, about 35 minutes outside of Bath, as part of a four-night trip to see the most popular pop star right now, Taylor Swift, perform in Wales. It was an epic start to an epic vacation!

Since we wanted a non-city experience and needed to make our base closer to Cardiff, Wales, we found a beautiful place to stay in the Cotswolds. It had everything we needed: a restaurant and bar on the premises, a full breakfast each morning, afternoon tea, and a spacious cottage to stay in that had a private courtyard and hot tub.

We arrived at Heathrow around 8:30 am and grabbed our car rental. The last time we drove on the “wrong” side of the road was in Ireland in 2014. It definitely took some getting used to again! We had to keep repeating out loud, “STAY LEFT,” but we did it unscathed. Those roundabouts are tricky, though!

Stonehenge

We took a slightly longer route and headed to Stonehenge. This gave the kids a chance to sleep since the overnight plane ride didn’t provide too much of that! When we arrived we were shocked at how much it has changed since we were last there in 2012! There’s a large entrance with a museum and gift shop, and you must wait in line to take a shuttle to get to the site about 2km away (previously, you could park and walk under a tunnel area to get there). It was so much more done! That part wasn’t expected, but once there, we enjoyed trying to mimic the poses they had on signs around the site, and the kids kept trying to figure out how these huge stones were placed there.

Our Accommodations

We then drove on some super narrow and windy roads to our base for the next three nights. This was technically a hotel, but had separate cottages and suites away from the main area. We had a one bedroom suite, with a double sofa bed in the living room for the kids. It also came with a private courtyard and hot tub. We ate at their delicious restaurant a few times and had afternoon tea when we arrived on the first day. This place really made our vacation memorable and we loved our time here! It provided us with the relaxing time that we were looking for on this trip.

Harry Potter Tour at Oxford

After sleeping in we had some “breakfast in bed” and hot tub time. We set off on a drive to Oxford about an hour and ten minutes away. Our guide met us in the pedestrian area of the town and she took us on a wonderful 1.5 hour private tour of Oxford.

We started at Blackwell’s Bookshop. It looks pretty unassuming from the outside, but once inside the space holding the books becomes bigger and bigger! It was even in the Guinness Book of World Records as having the single largest room selling books. The Harry Potter connection? This is where J.K. Rowling celebrated the publishing of the first two Harry Potter books.

We walked to the Bodleian Library, which is a pretty famous library in Oxford. One room in the library was used to film a lot of scenes in the movies. In the 4th film it was used as the place where McGonagall teaches the students how to dance before the Yule Ball. More often, it was used as the infirmary in many of the films.

Next, we walked to the Outside corridor. It was so fun looking at J’s face as she recognized this hallway from the movies. There are many times the students in different Harry Potter films are walking around these very same outdoor passages. Once through the corridor, you enter a small courtyard that has Malfoy’s tree. This is the real tree where Draco Malfoy is hanging in the tree when Mad-eye Moody turns him into a ferret!

After the corridor and tree, we walked to one of the dining halls. The Great Hall in Harry Potter was inspired by these dining halls at Oxford. However, they couldn’t film these scenes at Oxford as the students use the dining halls regularly, but you can see how closely they resemble each other. It was pretty cool to be in there and look at it!

We were able to see many other sights around Oxford…

More Towns in the Cotswolds

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at two small Cotswold towns: Stow on the Wold and Burton on the Water. Both are picturesque, quaint English towns. Stow on the Wold was pretty quiet since it was around 5:30 p.m. on a Sunday. Burton on the Water had many people having picnics along the water and strolling through the stone-lined streets. We got some ice cream and casually walked around looking at the old architecture.

Our time in England was fabulous and was a great start to our mini-vacation. We thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of it! The rest of our time was spent in Wales doing various activities such as ziplining, spending time in Cardiff, and attending the concert. But more on that later 😉

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