Autumn in the Cotswolds With Kids

This was the second October half-term holiday in a row we took a trip to the Cotswolds. Since I never got around to writing about it last year, I’m now doing a 2-for-1 special on blogging about it.

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Both years, we stayed at the Lygon Arms, a former coaching inn-turned-luxury-hotel that dates back to the 1300s (!), which boasts quite the list of famous names who have stayed under its roof. King Charles I, Oliver Cromwell, King Edward VII and VIII, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor…

And now these notorious characters:

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You can read more about its impressively long history on the website (that’s for you, Dad and Mom).

IMG_4616The Lygon Arms is a fixture on the high street in Broadway, a picture-perfect quintessentially quaint English village.

IMG_6590.jpgAnd this year, M’s parents, who are visiting from Virginia, were able to join us and experience the charm of the Cotswolds as well.

IMG_4465IMG_4467The Lygon Arms is a family- and dog-friendly hotel, but they had actually done away with some of the special touches they offered for children last year. Last year, they had offered a kids’ club for a couple hours during the day in the school holidays, but they didn’t offer that this year. And last year, not only did they welcome the kids with a personalized plate of cookies on arrival, but they also had a nightly milk and cookies delivery service at bedtime, which was obviously a huge hit with our girls.IMG_4474 1

This year, we were in a room in the main hotel, and last year, we had a room in an adorable thatched-roof cottage out back.

IMG_4625I wish I had a picture of how beautiful the bathroom was on arrival, with its gleaming claw-foot tub and luxurious amenities, but when we arrived last year, I immediately had to clean a vomit-covered carseat out in that gleaming bathtub. Little R is prone to carsickness, and it was a miserable 3-hour journey from London. The Cotswolds: so beautiful you could barf.

So here’s a picture of the window over the tub instead.IMG_4478 1This year, between the motion sickness wristbands and the Dramamine tablet (imported from the States) and the suitcase crammed under her feet for her to brace herself on, we made it there and back, vomit-free!

The start to our trip this year was still less than ideal, with the “minivan” we hired and had delivered to the house being a bit smaller—no, a LOT smaller—than an American-size minivan, and trying to Tetris all our stuff and people into the truly-mini van (which was French). In the pouring rain. And then M couldn’t get the dumb thing to start. There were some words. (Which sounded French.)

Eventually, we got on the road, and while it always takes longer to get out of London than you think it should, we made it in time for tea. And by tea I mean the kids had their dinner and we had adult beverages.

They did still offer the kid-friendly Halloween-themed afternoon tea this year. Here’s what it looked like when we did it last year:

We were also disappointed this time that they hadn’t yet set up their fabulous pumpkin displays. The pumpkin people were so funny, and the girls loved them last year.

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The Lygon Arms is so cosy inside, made up of lots of little rooms with sofas and tables and chairs for gathering with the family by a fireplace and eating, drinking, and playing games.

d6623c79-e5b3-449d-843d-2a5e41f0f436Wren enjoyed that part last year, too.

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We found a sitter for her in London this year, which was very fortunate, since we would not have had room for her in the car! And while dogs are allowed most everywhere in the hotel, they are not allowed in the dining room.

This year, we did a bed-and-breakfast-and-dinner rate, so we enjoyed breakfast and dinner in the beautiful great-hall dining room every night (after putting the kids to bed and turning on the iPad-to-iPhone video monitor app).

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Last year, we had breakfast right across the street at the Broadway Deli each morning (which does allow dogs).

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The hotel has a spa, and twice a day there’s a children’s swim time, so we did that every day.

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Quite possibly my favourite thing about the Lygon Arms is the adorable children’s-size spa robes they wore to and from the pool.

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Both years we had a day where it just chucked down rain all day, which was unfortunate, but not exactly unexpected.

Driving through the Cotswolds can look like this:

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Or like this:

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The rain didn’t stop M from going for long bike rides, though. Fortunately, the hotel has a warm-water wash-off station for muddy paws.

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At least we could take the kids swimming at the hotel every day, and there’s a fabulous toy shop called Rikki Tikki right across the street from the Lygon Arms, which we spent a good amount of time (and some money) in.

And this year we found an indoor soft-play place in the nearby village of Bourton-on-the-Water (about a 25-minute drive), called the Cotswold Clubhouse. That was the perfect place to take the kids to play indoors and let off steam on a rainy day.

While M and his dad hung out at the play place, my MIL and I walked around Bourton-on-the-Water in the rain, ducking in and out of tourist shops.

Bourton-on-the-Water is called “the Venice of the Cotswolds” because of its canal with cute stone bridges. I’m sure it’s lovely when the weather is better. (Warning: while much, much smaller than Venice, it is also touristy.)

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Last year, M and I also explored the village of Chipping Camden while the girls were at the kids’ club.

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The main activity with the kids both years was a full day spent at the Cotswold Farm Park, and its seasonal addition of “Halloween Land.”

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You can pick your own pumpkin from the field, and carve or paint it right there, if you wish.

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There’s also a “maize maze,” a tractor “safari” ride, and Halloween face painting.

The main draw for me is getting to pet, hold, and feed some of the animals, and R particularly loved that part, too.

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The farm park has loads of different play areas for kids, some fully outdoors and some under the cover of barn roofs. This time of year, it’s especially important to dress everyone really warmly and bring wellies!

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One of the farm park’s many play areas

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