Thursday, August 11, 2011

In Search of Roots – A Trip through Ireland and Great Britain
Part 3 – Finally on the Road – Blenheim Palace and the Cotswolds

On the morning of June 18th, we pulled out of the garage under the Southgate Shopping Center headed for Blenheim Palace and our next B&B, Bramley House in Chipping Campden in England’s Cotswold region. The 118 mile trip is shown in the map above. By coincidence, Blenheim Palace is marked with a B, and Chipping Campden with a C.
Our normal routine was that Pat was holding the GPS and the Google directions. We found the GPS much easier to use as it told us what to do. The Google directions required looking at the directions and then finding the road or street that was indicated. This procedure was not too hard when a numbered highway was involved as they were usually indicated with posted signs. However, street signs were often either non-existent, placed in a difficult location, or too small to read until it was too late to act on them. One day, I had two sets of Google directions and gave Pat the wrong page, and before we knew it we were driving in a development. Once we got off the track with Google directions, it was not always easy to return to the route. With the GPS, if you missed a turn or took the wrong exit at a roundabout, the GPS recovered very rapidly and was able to re-route us with very little lost driving.
I did find that I had programmed the GPS incorrectly for one or two destinations, but I was even able to correct that with real time reprogramming. As a result as the trip progressed, we relied more on the GPS and referred less and less to the Google directions.
Our first success with the GPS came when we were in front of the entrance to Blenheim Palace and the GPS announced “You have reached your destination.” The Palace is situated on over 2,000 acres of land. There is a large area for parking for the large number of visitors, which is some distance from the actual entrance. I was able to allow my car to take Pat close to the entrance and leave her off to minimize the walking before I parked it.

                Blenheim Palace Front

We purchased two “Concession” (Senior) tickets for £15 each. Practically every place we visited, had a reduced price for seniors, usually labeled “concession,” which saved some money as these attraction prices were a lot higher than I would have expected in the States for equivalent attractions. £15 was the equivalent of $24 at the time. For this price one can see the State Rooms, a story about the Palace, an exhibition about Winston Churchill (Blenheim is the Churchill family home), and the Park and Gardens (See for more information). No photography is allowed inside, so I am unable to share images of the rooms, but the outside and gardens are a treat, so I’ll show them here.

Blenheim Palace From the Garden

River View from the Garden

 After leaving Blenheim we went toward Chipping Campden to spend the two nights Bramley House ( ). We had a little problem finding the location after arriving in Chipping Campden, but eventually found it and were warmly welcomed, by Jane, one of the owners.
Bramley House

After a while, we were ready for dinner and Jane recommended the Lygon Arms on High Street. After the day’s drive and the experience finding the place, we really didn’t want to drive and asked if there were a taxi. Jane after calling to make reservations for us took us the short distance to the center of town and told us to have the restaurant call her to pick us up to take us back. The Lygon Arms is a delightful pub in the hotel of the same name. After a pint each to celebrate our day, I had the lamb chops (see picture) while Pat had sole. After dinner and we were ready to return, we asked the waitress to call Jane to pick us up. Instead of calling, the owner appeared and took us back. This was one of the many kindnesses that we encountered on our trip.
Lamb Chops at Lygon Arms

The next morning we had breakfast with the two other couples then staying at Bramley. In the normal “where are you from?” conversation we discovered that one of the couples had a summer home a short distance from the small upstate New York town that Pat is from. There was quite a spirited discussion of people and places known to both. That was the first of several coincidences that occurred on our trip.
After breakfast, we asked Jane about places to visit in the area. She lent us some local maps and pointed out the places to see. We spent most of the day (Sunday) driving in the Cotswolds.
We started just outside Chipping Campden with the lavender field and farm shown below.

Cotswold Farm with Lavender Field
Broadway Tower ( )
From the Broadway Tower, we went on to Stanway, a small village, which is dominated by a Jacobean manor house owned by the Earl of Weryness (,_Gloucestershire )

Stanway Gate House
Cotswold House in Stanway

After Stanway, we visited Broadway in Worcestershire, (,_Worcestershire ), where we stopped for lunch. We walked around and I took pictures on High Street. In many English towns, the main street is named High Street.
High Street Broadway
We then went to Blockley, a very small village, but with interesting architecture. ( An outstanding building is the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul.
Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Blockley

Houses in Blockley

A distinctive element of the Cotswolds' architecture is the thatched roof. The construction of these roofs is a dying art, but we managed to capture some fine examples, as shown in this house in Chipping Campden, below.  After our tour, we returned to the Lygon Arms (driving ourselves) and had another fine dinner.
Traditional Cotswold Thatched Roof in Chipping Campden
More images of Blenheim Palace and The Cotswolds are at

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